A 1-1 draw with Bolton means another game on an already hectic schedule for a squad quite depleted by injuries but that’s all part of the joy of the FA Cup.
Continuing our trend of making the opposition feel as welcome as possible to our new home Bolton scored first just five minutes into the second half. Amazingly the second half followed the first half, which is becoming a bit of a tradition at this stage, in which not a whole lot happened. Bolton certainly had the better of it and caused us some problems without really creating any chances. We had one decent shot from Theo Walcott and an improvised Henry backheel was cleared off the line and that was about that.
As I said they took the lead on 50 minutes after some nice play and it was Kevin Nolan who got the goal. He could have had a second not long afterwards but Manuel Almunia made a great save when he was trying to go around him. After that it was all Arsenal. We dominated possession and territory, again without creating too much (a Cesc shot as much as I can really remember), before we got level on 77. Cesc floated in a free kick, it came to the back post to Kolo Toure who headed into the ground as he was falling and with Jaaskelainen already committed the ball bounced over his flailing arm.
After that Baptista had a half-chance and headed wide and Aliadiere’s shot was comfortably saved before the full time whistle went. In the end I suppose you’d have to say it was a fair result. Neither side did much more than the other to deserve winning the game and the replay takes place in a couple of weeks at the Reebok.
Looking at the team I thought we looked a bit flat overall. At the back Clichy looks like he’s improving and Hoyte continued his decent form, Kolo and Senderos weren’t that troubled although I did enjoy big Phil flattening Anelka on the halfway line. Kolo’s enthusiasm and willingness to get forward shows how much he hates to lose. In midfield Theo showed a little bit more than he did in the Carling Cup games but still looks a bit lost or short of confidence. Hopefully though he’ll keep his place against Sp*rs because a run of games can only do him good. Cesc was as eager as ever, Flamini worked hard as usual but didn’t contribute going forward and Rosicky finished the game well after being well off the pace in the first half.
Up front I thought we were disappointing though. Henry and Adebayor didn’t do an awful lot but then sometimes you have games like that. Baptista looked better than either of them when he came on and I was surprised he didn’t start actually. However, there appears to be a doubt over his fitness with Arsene Wenger saying afterwards that he had picked up a groin problem which means:
We might have lost Julio Baptista today. A groin problem, but we hope it’s not too bad and he can play on Wednesday.
Let’s hope so too. At the rate our boys are picking up injuries there simply won’t be enough players to rotate for competitions like the Carling Cup or FA Cup. And with the replay it means the games come thick and fast. We have the second leg of the Carling Cup on Wednesday, we travel to Boro for a Premiership Plus 5.15 ‘oop norf’ kick off on Saturday and then we should have a week off but the Manchester City game was scheduled to take place the same date as the FA Cup replay so it might get moved back. We’ll wait and see about that though.
I do hope we do them in the replay though. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the whole Bolton physical-Arsenal wimps analysis a pain in the arse. It must actually be worse for Bolton fans because not alone are they Bolton fans they’re hearing the whole time about how they use physical tactics. Their goal showed they can play a bit too, in fairness, but really in fairness the whole lot of them should be taken up in a giant hot air balloon which should reach the outer edges of space before being burst with a giant pin of some kind.
In light of the injury there’s talk about Arsenal making a ‘panic buy’ to cover the absences. Depending on which website you read the story is different. Take Arsenal-Mania for instance. They’ve gone with a headline saying ‘Wenger: Now I need to buy’ when he says nothing of the sort but that’s bound to be a few more clicks from Newsnow. Good to see standards as high as ever over there. In reality though it’s very unlikely he’ll buy anyone given that his most telling quote when asked if he would is ‘I do not think so‘.
I suppose if the worst came to the worst he could recall Lupoli or Bendtner but as it stands Henry, Adebayor and Aliadiere are fit and Baptista won’t be out that long, with any luck.
Anyway, we’ll find out about him and what the likely line-up for the Sp*rs game will be. As I said the number of injuries means the manager won’t be able to chop and change as much as he might like and he’ll be cautious about who he has on the bench after seeing subs Hleb and Eboue injured in the last leg.
Elsewhere William Gallas talks again about Chelsea and how ‘painful’ it was to leave but says he’s focussed 100% on Arsenal. If he could stop talking about Chelsea for two minutes then we might believe him.
Finally, a quick reminder if you haven’t already voted for Arseblog in the 2007 Bloggies please take 60 seconds to do that this morning. I’m up against some serious competition so all votes would be much appreciated. You don’t need to vote in any other category, just the Best Sports Blog.
Much obliged to you. More tomorrow.