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Arsenal At The Top After Back-to-back Wins Against Bolton


Belief is an oft-used word by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, as he has belief in his team’s abilities to vie for the league and perhaps more.  There’s unquestionably great technical skill at the Emirates, but more often, at crucial moments, belief is what Arsenal lack.  The Gunners will relish their top spot in the league for a few days, and it’s deserved, in developing a bit more grit since a humiliating loss to Chelsea at home in November.  Belief should be in large supply in north London, after coming from behind to beat Bolton 4-2.

There was of course, a controversy unseen (but later apologized for) by Wenger, leading up to Fabregas’ goal,when William Gallas crunched into Mark Davies, that made one wonder if the big clubs do get preferential treatment from referees, no matter what Alex Ferguson says.  Alan Wiley certainly missed one on that occasion, but Owen Coyle’s fury should soon be dissipated with hosting Burnley, his last club only days ago, in less than a week’s time.  It’s certainly tough to take over the reins any time in the Premier League, but to start off with two against Arsenal is something the new Bolton gaffer will be glad to be done with.

If you were to look at the Gunners’ two games with Bolton (the first, a 2-0 Arsenal win at the Reebok last Sunday), spectators have gotten a decent return in their viewing.  Last night’s game was unquestionably the highlight, with Bolton putting two past Arsenal at the Emirates before a half hour had passed.  And that was the moment, just a shade before thirty minutes had elapsed, that you wondered if Arsenal would frustrate themselves, as they have done in the recent past.  Steady in attack, even resilient, the Gunners played on and Tomas Rosicky thumped home Arsenal’s first goal before the half, beating a flat-footed Jussi Jasskelainen at his near post.

The controversy came in the 52nd, when Gallas stepped on Davies’ ankle, and Arsenal played on, resulting in a Cesc Fabregas goal from such an acute angle, Robin van Persie would’ve been proud.  Tomas Vermaelen added Arsenal’s third after a scramble in the box less than fifteen minutes later, and a nicely-finished goal fromAndrei Arshavin in the 85th saw the Gunners go top.

It’s nearly impossible to not let  Gallas’ tackle mar Arsenal’s temporary perch above the Premier League, but it’s almost just as impossible to see how Arsenal don’t deserve at least a share of first or second place at this point in the season.  The league leaders have stumbled up to this point, and an extravagantly-assembled Manchester City and nose-diving Liverpool have seen the word “parity” bandied about in the league.  If there was a team to deserve a share of first place, the Gunners deserved it, getting it done without van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner, and now Alex Song (arguably Arsenal’s most-improved player this season), off on African Cup of Nations duty.

Chelsea can easily reclaim the top spot against Birmingham next week, and Arsenal find a tough run of games coming up (Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool).  But it only takes a glance at where the Gunners were at this time next season to see a marked improvement to Wenger’s talented side.  If there was an Most Valuable Player award in the EPL, Fabregas would surely be a front-runner.  He’s the only player at the moment in Arsenal’s attack who can take control of and change a game.  Robin van Persie is that kind of player, but Gooners will be lucky to see the Dutchman sharp and fit before the season’s over.

Perhaps this is the best opportunity or Arsenal in five years to win the league.  The last time Arsenal looked a credible side to vie for the trophy was the season it all fell apart for them, after Eduardo’s horrific injury.  Perhaps that is what makes Gooners a little apprehensive to speculate on their team lasting the marathon.  And one only look at Eduardo now, who remains a good reader of the game, and clever on runs, but lacks some of the pace and finishing he had pre-injury.

One thing is impossible to deny.  The captain Fabregas and Arshavin are indispensable.  As long as they miss the deadliness of van Persie, the Gunners rely far too much on those two.  Of course you would look to those them when they’re fit, but Wenger’s side seem guileless and sometimes plodding when either are missing.  As much as it hurts to say, they are talismans.  There are questions about Manuel Almunia, the depth of Arsenal’s back line, and the squad’s ability to play well without the ball.  But if you want to talk about belief, it’s difficult to see how Arsenal can lack it at the moment.

[BBC Football, Just Arsenal]

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  1. Adrian

    January 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Gallas’s foul wasnt bad. it is just like usual one so the equalizer is not controversial.

  2. john

    January 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    good article but i disagree with ” arsenal looking plodding without fabregas and arshavin ”
    i know your talking about over realiance on these players but who wouldnt with players of this quality? anyway arsenal dont lack players who can create, without fab and arsh there is rosciky, nasri, ramsey, and diaby who can create, forgetting merida and RVP.
    arsenal’s problem is lack of defensive discipline and the mentality to take every match very seriously.

  3. Ajani Wasiu

    January 22, 2010 at 3:11 am


  4. arsenal14

    January 22, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Its amazing we’re at the top ! and i love it ..United for 5th!..but away from the league for a about that Carling Cup semi between Villa and Rovers last night! how can we not have an article up on that?! Amazing stuff! I wanted to see Big Sam pick up the win but I have no problem with VIlla happy for Martin and their fans ..incredible atmosphere at the park! A game i expected to sit down and watch when i got home from work and it end up 1 nil or maybe 2-1 and boy was i suprised! 1 of the most memerable Carling Cup semis or any cup semis in some time..I hope City go through so i can sit back and just enjoy the Final..great stuff! and I hope FSC plus does keep the Carling Cup around next season so we can see it..Arsenal for the title!

  5. jleau

    January 21, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Given the injuries and absences that Arsenal have had to endure, it’s a miracle that they made it to this point. The media tends to focus on the injury problems and United and Liverpool, but Arsenal have suffered as much.

    Although Arsenal look to maybe turning the corner on the rebuild project this is not there year.

    Chelsea are just to deep.

  6. robert

    January 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    gallas’ tackle doesn’t mar anything except the ref’s reputation in that instance. to say it mars their spot at the top? c’mon. any footballer worth his sack knows that play continues until the whistle blows. bolton whining about the ref missing a call does not equate to a team not deserving their spot in the standings.

    good other pts tho. man u and chelsea will be tough. as always.

  7. Christopher

    January 21, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    “Chelsea and City have bought their way to the peak”
    As if the rest of the teams in the “top four” haven’t used vast financial resources to reach the top. *lol* Suuuuure…

  8. jens

    January 21, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Arsenal now on the top in Premier league because they have more 1 goal (only) in Premier league standings than Chelsea. If in this match Arsenal win only by 1 goal over Bolton, Arsenal have different story. They have good potential to reach big four or Premier League champion..

    Go go Gunners

  9. Simon Burke

    January 21, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Fabulous job by Arsenal – 23 of the last 27 points taken which is title winning form. Couple that with the fact we are the smallest team on the planet with a laundry list of injuries, then its quite incredible.
    Throw in how Wenger has done it too and its even more of an achievement. He has been fiscally responsible – he sells players at great profits and gives youth a chance. He even plays English players – the academy is finally bringing through English talent so we are seeing the likes of Eastmond, Gibbs and Wilshire and Walcott (thankyou Southampton). Wenger for years said he would and now is doing that after developing the talent rather than buying players with that added English player tax…
    The style of football is fantastic too.

    LIverpool and United have set themselves up to be the next Leeds if they cant maintain success. If you are a fan of those clubs then you have to pray you can find a Sheik or turn Buffet or Gates head’s towards the Premiership…..I am sure of those clubs will do that but i am not sure about both. Then what?

    Chelsea and City have bought their way to the peak and run the risk of one or the other owners getting bored and pulling out some day.

    Of course Arsenal havent won anything here; we have a defense that more often than not scares me to death, we are very small, we were murdered at home by Chelsea and have a shocking run of games coming with half the squad missing or hurt.

    Still, its good today. Most tipped Arsenal to fall out of the top 4 this year. Tottenham have a great squad, Villa too and City are looming but Arsenal currently are sitting pretty in the top 2. Wenger deserves enormous credit for proving his critics wrong.
    I’d still expect Chelsea to win the league at a canter but its good for all fans outside of Tottenham not to have to watch the same 2 going at it every year and I take pride in how Wenger has done this.

  10. Rod

    January 21, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I am Arsenal through and through but Chelsea and M.U. are strong and will be tough to beat (especially Chelsea). I think Arsenal’s table position is almost a miracle, considering the injuries this season.

    • Avi

      January 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

      We will beat Manchester. They didn’t beat us in the first matchup, we clearly beat ourselves. They came into that game in fear and it showed on the pitch. Be sure that the boys will be more ready for WAR this time around.

      Chelsea gave us a spanking, but if our defense can hold up we will be ok. We had them on their backfoot thruout and way more possession than them. Unfortunately the defense was slipping up. The main thing to remember is, we were toothless as we were not yet fully adjusted to the loss of RvP at that point. We can handle them.

  11. Josh

    January 21, 2010 at 8:52 am

    This article made my head hurt for many different reasons. Firstly, to even say the words “preferential treatment” is sheer madness, considering the fact that Cesc got mauled (hair pulling, head kicking) in the box during the first game, and over the course of the two games won two clear penalties and Wiley swallowed his whistle. So to say that Gallas’ foul, which was a a foul, but merely a late one, was even hinted toward preferential treatment is insanity.
    Also, I don’t believe that this was the “turning point”, as that means that after that foul, Bolton just gave up and stopped playing because all hope was lost? I think that if anything, that had already happened after Rosicky’s goal.
    My final criticism lies in the fact that you say Arsenal relies far too much on Fabregas and Arshavin. Fabregas yes, but it’s a foregone fact Arshavin hasn’t been in great form for quite some time now (Maybe since the Liverpool fixture?,19528,11661_5737063,00.html) Great player yes…Talisman that we depend on far too greatly? No, not a chance. Does this guy even watch Arsenal? We’re not Liverpool in disguise……

    • Brian

      January 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm

      Are you even watching Arsenal? You can justify Gallas’ foul and the ensuing goal easily; it happens every day. As for Arshavin, players can be vital without scoring goals, and I’d say that side lacks something without the threat of the Russian. He may not be putting away all his chances lately, but he was crucial for Wenger last season, and especially now with RvP out.

      • Cali Gooner

        January 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

        Heard of a guy called Wayne Rooney? He had a bit of a drought a season ago, but his movement still caused so many problems . . .

  12. Eladio

    January 21, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Arsenal need to get 7 points, minimum out of the next 4 league games to have any shot. Even that might not be enough. But after those 4 games, the run in doesn’t look terribly daunting, especially with Song & Bendtner back, and RvP in April (hopefully).

  13. eplnfl

    January 21, 2010 at 8:39 am

    You have to respect the job Wenger has done. All of a sudden there are the Gunners at the top. Their play is wonderful to watch, the movement of the ball flows to the player with the best look at the net, they are quick on the counter-attack and get the ball up field in a blink of the eye. Could be stronger on defense I admit. I’m no fan of the Gunner’s mind you but you have to say wow! At the top with a lot less money spent then the others. Doing it right I guess. Wish they would tour America but I understand why not.


    January 21, 2010 at 5:07 am


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