Tag Archive | Bolton Wanderers

Dan Bird: My thoughts on the defeat to Bolton

Arsenal lost at Bolton yesterday 2-1 and threw away any slim chance we had left of winning the Premier League.

We had countless chances to win the match, but we failed to take any of them and in the end were punished by a late Bolton winner. In a way yesterday’s performances summed up how the side have been playing since the disappointment of the Carling Cup final. The players seem to have lacked the mental strength to win football matches and have made many errors due to a simple lack of concentration.

It is however very hard to see why the players have really struggled since the Carling Cup Final. In a couple of matches they have proved what great players they can be when they put their minds to it. Take for instance the Barcelona game at the Emirates. Yesterday’s starting XI was exactly the same but the performance level was nowhere near as good. Against Barcelona Laurent Koscielny had the game of his life and dealt superbly with the likes of Messi and Iniesta. However yesterday he struggled to cope with Kevin Davies and Daniel Sturridge. They are both good forwards but nowhere near the level of the Barcelona front line.

The eleven players that started yesterday is in most fans opinions our strongest eleven, except of course Vermaelen coming in for Koscielny. The majority of these eleven players have had strong seasons and the likes of Wilshere, Djourou and Szczesny have cemented places in the starting XI and nobody really thought they would before the start of the season. Therefore it is very difficult to see where we can strengthen the side.

It is clear we need ‘leaders’ in the squad but apart from maybe a centre half where we can fit a so called leader into our side? Take our midfield for example, do Song,Wilshere or Fabregas really deserve to be replaced? Up front Nasri has had an outstanding season, and Van Persie is the best striker in the Premiership at the moment. Theo has been inconsistent but when he plays well he is unplayable, for example yesterday he should of been awarded a penalty and was unlucky not to score the opening goal.

All in all this season hasn’t gone as the fans hoped. However you have to remember many members of the media didn’t even believe we would finish in the top 5. Tottenham and Man City were both apparently going to finish above us. Therefore we have exceeded some of the media’s expectations, yet still Wenger is being criticised on the back pages daily. What Arsene has done for the club is outstanding. Yes, he has his flaws but who doesn’t?

The fans need to get behind the players and more importantly the manager. There are protests being planned for the final home game of the season, I can’t believe this as it could be a very important game in the race for second and it is the last thing the players and the manager need. If we all stay behind the manager, he will make changes in the Summer and I guarantee we will finish in the top four once again and challenge for silverware, unlike Spurs.

Spending money is no guarantee of success, look at Andrey Arshavin for example. He cost over £15 million and in all honesty plays well once every three or four games. Is that what some so called ‘fans’ really want to see? The manager knows what he is doing and eventually the good times will return to the Arsenal. Keep the faith.

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What has happened to this Arsenal team?

Once again we’ve not taken the chance given to us.

How many times are we given chances, only to not give ourselves any chance? This season it’s been more than ever. And the players are more experienced and a year older than last season. Yet nothing’s changed.

It seemed like we’d turned a corner in January time. Thrashing teams for fun, keeping clean sheets too. But after the Carling Cup final defeat everything went pearshaped. People talk about our mental strength being poor, and they’d be absolutely right. But the biggest thing about our mental strength is our confidence and belief. That’s why we’re such an inconsistent team.

Every time we get a bad result, we let it get to us and continue to get bad results. We don’t bounce back like Man United always do. We just curl up in a ball and hope the blows don’t kill us. I was reading a post on the excellent Gingers For Limpar and came across a line that I felt was particularly significant. It was about the Invincibles. “They knew they were the best team in the league, and by Jupiter, they were going to batter the life out of anyone who dared try to prove otherwise.”

That’s partly what’s missing. We don’t believe that we’re the best team in the league. And if our players don’t believe it, then nobody else will, and we’re not going to convince anyone that we’re the best. So until we instil a winning mentality – that’s belief mainly – we won’t win the league.

What we also need to do is either make sure more players take responsibility, or buy players who will. Maybe both. Cesc and van Persie were our leaders, the only ones trying to make things happen on their own. The other plays just thought it would happen, be put on a plate for them. That’s not going to happen is it?

Back in the day of the Invincibles, each player would take equal responsibility. Henry would scare the life out of defenders in trying to score. Bergkamp would look for the killer pass, or go for goal. Vieira would lead our counter attacks and help if we needed. Pires and Ljungberg would run their socks off and get into the perfect positions and nine times out of ten, they’d score.

Now, other than Fabregas and van Persie, nobody else does that. They don’t realise how big a part they have to play, and how they have to contribute as much as anyone else. They don’t think that they can win the game on their own. And it all comes back to that word belief, or confidence or whatever you want to call it.

Nicklas Bendtner is famous for his “arrogance”. No commentator will talk about him without mentioning how he thinks he’s the best striker in the world. But he never said that. All that was said was something on the lines of believing at his best, he’s a good player and should start. Nothing wrong with that.

In fact, it’s a good thing. That’s a sign of him wanting more responsibility, not shying away from it like many players currently do. I’d rather players had his attitude than the ones they do now, mostly. He knows he has something to prove, and he wants to prove it. A lot of people think he should be sold. In my opinion, he should be given more chances to show what he can do.

It was just a poor performance and nobody stepped up to win the match for us. Nobody could make the difference that we needed in attack, nobody knew how to stop Bolton from scoring in defence. Another thing we need is to sort out our defence. We may be great occasionally, but there are so many little mistakes and things that should be done that aren’t that cost us.

We need some hungry players who can make a difference this summer, and to get rid of those who don’t make a difference. We had no excuses today of injuries, only Vermaelen was out. Maybe we should give some different players a chance, like Ramsey, Gibbs and Chamakh. See what they can offer. Show the first team players that they have to earn their right to start week in, week out. Start Arshavin too, he’s been working hard while others haven’t quite.

Yet another thing we need is a change in tactics and formation. The 4-3-3 has now failed. We need to change back to 4-4-2 or at least have some variety in our tactics because the 4-3-3 is predictable and stale now. Put Theo up front, draw the opposition towards us and then play him in behind. Play Cesc a bit deeper too.

I’ve had enough of ranting so that’s your lot. Until later…