If this game were set in the age of chivalry then the Arsenal team coach would have arrived covered with beautiful banners and flowing pennants, all streaming in the wind. On board would be our heroic knights returning from doing battle in foreign lands. As they make their way down Ye Auld Holloway Road, it would be lined with fair maidens waving red and white handkerchiefs, as well as smiling children and grown men encouraging our noble knights to go forth and play the beautiful game in the honourable, entertaining way that it should be played.
By contrast, the Bolton team coach clad with shields and crests representing all that is dark, destructive and ruinous about football arrived; parked their bus in front of the goal, out got Fat Sam, Djouf et al and immediately set up their well rehearsed 4.5.1 formation in the hope of frustrating us, while poised to deploy their equally negative tactic of kicking lumps out of us.
This strategy lasted for 3 minutes before our most noble of Knights Sir Theo was played through; he raced to the by line before squaring to Sir Arshavin to score his first goal for the club. Celebration commenced. The forces of darkness had to abandon their defensive time wasting strategy but they didn’t stop their tactic of trying to kick lumps out of us.
Ok, I’m going to stop this now before it becomes irritating. Wenger fielded a team that was closer to what we wanted rather than what we expected. Such was the collective talent of Arshavin, Nasri and Walcott that we were treated to flashes of interplay that were reminiscent of the days when Henry, Pires and Bergkamp played together. And I don’t just mean the control; I mean fast counter attacks with the emphasis on fast, we haven’t seen those for a very long time.
Song was outstanding; he performed his duty of protecting the defence with the kind of composure that he has displayed for his country for some time: his passing was first class and his positioning equally as good. This man will not be needed to play every week but when the Bolton bullies turn up it is very useful to have someone as powerful as Song in our armoury.
Ok, jokes over, Blackburn had their chances towards the end of the first half, as well did we, most notably from Nasri who hit the bar from a brilliantly taken free kick but while it stayed at one nil we continued to be vulnerable to the sucker punch.
Wenger made some half time adjustments, moving Arshavin out to the left and Nasri into the middle. These changes had an immediate effect. The team started creating more chances each opportunity getting easier and easier and all falling to Bendtner who squandered every single one of them, the last being a howler.
In recent times Bendtner would have been booed but something very unusual happened in the ground: instead of getting on his back, the crowd started heartily singing his name as a way of lifting his spirits and encouraging him.
With the score still precarious at one nil Arshavin realised that something had to be done; picking up the ball on the left wing he weaved his way the goal line before turning towards the goal with Bendtner free on the penalty spot screaming for the ball Arshavin made the decision of the match: rather than pass to Bendtner to potentially squander he fired the ball from a ridiculous angle over the keeper to score. It was a great goal. But there is even more than great goals to this man, if there is such a thing: he has the speed of thought that is light years ahead of anyone else; there is only one perhaps two others at the club that come anywhere close: Fabregas and Rosicky; and, when those three finally take to the field we could see a quality of play to match the vintage years of 2003/4.
Bendtner and Walcott were replaced by Eboue and Diaby. It didn’t take long before the Russian dynamo was weaving his magic again this time in an attempt to get his hat trick he hit a thunderous shot, which Robinson could not hold, allowing Eboue, the goal machine as he is now known, to tap in the rebound.
Not long after, Arshavin had another chance to get his hat trick when we were awarded a penalty after Vela had been brought down. As Arshavin walked to pick up the ball it was snatched by Eboue who hastily put it on the spot. Arshavin turned to Wenger with his hands out as if to say what’s going on. Wenger was shouting at Eboue trying to ensure that Arshavin took the kick but Eboue refused to make eye contact and slotted it home to make it 4-0.
As Bendtner walked slowly off, the crowd got to their feet and applauded with conviction. Why? Because, we know the difference between someone who has tried and failed and someone who has shirked from their responsibilities. Bendtner missed five gilt edged chances but he never stopped trying and for that we salute our couragious knight, Sir Nikki.
Written by London