Talk about doing this the hard way! Hopefully that will put the Reebok curse has been put to bed once and for all.
Most of the game we looked in another world to Bolton. It was one of those games where everyone in the team were comfortable in what they were trying to achieve, the confidence was sky high and we played at a lovely quick tempo. The kind of tempo which would allow us to out play 90% of sides in European football.
This told me that Thierry Henry is both a must and a hindrance to this young Arsenal team. It was very apparent that Thierry's finishing was missing last night. Adebayor and Baptista were guilty of some clear misses which 9 times out of 10 Henry would have finished in his sleep. On the other side (as the man himself likes to say) we play more as a team when he is not there. I haven't checked the stats but it appears that the ball goes into the box alot more. Henry tends to come looking for the ball instead of being in dangerous areas in the penalty area. I am still waiting for the Henry of old to appear on a consistent basis this season.
This game also showed me how much we missed Hleb who I thought was exceptional. His close control and link up play was great to watch. If he was Brazilian then we would have heard Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen raving on about him at full time.
Hleb, Rosicky and young boy Denilson were the reason behind the victory. They dictated the game, they ran the show. Bolton spent large portions of the match chasing the ball around their own ground without really being able to get the ball.
Its quite amazing how Denilson has adapted to the English game in such a sort time. He has hardly any first team experience at his former club Sao Paulo and at 18 he has taken the Arsenal way like a duck to water. Although he faded out of the game towards the end he produced yet another brilliant composed display. His ability to get himself out of tight areas and find another Arsenal player is exceptional. Arsene can now rest Cesc without fear. Wenger will be happy that he does not have to lose that creative edge. Wenger currently uses Flamini when he rests Cesc and the Flamster does not have the technical ability of Denilson.
Abou Diaby came back (again) from a knee injury this time to have an up and down performance. His power was obviously a factor for his inclusion. Many times during the game it was like rewinding back 4 years and watching Patrick Vieira. At one point he even managed to do the trade mark Paddy. Flicking the ball over a players head and collecting it the other side. Some of his passes went astray and I think that is down to sharpness. He has missed a hell of alot of football in the last year, so it is to be expected.
Another mention for Gael Clichy who started the season very worryingly and alot of people questioned if he was up to it (including myself) but he has grown game by game. Clichy is an important part of our attacking play now where he was lacking earlier in the season. He is beginning to be a consistent performer and lets hope he continues to be better than 'the other guy' who played left back before him.
Will Julio be here next season? Interesting one really. As I have said before all throughout the season is that the big Brazilian has an eye for goal. Has a very good habit of being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes he can't miss (Liverpool Carling Cup) and sometimes he misses. That is expected from strikers, from goalscorers. But does the 'Beast' fit in? Will his technique improve over time? Is this part of his adaption from Brazilian and Spanish football?
Julio Baptista does not look comfortable playing the Arsenal way. Passing and moving at pace doesn't look natural to him. I think he would fit in at Bolton, Liverpool maybe even Chelsea and do a very good job but maybe our football is a little advanced for him. As I have said previously, I like Baptista as a player and if this is part of his adjustment then fine if this is the end product Baptista then I think the 10-15mil could be better spent elsewhere.
A quick mention to Jeremie Aliadiere, who came on a made a massive difference. He has always looked good on the ball but he got himself into the game straight away and started to run at players. Freddies goal was made by Jeremie and finished beautifully by Ljungberg. Maybe Jeremie Aliadiere can do a Marc Overmars type job on the left wing and score goals from outwide. If he stays at Arsenal then I doubt we would see him as a striker but we do not have an abundance of goalscoring wingers in our squad at present.
Alot of people have said that Freddie Ljungberg is finished and he is not the same player as he used to etc etc. I don't and have never believed that. I think the Ljungberg we see now is the Ljungberg of 2002.......minus the goals!Freddie Ljungberg stopped making diagonal runs two seasons ago. Pretty much since Dennis was no longer first choice. Arsenal fans grew frustrated with Freddie because he was no longer making an impact he was no longer affecting games. He was no longer scoring goals. If Freddie can start making those well timed runs again then Cesc, Hleb, Rosicky and Denilson will pick him out all day long.
No need to talk about the penalties, Its been talked about, discussed over and over again.
Saturday we face Blackburn Rovers yet again in the next round of the FA Cup, seems quite weird as we got through yesterday. We maybe tired but Blackburn have just had a trip to Germany in the UEFA Cup. Rested duo Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry will prove to be a little too much for a jet lagged Blackburn.