Sleeping with the enemy

Bolton 0-2 Arsenal (Sunday, January 17th)

First up on my Arsenal roadshow was perennial nemesis Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.


Stood amongst a group of Wanderers fans I felt as comfortable as Nick Griffin at a Snoop Dogg concert.  I’m in with the home crowd because the 3,000 seats allocated to Arsenal were snapped up by those just metres to my right in the South Stand. With tickets sold out for the upcoming games against Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool a trip to the Reebok Stadium represented my only realistic opportunity to see The Arsenal this month. This led to a lot of forced curses every time a home player made a mistake and, most difficult of all, in reaction to the two Arsenal goals. I tried my best to fit in. I didn’t sing all game.

Those who have never been to the Reebok may be unaware that it is actually situated outside of the city. Equidistant from Bolton and Wigan, the ground sits on an industrial estate in Horwich Parkway – a ten minute train journey from either city. Though aesthetically appealing, the ground falls woefully short in almost every other respect. The seats are rivalled by those at Elland Road for the coveted “Smallest Amount of Leg Room” award, but the announcer stands alone as an insufferable moron. Combining nonsense pop music with banal chatter he would be better suited to a primary school disco than a football match.

Apart from a short rendition of “Are you Tupac in disguise?” – aimed at, well, a black guy – the home fans were subdued throughout the game. Even the introduction of new boss Owen Coyle did little to raise them from their slumber – despite this the new boss predictably claimed to be thrilled by his reception. This is a set of fans that seem resigned to their fate. Despite their sides spirited performance against a top team they left the ground lambasting their players lack of quality, and showed little objection to the Londoners chants of “Going down, going down, going down”.

The match itself was an uninspiring affair. Its one remarkable performer, Cesc Fabregas (who else), fitted seamlessly back into the midfield after missing the games against Portsmouth and Everton, continuing his evolution into the complete footballer. The Spaniard scored one, made one and had two legitimate penalty appeals waved away. The most impressive aspect of a stellar performance however was the twenty two year old’s defensive work. He broke up countless Bolton attacks, be it with a well-timed tackle of a lunging block; by any means necessary.

The aerial ability of Thomas Vermaelen enabled us to better deal with Bolton’s direct approach, thus negating the threat typically posed by Kevin Davies. Craig Eastmond put in a reasonable shift in his first Premier League appearance, but his inclusion ahead of Francis Coquelin caused raised eyebrows amongst the Arsenal support.  Arsene Wenger described his performance as “interesting”. In other words, lets hope Tunisia can beat Cameroon in their African Cup of Nations group decider on thursday.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Sleeping with the enemy”
  1. bigmartin says:

    cesc fabregas is evolving into mr.mime

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