The line up saw Clichy and Denilson return for Traore and Eastmond. The game started very much a la Everton, there just wasn't the drive and tempo in the Arsenal game that should be present in a side going for the top of the table spot.
Bolton took a shock lead, some hashed defending led to an up in the air Clichy clearance being diverted towards Cahill by Davies, Cahill put it home firmly. We then had a few chances, Eduardo fired just over, Arshavin just wide. A shocking bit of tackling from Denilson that gave Bolton their second via the penalty spot, Denilson getting nowhere near the ball and chopping down Lee in the box, Taylor converted, two nil down with only around half an hour gone.
Thus far it had been a performance that has lacked all the ingredients needed for winning the title. Our defending has been shabby, our attacking play has been too laboured and in front of Bolton's banks of four. There was a real lack of pace in our play and I hate to say it but at at 2-0, the word complacency sprang to mind.
After the second Bolton goal we finally started playing. The tempo was upped, we started playing with more directness and desire. Eduardo missed a great chance twelve yards out with the goal at his mercy after fantastic Fabregas work. Knight almost flicked a header into his own net, it bounced back off the bar and away to Bolton's great relief. Finally the pressure paid off, Rosicky drove towards goal in the inside right position, he then unleashed an unstoppable rasping drive into the top right. Half time couldn't come too soon for Bolton, 2-1 it was at the break and how important it was to get this goal back so that we were within touching distance.
It didn't take long for the scores to become level. Gallas won the ball in midfield, the Bolton man went down and stayed down, the ref played on quite rightly, it broke to Cesc on the edge of the box who took it on and slipped the ball home brilliantly from a tight angle, 2-2 the score. Cesc had been by far our best player on the night, he almost got our third, forcing a fantastic Jaaskelainen top over.
The best goal came third, the ball broke to Thomas Vermaelen who belted it in off a post with the outside of his left peg, a cracking half volley, 3-2 and we led for the first time. Unfortunately Abou Diaby then went down injured and stayed down, the treatment came and he then went off, very worrying indeed given our ever increasing number of midfielder injuries. For the third time this week Fabregas was denied a stone wall penalty as he edged the ball past Jaaskelainen, and he was clearly brought down, the ref bottled it and gave a goal kick. The goal that allowed a little bit of relaxation before the whistle came after an attempted one two between Arshavin and Eduardo, the ball broke to the Russian who slammed it home from six yards out, 4-2. A majestic fifth almost followed as a fabulous dribble from almost half way by Arshavin, he beat Knight and was through on the keeper, a good low save kept him at bay for once.
This was a roller coaster of a football match and we are now top of the league. I don't think we'll stay there that long if we start games as we did tonight though. The man of the match was undoubtedly Cesc Fabregas, inspirational and at the heart of everything good we did, Arshavin was also more involved, Almunia also dealt well with the aerial challenge that Bolton pose. On the negative Diaby's injury is potentially a massive blow, hopefully he'll be back soon, while Denilson is clearly not capable of filling the central defensive midfield slot. If Arsene needs to provide the team with any motivation in future months then he should make the team watch their performance for the first half an hour today over and over again. I shouldn't whinge when we have three points though.
Finally there is a beautiful poetic justice about today's win. I am sure the media will be full of pathetic whinging about Gallas' tackle that led to our equalising goal, it was a yellow card in my eyes, nothing more. Given all the horrendous tackles and injuries that Bolton have inflicted upon us over recent years they have no right to complain. They are a dire footballing side that has been characterised by long balls and cynical thuggery, they deserve no luck from the beautiful game, I feel no sympathy for Bolton.