It's never pretty away to Bolton, it's inevitable that those Reebok luvvies will do everything in their power to put us off our rhythm, often that includes a lot of below the belt tactics, so it's always a tough test and a win there is always a hard earned three points. The surprise before the game was Nasri's absence with a hamstring injury, further limiting our midfield options. Despite some rather ludicrous banter in certain quarters of Nasri and Cesc being the holding player, Arsene opted to give Craig Eastmond a chance to impress on the big stage, something that had been hinted at here.
The first half saw us place some nice stuff and generally look the better side. Eastmond, who quiet effectiveness reminds me of Gilberto's style of play, was efficient in front the back four, he won a fair few headers, used the ball sensible and did what had been asked of him. Diaby played with discipline and was deep to support Eastmond, this then allowed Cesc the freedom he needed to open up Bolton time and time again. Other than a goal correctly ruled out for offside and a good Almunia save after Klasnic had bustled his way past Gallas, Bolton were generally restricted to half chances from outside the box.
We had two clear penalties denied, one before and one after the opening Fabregas goal, both for fouls on the aforementioned when the defenders got nothing on the football at all. The first goal came when Diaby scrapped for possession on the edge of the box, it broke to Cesc, a neat one two with Eduardo then led to Cesc side footing the ball home very calmly into the bottom corner, lovely stuff. Eastmond went close with a good side footed effort from a corner kick, while Cesc should have scored a second just before the break when he miss hit with the goal at his mercy from only a few yards out.
The usual filth came from Bolton's thugs. Taylor got Cesc's head in a bizarre leg lock in the box, rather than letting Cesc get up after he had been chopped down. Another incident saw a Bolton player, possibly Taylor again, clearly leave their studs in on Diaby as they tried to hurdle him on the half way line. Robinson was very lucky not to receive a second yellow for going through the back of Cesc for the second time with his studs showing. There was also more of his niggling violence in the second half, again there was another cleverly subtle stamp in the box, while Knight's aggressive approach to Carlos Vela showed just how unpleasant this bunch of tattooed neanderthals are.
It was pretty nervy for a good period of the second half. Bolton put some pressure on us and we held firm, with a little bit of help from the linesman and that little bit of luck that you always need. The dangerous Klasnic was incorrectly rules offside when in a very dangerous position through on goal, Taylor also missed a couple of decent chances which was particularly satisfying to watch. Generally though we kept it reasonably tight, Traore was caught out of position all afternoon, but part of this was the fact that he got virtually no support from the midfield in front of him, showing why it's very hard to get away with the 4-3-3 system unless you have superhuman fullbacks. As the half wore on we looked the more likely. Merida added drive from central midfield when he came on for the solid Eastmond, making some excellent jinking runs and forcing Bolton onto the back foot. The second goal appropriately went to Fran Merida, an excellent Eduardo chip cross was flicked on by Zat Knight, Merida brilliantly anticipated this, controlled it with his magic wands and slotted it home into the far corner, game over.
Overall Arsene got things right today and this resulted in a very nice away cleen sheet with three points attached. Bolton always raise their game for our visit and I think we did pretty well defensively in this context, Klasnic is a rather handy player too. People will always see what they want to see in players and if Manuel Almunia was called by another name then I am sure most people would be saying that he had a very decent game today. Traore was a bit suspect positionally and Clichy's return is a very welcome boost. It was excellent to see a young lad, Craig Eastmond, come in and do such a good job, I really hope he gets a few more starts in Song's absence. Cesc was awesome, at the hub of all our best moves, but it was thanks to Diaby and Eastmond's discipline that we could play him in a way that suited his game. Strangely we won 2-0 without any of the front three being fantastic, Eduardo linked up play well but didn't look as threatening as he can do, Rosicky worked very hard for the team, and Arshavin did disappoint me a little, slighty loose with his passing and often a bit peripheral. Still we're right up there and that's what counts.