By Randy Osae
When it’s not Gallas, it has to be Bendtner. It took time but Arsenal got there in the end, courtesy of yet another late rescue from the bench by Nicklas Bendtner. Gary Megson’s men had imitated the frustrating discipline of all lesser opponents who visit the Emirates, but they would eventually be penetrated.
Aston Villa are still looking top four fated but with the Gunners managing their marks and more tussle ahead for everyone, it could be a title mount of five.
Six changes were made to Arsenal’s last out fit. With Gallas and Silvestre on a three-week lay off, Clichy and Toure retained their places in defense. Fabianski handed back chief goalkeeping gloves to Almunia while youngsters Ramsey and Bendtner were replaced by a more accustomed pair of Denilson and Adebayor.
Usually Arsenal are a bit laggard from start, but this afternoon, Bolton were at chase from the first kick. Nasri and Van Persie were the sharpest. The latter received a chip by the French winger on the edge of the box after 12 minutes, and controlled well but his random hit almost saw goal, sailing just over the bar.
Despite mastering over 70% of possession, you could bet on Arsenal trailing at any moment, and a muddle between Almunia and Toure with Elmander lurking almost punished the Gunners’ fragile back.
Arsenal would resume their timid knocking on Bolton’s firm white door, but they never went near to barging in.
Concerns began to grow and into the second half, Arsenal’s efforts had been as dim as the Emirates Stadium’s flood lights. Indeed, it could have turned much gloomy had Matthew Taylor’s curling header not been caught by a diving Almunia.
Arsenal remained cagey in attack, and ‘Plan B’ was enforced as usual. Carlos Vela was introduced at Diaby’s cost. But before and after that substitution, newly named African player of the year Emmanuel Adebayor squandered the game’s best openings.
First, he turned and shot faintly at Bolton’s keeper from about seven yards out. And when picked out well in space by Nasri, the Togolese hesitated and saw his side footed effort blocked. There had not been a better scrap at goal all day, but Van Persie managed to beat that.
The Dutchman received Adebayor’s first touch pass on the edge of the box, swiftly turned past his marker and shot with his weaker foot against the of the post. Stand-in captain Kolo Toure then attempted to inspire with a blistering long-range effort to force another parrying from Jaaskelainen.
It just would not go in for Wenger’s toiling men.
The last throw of the dice was via Bendtner. And the Dane almost pulled off another sensational substitute impact with a well-bound header onto Nasri’s free kick, seconds after being sent on. Bendtner was then culpable for some giveaways and a miss after Toure’s fine assist from the right stranded Bolton’s guard in the box.
But the lanky striker’s amends would be heroics. Van Persie looped a ball from the left after Clichy’s pass had sent him through. And from a narrow angle, Bendtner pounced onto it and through Jaaskelainen’s legs.
Arsenal had finally made that priceless breakthrough, but it is after those that they are most vulnerable. Chris Basham made a rare burst into the home side’s territory and for once, there was a scare as he laid it off to Davies who could mercifully shoot at Almunia.
Aaron Ramsey did make a cameo which saw him booked for a naive tackle, but Arsenal had thoroughly earned the points at the end of the day.