All apologies to our soccer-native SSI readers :- ) but my wife and son, finally exasperated with my Arsenal addiction, decided 'if you can't beat 'em, join em' and asked for a primer.
If you're a Yank who fancies a bit of offseason freshness in your sports diet, why not join Dr. D in rooting the Gunners ... most weeks they are on Fox Sports Channel, 401 in Pierce County. This Wednesday they are on again, home against Bolton in a makeup game.
A quick recap of last Sunday's match at Bolton:
=== Bolton Starts Hot ===
In the first 90 seconds of the game on Bolton's home pitch, the Wanderers got three tremendous shots on goal -- the third of which went in, but was waved back as offside.
Bolton is #18 of 20 in the Premier League, in a fight for their lives against being 'relegated' - the European version of NCAA's death penalty. The bottom 3 go down to the league below, exactly as if the Kansas City Royals had to go play AAA baseball next year as penalty for being so poor.
So how does such a team come out and outplay mighty Arsenal in the first 10 minutes? Dr. D sees this happen again and again to Arsenal, especially away. Amp'ed-up home teams, with lesser talent, come out sprinting madly after every loose ball, throwing their bodies in front of shots, etc., and getting the better of the play early on.
But soccer players run 6-7 miles over the course of 90 minutes, and we don't imagine it is possible to run a 12k race at 22 mph the whole way. :- )
This occurred again at Bolton - around the 10-12 minute mark, the Wanderers simply got winded and had to go into jogging mode. When they did, Arsenal shut them down with their vaunted 10-, 20-, 30-pass sequences.
=== Fabregas Opens Arsenal's Account ====
Arsenal quickly settled into its 2:1 possession routine, and around 30 minutes into the game, Fabregas and winger Eduardo found themselves in traffic around the top of Bolton's penalty box. Fabregas touched the ball deftly over to Eduardo and then burst past his defender in the "1-2" that is soccer's version of basketball's give-and-go.
Eduardo one-touched the ball back to where Fabregas was going to be, and from a right-side angle, Fabregas surgically cut the ball back across the goalkeeper and just inside the left post.
Fabregas' and Eduardo's telepathy left the commentators gasping for several minutes at the sixth sense that the two had shown against each other. And left Dr. D in a bit less confusion as to why Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger keeps starting Eduardo, who is extremely immobile after his freakish broken leg two years ago.
Cesc is not as given to showboating after the goal as most EPL players -- NFL sack dances are nothing compared to the choreographed taunts you see in soccer -- but on this occasion he did indulge himself in pulling his jersey over his head. Must have been the three games out with a sore leg.
=== Bolton Chances ===
In fairness, though Arsenal dominated the midfield, Bolton had a good six or eight legitimate chances to score. They were playing on their home field, with a shiny new home-favorite manager, and were full of vinegar. It's somewhat as though the Seahawks hired Steve Largent to coach, and in his first game here, the crowd was twice as frenzied as ever...
Nevertheless, more through Bolton's lack of talent than Arsenal's defense, the Wanderers missed shot after shot. In soccer, the ball appears suddenly, the shooter has one quick look at the goal and often it seems more luck than anything if the ball is on target with such frenzied pace. Bolton had no such luck.
=== Fabregas Sets Up Clincher ===
In the 78th minute, Cesc again dribbled the ball through a crowd of Wanderers on the left side of the penalty box, gave to Eduardo, who crossed the ball over to deep substitute Fran Merida. Merida had an unusually long time to set his feet, pick his target and zip the ball inside the left post for the game-clincher. Very calm play from the young Merida who had played very little for Arsenal.
=== Wednesday's Fixture ===
21% of fans had predicted the 2-0 Arsenal score, even on the road, and Bolton is given little chance to salvage a draw in the return match Wednesday at Arsenal. Should Arsenal win, they tie Chelsea for #1 in the league 'table' at game #22 of 38 to play.
Jolly good show,