Bolton Wanderers 2 Arsenal 0: Fe, Faye, Fo, Fum - the Bolton formula

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The Independent Online

If football teams do reflect the personality of their maker, then Sam Allardyce was right to lead the inquest into Arsenal's latest cause for psychoanalysis before Arsène Wenger had gathered his disturbed thoughts at the Reebok. His Bolton team were, after all, first in every department on Saturday, so why stop with the final whistle?

The post-match questions were still focused on the victors when Allardyce raised the name that would not have allowed Arsenal's first-half surrender, for that is what it was, and is guaranteed a mention whenever they fall in his absence.

"We were driven on by the man I call Vieira Two," said the Bolton manager, heaping individual praise fromhis team's finest display of the season on Senegal's Abdoulaye Faye before forcing Wenger on to the defensive by examining the consequences of selling Vieira One.

Allardyce ventured: "It takes a while to replace a player of his calibre. They have the potential to replace him in the squad already, but it is probably a bit young and a bit inexperienced at the moment. The likes of Fabregas and Flamini are top-quality players and good enough to play in the Premiership now, but are not quite a Patrick Vieira yet."

This assessment prompted the only stirring response Wenger could muster to a defeat that brought the two teams level in the table but shattered the veneer of Arsenal's recent improvement. Cesc Fabregas, he bristled, was the only inexperienced member of his starting XI, though the riposte stopped there. For once, Wenger was forced to concede that his team had been "tentative and frail".

Two magnificent Thierry Henry shots against the woodwork and a harshly disallowed Robin van Persie effort had brought ready-made excuses to hand, yet the Highbury manager was sufficiently enraged by the lack of commitment on show that he grabbed none.

Vieira's departure is another, often cheap explanation for every Arsenal defeat since they accepted the cheque from Juventus and entirely valid in this instance. Bolton had a Vieira, Arsenal did not; Bolton had the spirit and strength of the departed midfielder, Arsenal have not. As Freddie Ljungberg admitted: "You need to be ready for the fight at Bolton but some of our players did not stand up for it. That is why they outfought us in some locations, especially in the first half. The big sides need to stand up and we didn't - and that's the reason we lost. We need to play better, put our foot in a bit, and show some pride."

Faye epitomised all of those qualities for Bolton. Disregarded by Lens in the summer, the 28-year-old celebrated making his loan deal permanent on Thursday with an outstanding display as Bolton's holding midfielder, though it was one that warranted a second yellow card when he deliberately punched the ball beyond Jens Lehmann in the second half. He has an attitude Allardyce adores, and a talent that will attract covetous glances if he maintains this form. "I don't think he's that good - I don't want to see all the hype about him in case Man United or Chelsea want to buy him," said the redoubtable Bolton captain, Kevin Nolan. "Or Real Madrid if he keeps playing like that."

"I can only thank our scouts for persisting and saying I had to sign this boy," added Allardyce, who may have unearthed another of his specials for only £1m. "He looks like the bargain of the century at the moment and I just hope he doesn't get carried away."

Faye rose highest, as he did with every aerial challenge, to convert Stelios Giannakopoulos' lofted cross in the 20th minute before a galling mistake by Gilberto Silva enabled Kevin Davies to present the Greece international with the winner in this fixture for the second successive season. It is four seasons since Wenger last returned victorious from the Reebok but, most alarmingly of all, he admitted Bolton have a guaranteed template for victory when Arsenal turn as yellow as this. "They showed the type of game you need to beat us," he confessed.

"They kicked us as much as we kicked them," responded Nolan. "But if they want to complain about that, then everybody knows how to beat Arsenal now, don't they?"

Goals: Faye (20) 1-0; Giannakopoulos (32) 2-0.

Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Gardner; Faye (Jaidi, 86); Diouf, Nolan, Speed, Giannakopoulos (Vaz Te, 81); Davies. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Okocha, Fadiga.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Lauren (Eboué, 73), Touré, Campbell, Cygan; Ljungberg, Gilberto Silva, Fabregas (Reyes, 68), Pires; Henry, Van Persie (Bergkamp, 68). Substitutes not used: Senderos, Almunia (gk).

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire)

Booked: Bolton Faye; Arsenal Lauren, Cygan.

Man of the match: Faye.

Attendance: 26,792.

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