Zola banking on Boleyn

Gianfranco Zola was left to rue what might have been after his team pushed ten-man Arsenal all the way only to fall 2-0 to the new Barclays Premier League leaders.

After a first-half display that the manager ranked his side's best of the season, there was plenty of reason for optimism. That would have been boosted further had Alessandro Diamanti been able to convert from the spot just before the interval but nevertheless Zola felt his men could and should have gone on to find a second-half equaliser to Denilson's early goal.


"I am disappointed," he said, having seen instead Cesc Fabregas make the game safe late on for the Gunners with a successful penalty of his own. "Especially after the first half when I thought we were playing our best game of the season. After the first 45 minutes, I was expecting more in the second half. The key was to keep the discipline when you have an extra man.

"I told them to keep it simple and to move the ball right to left until we found a place in the middle or a situation where we had two versus one in specific areas of the pitch. We did it for the first five minutes and then we lost our way.

"We wanted to sort the game out as individuals and that was the difference. You can't think like that. The first half was an unbelievable team performance with very good quality. The second half was like that only for five minutes and then we lost it. With Arsenal you can expect it is difficult even when they are one man down."

He refused to blame Diamanti for the missed spot-kick, awarded when Guille Franco was brought down by the subsequently red-carded Thomas Vermaelen. Manuel Almunia had dived the right way to deny Diamanti a ninth goal of the season, producing a "great save".

Zola added: "The penalty would have been a big help of course. In that case Arsenal would have played different football in the second half. Instead because they had the advantage they sat back and played on the counterattack. We didn't use the extra man properly."

With due respect, the manager believed the visits of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City on Tuesday and Saturday respectively would offer his side more chance for points than an Arsenal team he expected to be in title "contention until the end of the season".

He continued: "The next two games will tell us a lot for the rest of the season. Against Arsenal, it didn't seem that we had lost confidence. They played against one of the best teams in Europe and in my opinion played good football. We are going to get to the Wolves game in good shape. We are playing against a team that is more or less on the same position as us. It will be massive."

Zola will be able to call on Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, Mark Noble, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole as potential starters against Wolves, and he suggested the latter duo would certainly figure from the off at the Boleyn after explaining their absence from his eleven at the Emirates.

"In the last few weeks, Carlton hasn't been training very well. It was wise not to play him. Like Scott Parker who felt tightness in his muscles, it would have been silly to consider playing him 90 minutes today and 90 minutes on Tuesday. So that is the reason why we decided to go for Mido and Franco - and they played a very good game in the first half. With and without the ball they were excellent."