Arsene Wenger avoided losing four straight league games for the first time in his 16 years as Arsenal manager but a goalless draw with Bolton Wanderers here on Wednesday was meagre consolation.
The result, combined with Newcastle's 2-0 win at Bolton's local rival strugglers Blackburn, dropped Arsenal down into seventh in the Premier League and left Wenger's men five points adrift of a top four spot and the accompanying Champions League place.
This draw rounded off a depressing day for the Gunners after they'd announced their England international Jack Wilshere would almost certainly miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture of his foot.
Arsenal squandered several first-half chances, with Robin van Persie the main culprit, but were almost caught out themselves by a Bolton side currently enjoying their best form of the season.
It was Theo Walcott, however, who missed the most glaring opportunity of the game, played through by a 26th minute pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England winger was left with what appeared the routine task of beating goalkeeper Adam Bogdan in a one-on-one confrontation but saw his shot well blocked by the Hungarian's legs.
Five minutes earlier, Bolton almost took the lead against the run of play. Chris Eagles's header was flicked on by full-back Gretar Steinsson and forward David Ngog rolled his shot wide when it appeared easier to score.
But that was a rare moment of first half relief for Bolton who were under pressure from the fifth minute when van Persie's header from a Thomas Vermaelen cross had to be cleared off his line by Bolton's David Wheater. Van Persie then turned creator for Aaron Ramsey with a pass which the young Welshman struck at Bogdan from a dozen yards.
Bogdan was quickly off his line after 51 minutes to stifle another attack as Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Song linked well in an effort to play in Walcott.
Just after the hour it appeared Arsenal would take the lead when van Persie ghosted in to meet Bacary Sagna's curling right-wing cross with a devastating first-time strike that hit the post. The danger was still not over, with Oxlade-Chamberlain's fierce 22-yard strike being tipped over by Bogdan and Laurent Koscielny heading just wide from van Persie's resulting corner.
Both teams brought on veteran talismanic strikers -- Thierry Henry for Arsenal and Kevin Davies for Bolton -- in a bid to end the stalemate. The closest either side then came was an 80th minute effort from van Persie, who collected Mikel Arteta's pass and sent a delicate chip over the head of Bogdan only for the ball to hit the cross-bar.
Bolton created a late piece of excitement of their own when Mark Davies appealed for a penalty after Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny tapped the ball away from him as he bore down on goal, the home side claiming that he had also tripped their man in the process.
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