Bolton Preview: Let The Season End With A Bang Not A Whimper
Arsenal travel to The Reebok Stadium knowing that a win will probably not even lift them into second place yet give themselves a chance of catching leaders Manchester United. Games are running out, chances diminishing. Arsenal need a win to stop this seasons deflating, ending with a whimper.
The week ended with Wenger on the back foot, his captain speaking thoughtfully and honestly about the squad whilst the manager got hot under the collar about the interpretation and nuances that the media put on it. Such issues have led to semi-obituaries, Paul Wilson the latest opportunist to tap into the Arsenal zeitgeist.
The suggestion that the Arsenal way is somehow becoming jaded, a failed experiment, irrelevant in the modern game, is laughable. Spend, spend, spend! is not going to last, it simply cannot with the new rules that are being imposed on clubs. If it was as irrelevant, Chelsea would not be looking to fast-track youth through to the first team, preferring to buy their replacements.
Mental pressure increased with Chelsea and Manchester United winning yesterday. An Arsenal victory will make the next fortnight a mental battle, Arsenal will need to overcome United and hope for a Chelsea win the following Sunday. That creates its own problem with that scenario meaning goal difference will be the decisive factor.
Would that this was the only problem to be concerned about.
More immediately, how do Arsenal convert the draws which have blighted the recent run, into wins? Belief is the key; a very easy word to bandy around, very easy to say that you believe in yourself but the reality is that Arsenal do not appear to believe that they can defend a lead. Or so we are told.
The truth is somewhat different, Wednesday night a fresh wound in all minds. Like Sunday before, it was a golden opportunity lost to close the gap. A Chinese Water Torture in the footballing sense, confidence must be seeping away from the players. The solution must come from within.
The manager and staff can imbue them with all of the confidence that is possible but once they cross the white line, it is only the players who can resolve it. They have the experience of being in these situations yet have not yet learned to stop them recurring. A collective problem that is much harder to solve than individual errors.
So to the team. Abou Diaby is missing, as is Tomas Rosicky. A rumour has circulated that Thomas Vermaelen is to feature which makes sense if his much vaunted return against Manchester United has a shred of truth to it. Unlikely though is a full match from the Belgian, surely a gentle reintroduction the sensible course of action.
The line-up for this afternoon I would expect Arsène to go with is:
Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Fàbregas, Song, Wilshere; Walcott, van Persie, Nasri
The key thing for the players to remember is that there was not too much wrong with the attacking display in midweek. To go to your local rivals and a top five team, score three times and possibly have added two more, indicates that the rhythm is returning.
Bolton will be smarting from their drubbing at the hands of Stoke last weekend. They will be ready to salvage their pride and Arsenal need to be ready for this. A high tempo game will suit the visitors counter-attacking instincts. A win is vital. A win is achievable. And that is all which is required today.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.