Bolton Preview: Wandering Stars Begin To Return
Arsenal travel to The Reebok Stadium this evening looking for an end to the recent run of dismal Premier League results and performances. No points during the month of January for the first time during Wenger’s reign is probably in keeping with the tortuous season so far; almost as if the footballing fates are determined that we should endure all of our suffering in one campaign. Will that be followed by sunshine or is the cloud to hang heavy until May?
Looking at this morning’s papers, you would certainly incline toward the latter. It is surely an obligatory character trait in managers that they be optimistic; Jack Wilshere’s injury last week was, Arsène determined, a setback which could not be quantified. He refused, publicly at least, to contemplate the outcome that the youngster might be missing for the rest of this season. Reports this morning suggest that this is the case, another stress fracture to the same ankle. Ill-informed accusations will no doubt fly that he was rushed back; we don’t and will probably never know if that is the truth; it is merely supposition to fit an agenda. It is nonetheless entirely in keeping with the way in which this season has played out.
It was surprising, should the reports turn out to be true, that no short-term recruitment took place. Squad limitations and a paucity of talent presumably inhibiting that outcome yet we have seen in the past month what can happen when injury strikes in certain areas, a consuming and degenerative effect. Thomas Eisfeld seems more about investment for the future than immediacy although you can never tell. Certainly you would hope his adaptive period will be considerably shorter than that of Park but the thought returns to comments that Arsène made when signing Jose Antonio Reyes; January signings are more about preparing the player for the following season.
The travails may not be over as the media machine in Spain cranks up to begin the linking of Robin van Persie away from The Emirates to Barcelona, the foundations of a tortuous and tiresome saga begin to be laid. The drip feed of stories has begun and it is entirely coincidental that his advisory team includes one of their favourite people for doing deals with. Still, it is vindication of his manager referring to him as “World Class“. One transfer that may still happen is Andrey Arshavin to Anzhi Makhachkala, the Russian transfer window open for another three weeks or so, apparently. Any truth? Nothing more than strong rumours as Arshavin heads to Bolton as part of the squad for the match.
Which let us not forget is the order of the day.
Chelsea almost repeated the Arsenal trick of losing at The Liberty Stadium but managed to find the equaliser that had been threatened. More dropped points that Arsenal must take advantage of. We have been here on several occasions in the past month or so; each time the outcome has been disappointing. Visiting the fourth bottom club in the Premier League, you would hope that the squad will manage to return with the three points on offer. Certainly, the comeback against Aston Villa will have buoyed them, confidence returning despite the initial setback of a two-goal deficit.
That willingness to concede goals must be curbed if victory is to be achieved. A clean sheet on the road is a rarity this season, happening just twice in the Premier League. And that is simply not good enough for a team which aspires to be among the country’s leading pack all of the time. We can point to injuries to full backs and how the opposition has been quick to exploit such weaknesses yet with full backs out, you expect those covering to learn from their mistakes. Problematically, injury to those covering means more learning curves have to be endured. Returning players might negate that but not this evening.
Indeed, it will be some surprise if many changes are made from Sunday. Fabianksi will be replaced in goal, Djourou in for Coquelin but elsewhere? I would suggest the only other changes would involve Arteta for Ramsey and possibly Arshavin for Oxlade-Chamberlain althought the latter is a risk if transfer rumours are correct and not least because the youngster has done well. The former is risky just because of the Spaniard returning from injury and Arsenal cannot afford to lose him for a longer period although the question can be asked of Rosicky, is he able to play two matches in a row? Perhaps a substitute appearance would be best.
The line-up I expect is:
Szczesny; Djourou (C0quelin), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Ramsey (Arteta), Song, Rosicky; Walcott, van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain
A win is vital, confidence-wise as much as the points. Winning the odd cup game is good, slowing the seeping of the winning habit but that has to return on a regular basis sooner rather than later if European aspirations are to be met.
Don’t forget this morning’s Arsenal On This Day, tinged with sadness today.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.