Preview: Arsenal vs Bolton
By Randy Osae
“I think they’re still in it. They’ve lost five games, which is not a huge amount, and they’re in a period of transition.
“But they’ve still got to play against the other three teams in the ‘big four’ and if they get results against them, then they would be right back in it.”
“It only needs one twist of a weekend, and you’ve seen it twice already when none of the big four have won, so I don’t think Arsenal are out of it by any means.”
Those are not Arsene Wenger’s words as presumed, it’s actually that of his counterpart for Saturday, Gary Megson.
When Arsenal last met Bolton in September, the Gunners were on the brink of top spot in build-up, and after ninety minutes at the Reebok, a comprehensive charge saw Wenger’s men climb comfortably onto the Premier League’s summit. Life has been awkward since.
Maybe it will take another clash with Bolton for Arsenal to rediscover their know-how of being top dogs again. But no wonder why Gary Megson acknowledges their quality to turn the tide.
Arsene Wenger will now admit there is NO relaxing and sparing – it’s back to fight, fight, and fight for Arsenal. The season’s start is now history; this is crunch time now.
But Wenger’s men – despite having massive ground to make up – are forgivable for their current status. Everyone club has had erratic spells this season and had it not been so, Wenger’s fifth-placed side would have been sitting far deeper. An experiment of pitting the Arsenal of this year with the flamboyant Gunners at this time last season would see a 12-point difference.
Still, there is a closing gap in England’s top tier, and that’s reason to agree no one is taking the points handily. Gaps are catchable with the elusive state of consistency. Therefore, Arsenal are yet to be dismissed from the hunt.
“We were not consistent at the start of the season, but in the last six weeks this team are different animals and are really ready to have a go.” Wenger said at his pre-match press conference.
“Apart from the top six or seven, everyone can be involved in relegation. That means the quality has gone up and the difference between the teams has become smaller”
“The top teams have dropped more points than ever and that’s not because the top teams are less good but because the other sides in the second part of the table are much better than years before.”
The number 10 is a naughty figure to begin this calendar year with. Arsenal have mastered 10 wins, 10 draws/defeats while there are 10 points to catch on pace setters Liverpool. The Gunners are gradually picking up the pieces from what was a decomposing campaign. Don’t agree? Arsenal’s current run of six games without defeat in the league is the longest clean streak they have endured since the collapse in March last term.
Just like West Ham and co in the past, Bolton could have boasted being Arsenal’s ‘bogey team’, but that now appears to be a factor of when under Sam Allardyce’s guidance. Four wins in as many meetings have shrugged of that hoodoo tag on the Trotters, and Arsenal will be sighting a league double and fifth successive win over Gary Megson’s men on Saturday.
Andrei Arshavin has owned the headlines into this outing, and Wenger’s coyness at Friday’s press-conference might be hints of a possible arrival of the Russian star soon.
But the manager has vowed to keep fairness in his depleted squad, with a returning Kolo Toure confirmed to take the captain’s role this weekend. The boss has unleashed new tricks of armband rotation and Almunia, Van Persie and Fabregas all remain penciled leaders.
Silvestre and Gallas will be missing for three weeks, but like Toure, Denilson and Clichy return.