Back on the 6th, when the Arsenal v. Bolton match was called off for, uhh, weather, one reader suggested I cut and paste that preview for today’s match. Today is a day that I wish I could, but can’t because things have changed: they have a new manager, we have a healthier squad, it’s an away match, and Phil Dowd is the man in charge instead of the hapless Howard Webb.
The whole idea of the new manager syndrome is complete and utter Tottenham. Remember when Kevin Keegan brought his god-like powers to Newcastle and was promptly whupped by Arsenal 3-0 in the FA Cup and followed that up, three days later with another 3-0 whupping? I bring this up because it’s a very similar situation to Coyle and Bolton: both clubs were built on “direct” football and both clubs brought in an iconic former player who wants to play a more attacking style. The point is that Bolton is still Bolton, Kevin Cyrill Davies is still a huge, well, you know what word I want to use there, and the rest of the squad is going to play the game the way they have always played the game; by kicking lumps into everyone. So, while they may “give 10% extra” 110% of crap is still crap, it’s just a bigger pile of crap.
Frankly, I hope they get relegated, it’s a side with absolutely no redeeming qualities and they and their fans don’t deserve to even be on the same pitch as clubs like Hull, who at least bring us great joy in laughing at their crazy orange manager.
As for the injuries situation the Theo Walcott injury continues to perplex everyone. The press is reporting it as an abductor strain or an abductor strain related to his shoulder surgery, or alien abduction, no one seems to know what the deal is with England’s greatest hope for a World Cup. Arsene puts him back in 1 to 2 weeks, which some suggest will see him play in the aforementioned FA Cup match. I remain skeptical, the Arsenal sick room just doesn’t work like that. He’ll be back in training in two weeks (maybe) and then it’ll be another week or two before he gets on the pitch. Basically, I’m saying that he’ll come on as a sub against Chelsea, the only team he’s ever scored a goal against.*
The good news is that Cesc is back in the squad as well as Clichy. There’s not much to say about Cesc, obviously it’s a huge boost. As for left-back, Wenger said that Clichy will make the bench “at least” which means that he’s battling Traore for the starting spot. I’m not ripping Traore here but he’s had a few poor defensive outings the last few matches and it’ll be good for he and Clichy to push each other for starting spots there.
Just having Cesc back, alone, is enough to cause me to re-write the whole story, isn’t it?
Then there’s the fact that it’s an away match, in January. Remember back in August when Tony Cascarino was making his bold predictions that Arsenal would struggle, oop norf, in the dark days of Winter? Well, it’s time to shove that column down Tony’s throat and beat the piss out of Bolton. Wenger puts it much more diplomatically than I
Every team is highly motivated against us. So, we are used to that. We don’t expect any weakness from Bolton, we just know that if we play at our best we can win.
Right then, let’s do it. I don’t have to tell you that this is an important match if Arsenal have title hopes. Arsenal are just 3 points below league leaders Chelsea and we no longer have that magical “game in hand” to bandy about as if we were going to automatically get three points. So every match counts from here on in. With the game in hand gone, we now have two tough matches against a “committed” Bolton side who will be looking to get points from us. Meanwhile our opponents have a bit easier road. Man U has a guaranteed 3 points in the Burnley match on Saturday, in fact, I’d be surprised if Burnley don’t take Mick McCarthy’s model of playing Man U to it’s logical extreme and just forfeit, thus giving their whole squad valuable rest. That said, Chelsea have been making noise lately that Arsenal are the team to beat this season (they must have read my column) and they have a tricky tie against Sunderland on Saturday. You can bet your ass I’ll be watching that, it’s live on Fox Soccer Channel over here.
By the time Arsenal kick off on Sunday, we’ll know more about the league picture and will come out fighting for all three points.
For my American readers the Arsenal match is live on Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday at 8am (PST) which means no dicking around with Setanta this weekend and it means that I will try to do a liveblog. Those are usually fun, tune in here if you remember.
*This is patently untrue, though his goal scoring record against Chelsea is very impressive. Oh and we always lose to Chelsea when Walcott plays.