After the thrills and spills of Wednesday night's North London derby Arsenal now make the trip north to Bolton for their next Premier League game. With one win and five draws in their last six league games, it looks like Arsenal have all but blown their chances of winning the title, but hope springs eternal, and it's not quite over yet. Saturday's games didn't go too well for Arsenal, as "Manure" managed a late and narrow victory over Everton and Chelsea beat West Ham3-0.
Arsenal know their destiny is no longer in their own hands, but they simply have to try to win their last five games, and hope for the best elsewhere. If they can beat Bolton and then somehow manage to beat "Manure" next week, they will be three points behind the leaders with three games left to play. It wouldn't be an ideal situation, but it would certainly be a lot better than the current one, which sees them nine points off the pace.
Arsenal have a pretty good record away to Bolton in recent years, with victories in the last three seasons. It's a record which can hopefully be continued today against a Bolton team which attempts to play much better football since Owen Coyle took the reins last season. They still have the ability to put the boot in at times, but at least their sole purpose is not to kick lumps out of the opposition any more. When Paul Robinson and Kevin Davies are in their team you can be sure they still like a physical challenge though, and Arsenal will have to be strong.
Bolton were absolutely torn apart by Stoke RFC last week when they lost 5-0 in their FA Cup semi final, and a lot will depend on how their players react to that disappointment. Arsenal's last week hasn't exactly been brilliant either, as they let leads slip to draw with both Liverpool and The Spuds. Their performance against Liverpool was not good enough for a team looking to challenge for the league, but at least they managed to finally find some form against The Spuds on Wednesday night. Their attacking play was excellent in that game, but again they failed to hold on to a two goal lead, as they drew 3-3.
In recent games the Arsenal players have played well within themselves, as both tempo and passion have being missing from their game, but against The Spuds that simply was not the case. It was a game which both teams had to win, and for the neutral it must have been a great game to watch. As an Arsenal fan it was great to see Arsenal on the ball, and playing as if the game really meant something to them. However, their inability to keep a lead came back to haunt them yet again, and I think most Arsenal fans felt like I did that The Spuds would manage at least a draw.
If Arsenal can approach this game in the same manner I am sure they will have far too much for Bolton, but the problem is there is nothing guaranteed with this Arsenal team. Cesc Fabregas was back to his imperious best against The Spuds, and another performance like that from him should see Arsenal create enough chances to see off a Bolton team which has only lost twice at home this season. Arsenal's away record is the best in the Premier League, and a ninth away victory of the season would be very welcome.
In injury news for Arsenal it would seem that Abu Diaby will be the only absentee from the team on Wednesday night, as he picked up an injury in that game. It was only his third game back after his most recent injury, but that's about normal for Diaby ever since he had his leg shattered against Sunderland five years ago. On his day he can be a very good player, but due to a mix of injuries and indifferent form at times, it's hard to see him ever playing a pivotal role for Arsenal.
I would imagine the Arsenal team will be very similar to the one which played on Wednesday night, with Jack Wilshere taking the place of the injured Diaby. I think Wilshere would have started anyway, whether Diaby was fit or not, and he will enjoy playing against the team who he performed so well for on loan last season. I don't think Andrey Arshavin will manage to dislodge Theo Walcott from the team, as Walcott scored one goal and made another against The Spuds.
Young Wojciech Szczesny made his first real mistake of his short Arsenal career against The Spuds, and it gave them the penalty which they scored their equaliser from. He didn't let that mistake get to him on the night, as he went on to make a few fine saves after it, but it has given the critics an opportunity to have a go at Arsenal. I have heard a few of them say Arsenal haven't won anything in six years because they haven't had a decent goalkeeper in that time, and they will win nothing until they get one. I think Szczesny is the real deal, and he will go on to make the Arsenal goalkeeper's position his own for a long time to come. I'm hoping to see him play as well today, as he has in all of his games so far for Arsenal. I don't get the sense of dread when he is in goal , which I get at the mere mention of Manuel Almunia's name.
I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal, and I think Robin Van Persie will get his name on the scoresheet yet again to create a Premier League record by scoring in his seventh away game in a row. His 14 goals in 14 Premier League starts is an excellent return for a striker in any league, and his form since his return from injury has been excellent. Samir Nasri had an excellent game on Wednesday night as well, and when both him and Cesc play well at the same time, Arsenal can be quite magnificent in attack. Cesc was a little unlucky not to score against The Spuds, and I have a funny feeling he will manage a goal today.
There's only four weeks left this season, and after the last game on May 22nd there will be a gap of almost three months before Arsenal play a competitive game again. Arsenal may have infuriated a lot of their fans at times this season, but seeing them play is far better than the long wait over the summer for football to return. There will be plenty to talk about over the summer, as Arsenal are bound to be linked with any player available, and quite a few that aren't either.
Arsene Wenger has said he has money for a big purchase over the summer if needed, but he doesn't expect to add too much to the current squad. I would like him to add some experience and quality, but I expect a few youngsters will step up to the first team squad, and a couple of reasonably priced purchases will arrive. I don't know if that will be enough to keep the majority of fans happy, as it is clear to almost everybody but the boss that Arsenal need to have a winning mentality installed in the team, and it looks like it can only come from an outside force. It's all speculation at this stage, but within a few weeks the picture will probably become a lot clearer.
That's it for today.
Here's the highlights from Arsenal's 3-2 victory away to Bolton a few seasons ago.
See You Tomorrow.