Saturday, 24 September 2011

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Bolton Wanderers Previewed

Arsenal play at home against Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League later today. Bolton are one of the three teams still below Arsenal in the league, and anything other than a victory would be yet another huge blow for Arsenal. Arsenal's current ambitions for this season are to finish in the top four, but their terrible start has made even that look a difficult task.

The injury news from the club is a little encouraging, as only Yossi Benayoun and Johan Djourou are added to those already out. That list includes Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen who are currently badly missed by an Arsenal team struggling to find any consistency. At least Bacary Sagna should return from injury, and both Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky are available again too.

The Arsenal team should have a fairly similar look to the one which lost to Blackburn last week, but Sagna limped off in that game and was badly missed. He has had an impressive start to the season despite the form of some of those around him, and his return will be very welcome. Arsenal suffered badly on the right side of their defence when Sagna went off, and he will be needed to keep a close eye on Bolton's Martin Petrov.

The only question for Arsene Wenger in his defence will be whether he picks Andre Santos or Kieran Gibbs at left back. I have a feeling that Santos will play even though he was far from impressive last week. The manager spoke of his passing and shooting ability before last week's game, but it was not on display in the game.

The midfield trio will probably be the same, as Arsenal attempt to find some consistency. The chances are that Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey and Mikael Arteta are Arsenal's current strongest available midfield combination, and they need to play more games together. There is an argument for including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the team after he performed so well against Shrewsbury Town, but I can't see Arsene Wenger picking him yet.

I do hope he is included on the bench though, as he has the ability to change the game in an instant and it's a rare thing in football. He cost Arsenal a lot of money, but he looks like he can start to repay that very soon.

I would imagine that both Robin Van Persie and Gervinho will start again, but there is a possibility that Theo Walcott will replace Andrey Arshavin. I'm not saying Arshavin was any worse than some of the others last week, but he always seems to be the first to be left out of the side.

Bolton have lost four of their first five games, and only an opening day victory away to Queens Park Rangers has given them any points. Their defence has looked a little vulnerable at times during those games, but then again so has Arsenal's. Kevin Davies just loves to put himself about, and I have no doubt that he will get stuck into Arsenal.

Thankfully Ivan Klasnic is suspended, as he has started off this season in good goalscoring form, but Bolton will still pose a real threat. The last time the teams played was towards the end of last season when Arsenal's inability to defend set pieces cost them all three points. Bolton will have seen how Arsenal struggled from set pieces against Blackburn, and they will be determined to punish them again.

The deliveries from Petrov could be a real problem for Arsenal, but the best way to counter Bolton is for Arsenal to control the game. So far this season games have got away from them too easily for long spells, and the opposition have punished them during those spells. Last week against Blackburn was a classic example when Arsenal conceded three goals in the first 23 minutes of the second half.

They came back very strongly before the end and probably should have scored more than the late goal from Marouane Chamakh, but they were wasteful. If Arsenal get an advantage against Bolton they have to expect Bolton to come back at them, and Arsenal have to fight to maintain their advantage. That doesn't mean they need stupid red cards like the one against Newcastle, but they can't be afraid to stand up to Bolton either.

Bolton may play a better style of football these days, but with Davies and Paul Robinson in their team they know how to hurt an opponent still. If Arsenal show any weakness or hesitancy they will quickly be on the backfoot. RVP is the captain and it's up to him to ensure Arsenal stand strong and are not intimidated.

The pitch at the Emirates is very big, and Arsenal need to use every inch of that pitch to run Bolton ragged. It's not an easy task for a team seemingly devoid of confidence, but the players on show against Bolton didn't play on Tuesday night which means they have had a week to train together. That's the first time those players have had more than a couple of days together since all of the new players arrived on deadline day.

The games have been coming so often that there has been no real opportunity for the coaching staff to get some real work done. Hopefully the players will have a better idea of their defensive responsibilities and duties, and they will adhere to them too.

Despite all of the negative publicity and doom-mongering surrounding Arsenal I am feeling confident about this game. It's about time Arsenal took their chances and hammered a few goals past an opponent, and for some reason I think they will do so against Bolton. RVP has been a little slow off the mark this season, but I can see him putting in a performance to show why he is so important to Arsenal.

I'm predicting a 4-1 win for Arsenal with RVP bagging a couple of those goals hopefully. I know it's probably a crazy prediction, but I have a feeling Arsenal are going to win well. I hope to see some of the free flowing football Arsenal have become famous for as well, and for Arsenal fans to feel a little more positive after the game too.

A good would be a great boost for Arsenal before they play Olympiacos at home on Wednesday night in the Champions League. After that game it's a short trip across north London to play Tottenham the next Sunday, before another dreaded international break. When that international break ends it looks like Vermaelen might be available again, and his addition to the team will be a huge boost.

The game against Bolton won't be live on TV in my part of the world, but I might be making a trip to a local pub which will be showing the game. With my laptop still out of action it's impossible to get a good stream on my PC, and I don't like following Arsenal games on twitter. Hopefully the part I've ordered to mend my laptop will arrive on Monday, and then it's business as usual again.

That's it for today.

Here's a look at Chamberlain's goal against Shrewsbury.

See You Tomorrow

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