Midweek Premier League match. Haven’t had that in a while. Tonight, Arsenal travel to Bolton looking to capitalise on the yesterday’s results. I say results when it’s actually only a single result. That of Chelsea’s draw away to Swansea. Effectively, they’ve gained a point over us, both by the result and the fact that we lost ours when we went to Liberty Stadium. On the face of today’s game, we can gain 2 points and go a little closer to Chelsea and that fourth spot.
Yesterday was also the last day of the January transfer window. It came and went without much fuss, Arsenal-wise. The only signing done was that of young German midfielder, Thomas Eisfeld. A product of the brilliant Borussia Dortmund academy, he has found his chances limited with the current Bundesliga champions and is out of contract in the summer. The only way I’ll look at it is that he’s one for the future. Whatever his situation was at Dortmund doesn’t mean that he’ll shine/flop with us. Judgement better reserved for when we actually see him in action.
Our opponents tonight, Bolton has not had the best of seasons thus far. As bright as they were last season, they’ve struggled in this. The loss of Gary Cahill to Chelsea was not preferable from their point of view but the England defender’s form this season doesn’t merit the thinking that Bolton would be poorer without him in their side. Owen Coyle still sticks to his footballing principle and we should expect the same dangers as when we visited Swansea but perhaps at a lower level.
Before this game, Coyle did make a move for one of our players and he was successful in securing his service. Ryo Miyaichi was allowed to move on loan to Bolton until the end of the season. The Japanese winger has not had much chances to prove his worth in a red and white shirt thus far. Injuries also have not helped his cause. Which is a big shame because of how well he did while on his previous loan at Feyenoord. Staying within the league and learning to adapt to it directly should work in his favour. Success of the move anywhere near what it did for Jack Wilshere would be considered made decision on our part.
Miyaichi will not be available for this game due to the regulations of the league. That will leave Coyle relying on his tried and tested line-up that won the last time out in the league against Liverpool which lifted them out of the relegation zone. The much underrated Mark Davies will be the one to look out for in their midfield. We remember the tackle by William Gallas on him a couple of seasons back but Davies is technically proficient and his runs from deep will have to be taken seriously.
In terms of team selection tonight, Arsene Wenger finally has some good headaches to have. Mikel Arteta and Thierry Henry are fit again. Bakary Sagna is also back but it would be too much to expect him to play the full 90 minutes and yet, I wouldn’t put it past Wenger to try that. Johan Djourou is also available but while Kieran Gibbs has returned to full training, this game would come too early for him.
The bigger question would be who is selected to play in midfield. Sunday’s comeback against Aston Villa would’ve taken its toll on some players and decisions would have to be made on any possible rotation. I would assume Arteta will come back straight into the fold. We’ve missed the Spaniard in recent weeks and his re-emergence will give us a much needed resoluteness in front of the defence. The obvious one for a place on the bench would be Tomas Rosicky but Aaron Ramsey have played a lot of consecutive games this season and looked like he could use some sort of a break.
That would probably be the line-up for tonight. Which would mean that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gets another run-out. Given his performances in the last 2 games, it would be a blow to the young talent not to continue his run in the starting eleven. With Andrey Arshavin rumoured to be interesting Anzhi (rich Russian club), AOC must be relishing further involvement with the first team. Too much is expected out of him. He’s young and as it always is with young players, they can be inconsistent. You can’t expect him to shine in every single game. When AOC learns to get that consistency in his game, we’ll have a real player in our side.
3 points is on the cards tonight and that is the only acceptable result. Unless we lose 3 men before half time and the referee gives Bolton 2 penalties. Otherwise, we have enough quality in our side to beat this Bolton team. There’s been plenty of such occasions in recent seasons but even in this season in particular, we’ve failed to capitalise when those ahead of us has given us a lifeline. It’s time to recover from the recent run of defeats in the league and go on a strong winning run.
We might not get further chances. Here’s one. Let’s take it.