After the jading international break, we are back in the thick of Premier League action. As far as Arsenal are concerned, a game against Bolton at Emirates should be a three pointer without sweating much.
However, Arsenal midfielder Denilson is overly cautious and feels the Gunners shouldn't take the opponents lightly (as if Denilson is going to start and consider Bolton seriously)!
Positive news first: Samir Nasri has recuperated sooner than expected and could be in contention for the weekend fixture at the Emirates.
That doesn't mean Arsenal finally have a full squad to choose from.
Robin Van Persie, not so surprisingly, will not be available until mid-october after suffering a fresh setback; Arsenal's star performer up to this point of the season—Theo Walcott—has picked up a knock against Switzerland, which will keep the winger out of action for at the most six weeks.
As always, international break turned out to be a nightmare for Arsenal (yet this time Tottenham suffered the most from internationals, so be happy). The talk of an injury curse is absurd and superstitious nonsense. Unfortunately, there are far too many fragile players at Arsenal some with glazed ankles (not Van Persie!).
All the injury problems aside, newcomer Sebastien Squillaci is ready to play for Arsenal after making his debut against Blackburn Rovers Reserves this week.
Along with Squillaci, Johan Djorou and Denilson also played that game and lasted full distance. The competition for starting places is so stiff that Djorou and Denilson are not expected to get a look.
Team selection will be a bit tough with Van Persie and Walcott out.
The direct (and only) replacement for Van Persie will be Marouane Chamakh—this is the chance for the Moroccan striker to show what he is made of. Obviously, he's made up of sturdier stuff, so at least he's not as vulnerable as other Arsenal players. It's imperative that he stays fit, scores, and leads Arsenal's attack until Van Persie returns.
The absence of Walcott offers one of those frustrated substitutes some game time under his belt, as well as the opportunity to show his abilities.
Carlos Vela is extremely talented and could be as devastating as Walcott on the wings. However, for one reason or other, he hasn't played for Arsenal much. The time is now for Vela to make a strong statement as to why he's rated so highly.
As you all know, talent without opportunity is nothing.
Wenger should play Vela as a like-for-like replacement for Walcott. Although there is another option of Emmanuel Eboue, Wenger should give it to Vela to prove himself in an Arsenal shirt.
Midfield is much secure in the hands of Abou Diaby and Alex Song. Diaby may not tick all the boxes but his muscular approach is essential. It's easy to overlook his contributions, or you can blame him for his reluctance to shoot, but he's been steadily improving over the past year or so. As for the defensive midfield slot, Song is the undisputed king to take up the shielding role and rightly so.
Cesc Fabregas, after a delayed preseason, will make his first start in front of his home crowd. He looked rusty at Blackburn but that was more a case of lack of match fitness than anything else.
If Arsenal are to mount a serious title change, Fabregas has to hit top form very soon. This game at the Emirates is comparatively an easier fixture for Fabregas to get into his stride before mid-week European games and tougher away games week-in week-out in the Premiership.
Arsenal's defence looks strong, with so many options available for the first time since quite some time ago. Laruent Koscielny has done admirably well in his first few games; however, he needs to bulk up a bit to avoid embarrassments like the one he faced at Ewood Park. Hence, a wiser choice against a physical side like Bolton would be Squillaci.
Meanwhile, Bolton boss Owen Coyle has done an impressive job since taking over the reins from Gary Megson, which is underlined by the fact that Bolton are unbeaten so far this season.
Coyle is more keen on passing the ball around and playing the game the way it should be played. He hasn't totally eradicated the tough physical nature of Bolton, instead he got the balance right between physicality and tidy football.
Elbow Davies is the man Arsenal should be wary of: If Koscielny does play, he will have a tough outing against the Bolton striker Davies.
At any cost, Davies will try to avoid a direct confrontation with Thomas Vermaelen and will look to get the better of a relatively inexperienced defender like Kosicelny, and this is why I feel Squillaci should start ahead of Koscielny.
Coyle, however, is more concerned about one player—no, that's not Cesc Fabregas.
Instead Coyle is worried about the prospect of facing Jack Wilshere, whom he trained at the Reebok during the young England midfielder's loan spell last season.
Coyle and Bolton played a crucial role in the development of young Wilshere. But does he (Coyle) have to be wary of a player, whose chances of participation in the game are very slim?
Coyle didn't forget to shower praise on Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, though. He's a great admirer of Arsenal which could be sensed from his remarks:
"For me (Coyle), as a manager, the way Arsenal go about it as a football club and their style of play is the model of how I would love to develop a club. Arsenal are the best at the pass-and-move football in Britain. They are formidable when they are at the top of their game. It epitomises everything I love," said the softspoken Bolton manager.
The usual injury problems force a few changes. Chamakh is certain to replace Van Persie. With Walcott out injured, the choice at right wing is anybody's guess. It could be Vela, Eboue, or even Rosicky.
Arshavin will play on the left wing, and midfield will be controlled by Fabregas, Diaby, and Song.
In defence, Vermaelen will be partnered by either Koscielny or Squillaci with Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna patrolling the left and right flank respectively.
Arsenal are expected to win comfortably.
Tomas Rosicky's good record against Bolton (three goals in four appearances) might force Wenger to start Rosicky on the right wing.
Chamakh is in with a real chance to cement his place as a regular starter. When routine chances come his way, Chamakh just needs to find the back of the net instead of "bendtnering" the ball over the bar.
You don't have to be an extraordinary striker while playing for Arsenal. You just need to know how to hit the back of the net.
I expect Chamakh to score and Arsenal to win 3-0.
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