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Friday, 10 September 2010

Bolton preview - haven't we been here before?

Arsenal's injury problems continue to mount. The Club has confirmed that Theo Walcott will be out for at least six weeks with the ankle injury he suffered playing for England. This was no surprise to me. Having seen what happened I was obviously right to caution against the optimistic view from Capello that he would miss two weeks only. What we didn't know until today was that Thomas Vermaelen was also injured on Tuesday, playing for Belgium. Our first-choice centre-back has apparently suffered a "minor" injury to his achilles. Arsene Wenger has stopped short of quoting a timescale so just how minor it is remains to be seen. This leaves Arsenal with a problem at the back with Kevin Davies visiting tomorrow. The chances are that we will now be facing one of the biggest physical tests of the season with Koscielny (in his third game in English football) alongside Squillaci (making his debut - as confirmed by Arsene Wenger.) I am shuddering at the prospect of these two getting a nasty surprise, having to handle Davies. I think we would be better off with Djourou partnering Squillaci. I know they conceded three goals as a partnership against Blackburn Reserves, but I would far prefer to see Djourou, who is experienced in the ways of the Premier League, alongside Squillaci. Koscielny proved in the last game that he is currently lacking a physical edge and I fear he will be found wanting again versus Bolton.

To be missing three key players (Walcott, Van Persie and Vermaelen) so early in the season is really annoying. More annoying is that two of them were injured when they weren't even playing/training at Arsenal. However, it is something we have had to become used to in recent seasons. I fail to understand how we can be so unlucky in the injury department. In the past I have questioned whether there is something wrong with Arsenal's training regime or preparation, but you can't attribute Van Persie or Walcott's injuries to any such issue. Once again we have to grin and bear it, but it could easily cost us home points tomorrow.

It isn't all bad news from Arsenal. Samir Nasri has recovered ahead of schedule (hence the fact that we only have three key players missing.) This is welcome news. Nasri dominated Arsenal's pre-season and had a decent game filling in for Fabregas at Anfield. His return to the squad for tomorrow gives Arsene an interesting selection dilemma. Fabregas will naturally play in his usual place (unless he has suffered from the long journey to Argentina in midweek.) There is a hole on the right side of Arsenal's attacking three, with Walcott out. Arshavin and Nasri both tend to play from the left when Fabregas is there, so who will play from the right? One of the two mentioned could switch wings, or Eboue could return, or Rosicky could stake a claim, or even Jack Wilshere. There is one further alternative which would see Nasri replacing Diaby, alongside Alex Song. This final option is not one I want to see when we are playing a physical outfit like Bolton, where height and strength could be paramount. With a Champions League game in midweek I think Nasri may be a substitute tomorrow, with Eboue/Rosicky from the right.

My team for tomorrow would be thus: Almunia - Sagna, Djourou, Squillaci, Gibbs - Song, Diaby, Fabregas - Arshavin, Chamakh, Eboue. Will Arsene's team look the same? - Definitely not, but he gets paid to pick the team, and I don't.

My son is coming to his first game tomorrow and he is very excited. He can't wait to see Fabregas in the flesh so it's just as well he didn't leave in the Summer. With our defensive shortcomings I might need to explain to him the importance of Arsenal's attacking players and how we will usually need to score at least three goals to be sure of winning a match! His life changes from tomorrow - once you've seen it all live, there is no going back, and he will want more and more of it. I hope.

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