Saturday, 23 April 2011
Bolton (a) preview
I didn't watch the Manchester United v Everton match as I was busy cooking dead animals on my barbecue this afternoon. However, I did look in to check the score on a regular basis and managed to catch the winning goal. The Mancs would argue otherwise, but Hernandez looked offside (albeit marginally) on the replay from side-on. Certainly he was a lot closer to scoring an illegal goal than Robin Van Persie was on Wednesday. I hate it when people say these things even themselves out in a season because quite clearly they do not. As I recounted the other day we have lost four points to offside flags in our last few matches (Sunderland at home and Spurs away) while Man Utd have been gifted two points this afternoon. For all the football that gets played between August and May, on such things is the Title decided. I will always maintain that it is no coincidence that a certain Club is getting the lions share of these tight calls going their way. Corruption and/or dishonesty among the officials? In the Premier League? Just look at how things happen and make up your own mind.
On to Arsenal and the boys visit Bolton tomorrow. Man Utd's win earlier today means that the pressure is off in terms of the Title chase. Chelsea have just beaten West Ham (a flattering 3-0 scoreline in the end) so the pressure remains for runners-up spot where we are playing catch-up - the late goals for Chelsea mean their goal difference is now five better than ours. It will be interesting to see how the players react now that winning something has become a pipe dream once again. In the past we've seen a return to form in these situations and I wouldn't be surprised to see the same tomorrow.
Abou Diaby remained true to form by getting injured on Wednesday - he is simply incapable of playing more than three games in a row (I truly believe this is a result of his horrific injury at Sunderland five years ago). Diaby has been a bit of an enigma ever since, capable of brilliance and frustrating ineptitude at both ends of the scale. I don't think there would be too many of us shedding a tear if he was shown the exit door this Summer. His absence at Bolton will mean a recall for Jack Wilshere. Apart from that I don't really see any changes from midweek. If the players put in the same effort against Bolton as they did at Tottenham then we will be celebrating three points this time tomorrow evening. On the other hand, if they slip in to their bad ways, we will be on the receiving end of a nasty defeat once again.
Bolton embarrassed themselves at Wembley last week and that makes them a dangerous prospect tomorrow. A 5-0 defeat by Stoke is not reflective of Bolton's ability and they will be seriously fired up to make some amends for their fans tomorrow. Kevin Davies will be all elbows and backing-in as usual (just count how many free-kicks he gets given after backing-in and throwing himself to the floor). At the back Bolton have real quality in Gary Cahill, while Chung-Yong Lee, on the wing, is one of the most under-rated players in the country, in my view. If Lee is on form he will provide sufficient ammunition for Davies, and the returning Daniel Sturridge, to do serious damage to our fragile defence. Arsenal will take Bolton lightly at their peril.
I must just comment on Arsene Wenger's latest quotes. I won't say anything about the need to improve the squad, or otherwise, as the time for that is after the end of the season. However, I do want to pull him up on his assertion that "if we'd won against Liverpool and Tottenham this week we'd be two points behind with Manchester United to play." Yes, he's right. But the fact is that we DIDN'T beat Liverpool and Tottenham. There is a reason why we didn't beat them. The fact is that we are, ultimately, not good enough. We're so close to being good enough, and that is what kills me. This is the worst Man Utd team in 20 years, yet they are somehow going to be Champions - this is the ultimate season of missed opportunity, yet Arsene still chooses to not see a problem.
I won't get to see the game until I get home tomorrow evening so I'll be employing the Sky+ and trying to avoid the scoreline. I'll post a review either late tomorrow night, or on Monday. Enjoy what's left of this glorious, English, St George's Day.