Arsenal v Bolton – live blog!

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Bolton preview : it’s all about results

Morning all,

there’s not a lot needs to be said about today’s game. Sometimes you might analyse our team, sometimes their team, sometimes what kind of approach we might take but today really doesn’t merit any of that. With Arsenal 17th in the table, and if results conspire against us in a position where we could be bottom later on this afternoon, the only thing we need to look at is three points.

Although they’ve caused us some problems on our travels we have a good record at home against Bolton and we’ve got to keep that up today. Kevin Davies provides the elbowy kind of threat we’ve struggled with at times and I expect him to stick like glue to Koscielny today. As much as possible he’ll avoid the GigantoGerman but one of Koscielny’s strengths for me me is his willingness to get involved in the physical side of things. If I remember correctly he had a very good game against Davies at the Grove last season.

All eyes will be on the defence and the manager says extra work and training is being done, but says:

It’s better for me not to talk too much and show that we can deal the problems we have at the back.

Indeed. Actions will speak far louder than words and it’s crucial, above all else, that we cut out the stupid mistakes which get punished so easily at this level of football. You can be under the cosh defensively, backs to wall stuff, and if you don’t concede confidence grows from there. But when you’re defending like that and are also aware that one error can cost you, and can come at any time, it makes everything much more nervy.

Let’s face it, just doing the basics, defensively and from an attacking point of view, would have won us the game against Blackburn. Attack that free kick for the Song own goal, defend the coner properly and don’t leave a man free in the area, take ball and man when Olsson is running towards goal, and up the other end pass to the best striker at the club who is unmarked 6 yards from goal with just the keeper to beat. It sounds simplistic but that’s because it is.

There’s nothing hugely complicated about defending well. It requires a bit of knowledge, some organisation and communication but most importantly hard work. And as we touched on yesterday that hard work is the job of everyone, not just the four players at the back. If your midfield can stop a threat before it gets into the danger area, all the better, if the forwards can pressurise their defence so they’re unable to build from the back, better again.

As for today’s team, Sagna, Ramsey and Rosicky are all back in the squad and I think we’ll line up SZCZ – Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Santos – Song – Arteta – Ramsey – Gervinho – Walcott – van Persie

The pressure is huge, no doubt about it, but Arsene says he’s well able for it because he is a great big white bear:

I am supposed to take the bullets and absorb them. Like a bear. A polar bear.  In fairness, it does not hurt too much. You worry more about the young player who gets in the team at the moment and gets slaughtered, it’s much more difficult.

I’m a human being and I prefer it when you say I am not an idiot. But I know that it is an emotional game and I have to deal with that.

Now, I’m pretty sure that if you shot a polar bear loads of times it’d be dead, rather than absorbing the bullets and then pooing them out, but I guess I see what he’s trying to say. He’s been around the block a few times and he knows better than anyone that the only way to stop the criticism is with results. If results improve so does everything else, if not, well, I think we all know what happens then.

In other news, and pretty bad news, Jack Wilshere’s spell on sideline is to be extended as he requires surgery. The club released a statement last night saying:

We have given Jack time to heal naturally which is important wherever possible with a young player. The latest scans show surgery is needed. Everyone at the Club wishes Jack a speedy recovery.

What can you do but hope it all goes well and without complication. Some might say he should have had the surgery straight away but then without the full details of his problem it’s impossible to say if the course of action taken was correct or not. Surgery is best avoided, generally speaking, so I can understand why we gave it time to heal without resorting to that. Get well soon, Jack.

Meanwhile, Arsene has spoken about offering new contracts to players and his words won’t be of much comfort to those worried about the futures of important players:

Yes, this starts now. We will try to convince them. Our desire is there to do it and we are ready to sit down with them. After that we see where we go but the gap on that front has become bigger for us so, today, I cannot say that if we go to the maximum we are sure to sign a player – even if we do that we are not sure.

The main issues surround Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Thomas Vermaelen and Theo Walcott, all of whom are into the final two years of their contracts. Come next summer, if nothing’s signed, we’ll have the Nasri situation again but in quadruplicate (is that a word?). And when you consider that both van Persie and Song have hired Darren Dein (you might know him from such transfers as Henry to Barcelona, Cesc to Barcelona, Clichy to Man City and advisor to Nasri’s move to Man City) to be their agent it’s hard not to be worried.

Arsene talks about offering them the maximum money and that not being enough, which is, I guess, a genuine concern. There might well be a need for Arsenal to look at their pay structure again. The simple fact is that some players are worth more money than others. For all the talk about upsetting the squad it’s up to the club to find a wage that each player is happy with. If someone down the ladder is upset because their wage isn’t commensurate with the top earners at the club – who earn that because of their quality – then the simple solution is to become a better, more important player.

Personally, I would look at all of those players and think they owe the club something. Van Persie, Walcott and Vermaelen have been plagued with injuries and the club stood by them, paid them every week. Wenger showed more faith in Song than anyone else, seeing the potential in him and, frankly, putting up with awful performances until that started to emerge. As such you would hope that there’s a measure of consideration from them for that, but this is football, and as much as we’d like to expect the best from players it rarely happens.

However, the most important consideration for all of them will be whether or not they’re signing a new deal to play for a club that is competitive and can win trophies. I believe Arsenal have the financial resources to ensure that the best players are paid well enough to for the money not to be a major issue. We always have. I’ve said it before but there wasn’t a player in the Premier League paid more than Thierry Henry was at his pomp, so the real issue is where the team is going.

If we’re fighting for titles, properly, and achieving things in the cups, then it will make life a lot easier. An Arsenal treading water in mid-table and set to spend time out of the Champions League because of that will be an Arsenal without some of those players, that’s the bottom line.

And so it comes back to results. Today, midweek, next weekend, and onwards, for all the talk and analysis and discussion and debate, what happens on the pitch dictates everything else.

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Right, that’s yer lot, till later, and come on Arsenal!