Praise the high heavens: the football is back!
It seems like forever since our impressive win over Blackburn and I’m as excited as anyone about the prospect of taking on Bolton at The Emirates today.
After speaking in detail about the injuries to Robin van Persie and particularly Theo Walcott over the past couple of days, it is frustrating to reveal that Mr Unbreakable, Thomas Vermaelen, can also be added to the list. He sustained a minor achilles problem playing for Belgium against Turkey and will not feature against Bolton, joining Messrs. van Persie, Walcott, Bendtner and Ramsey in the section marked ‘unavailable’.
Vermaelen’s injury means an earlier-than-expected debut for Sebastien Squillaci, who will partner Laurent Koscielny in the centre of defence. They’ll have a reasonably tough job against Kevin Davies at the back and it will be interesting to see how this new pairing performs. I think Koscielny in particular will relish the physical challenge.
By the way, hands up anyone who predicted we would be playing that centre-back pairing six months ago? Didn’t think so.
As usual, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna will provide support on the flanks, while a combination of Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby looks likely in the centre of midfield. The word from the manager is that Samir Nasri is completely fit and ready to play after his knee problem, whilst Denilson is also available after completing 90 minutes for the reserves midweek. Jack Wilshere will also be itching to get a game against the club he was loaned to last season so we’re certainly not short of quality in this area of the pitch.
The same can’t be said of our striking options: Marouane Chamakh and Andrey Arshavin will essentially start by default even if the right-wing position is up for grabs. Who will Wenger go for? Rosicky? Eboue? Vela? Only he knows.
The final spot in the team will be taken up by Manuel Almunia, whom the manager has stated has “dealt very well” with the uncertainty over the goalkeeper jersey. The Spaniard will be hoping for a commanding performance to justify Wenger’s decision, as will all of the supporters who wait with baited breath for his first mistake.
A home game against Bolton falls into the must-win category for a team chasing the title and Wenger and the lads will be hoping to put in a good performance and come away with three points. The corresponding fixture in last season saw us come from two goals down to win 4-2, with Rosicky scoring a belter.
A similar result with a little less stress would be ideal for the lads (and my heart).
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