Jeez – where to start with this one? Well, let’s wheel out the Statto-esque gubbins first. Two sides in crisis. A bottom of the table clash between the two teams with the worst defensive records in the Premier League. At the other end of the pitch the goal tally for both sides combined doesn’t even reach half the goals spanked in by Manchester United thus far. How’s that for whetting your appetite? What will happen at Arsenal v Bolton?
But hold on just a minute before you reach for the Leonard Cohen CDs and the self-harm toolkit as a more favourable option. This game promises much more than that particularly doom-laden intro suggests. The bookies, southern pundits and over-opinionated pub bores will have you believe that Arsenal are strong favourites, despite their recent form. And that is probably a fair summation, to a degree. Though are the best available odds of 1/2 for Arsenal and 15/2 for Bolton really a true reflection of how this game will pan out? Well, probably yes, though I won’t be backing Arsenal at such a stingy price.
So let’s kick off with the obvious talking point – Gary Cahill. If any of the rumoured managers wanted Cahill that bad, he wouldn’t be playing for Bolton right now. Wenger, Redknapp, Ferguson, Mancini, Dalglish – all linked strongly with our prized asset over the summer. That he didn’t move boils down to the fact that none of the above wanted him desperately enough to prevent them from taking their chances and signing him either for a cut-price fee in January or as a freebie next summer. But that’s a hell of a gamble to take, especially if your name is Arsene Wenger. Arsenal are simply crying out for a centre-half of Cahill’s ability right now. That they haven’t got him is either down to finances or Wenger’s stubbornness – I’ll leave the Arsenal fans to inform us of the real reason.
I personally don’t think Bolton were asking too much – in the current market, £15 million isn’t excessive for a strong, gifted and confident player who will be at the top of his game for the next 6-7 years or so. A cut-price bidding war in January (or a freebie scramble next summer) won’t suit any of the aforementioned managers, although Cahill will make an excellent signing for one of them, leaving the rest to rue just what they’ll miss out on. And just in case I’m presenting too compelling a case here, I’ll now explain why I’d have sold him for £15 million in a heartbeat.
Yes, you read that right. If Wenger would have been willing to pay the going rate, I’d have straddled my bicycle, flung my testicles over the handlebars (in a Buster Gonad-esque move), covered them in sumptuous purple velvet, sat Cahill quite comfortably between the two and peddled with all my might down to London. Simply because we won’t get anywhere near that amount in January. And I just can’t contemplate the thought of him going for free next summer. £15 million, if banked in good time, would have resulted in a few tasty £4-5 million signings for us last month. If the Spurs rumour was true (a decent amount of cash plus Bassong and Bentley) I’d have snatched their hands off as both are top quality players who would have flourished again under Owen Coyle. But no – it just didn’t happen. And that was bad news for Bolton Wanderers. We’ll stay up with Cahill, we’d stay up without him. But either way, he won’t be here in August 2012.
Theo Walcott will once again highlight the yin and yang nature of his game as he effortlessly blends the raw speed of Carl Lewis with the finishing skills of Leona Lewis.
But what of Arsenal as they are now? I’ll stick my head above the parapet here and say that reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated. In Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere and Robin van Persie, they have a phenomenal triumvirate capable of propelling them to past glories. To state the bleeding obvious, Vermaelen has slotted seamlessly into English football, Wilshere is the best English midfielder in the Premier League and van Persie is one of the very top strikers in world football. The problem Arsenal currently have, quite clearly, is that two of that trio are sat at home on their Playstations every day and van Persie can’t be expected to carry the team on his own whilst relying on service that is as effective as that which you would expect to receive from the b*stard offspring of Manuel, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Overall from ‘Acorn Antiques’ (if those three comedy behemoths were somehow capable of producing a child between them that is).
And when injuries do take their toll on one, two or (God forbid for Arsenal fans) all three of those, Arsenal are, quite frankly, screwed. Arteta will prove to be a pivotal signing though the rest of the current squad consists of far too many average, inexperienced or mercurial players. The likes of Walcott, Arshavin and Rosicky are capable of being world-beaters on their day. Unfortunately, that day is a rarer occurrence than an error-free Ortis Deley presenting master class. Oxlade-Chamberlain and the like should come good but exactly when is anyone’s guess. And the likes of Koscielny, Squillaci, Song and Chamakh just don’t look good enough to take Arsenal where they need to be.
But what of Bolton’s woes lately? It’s clear to see that the root of the problem lies with those b*stards who compile the fixtures. What else would explain why we have had to endure Man City, Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea before we’ve set foot in October? Rotten stinking luck that will see us bottom of the league after 7 games. And that’s the one and only reason for our current plight. Nothing to do with p*ss poor defending. Nothing to do with absent central midfielders allowing players cut from far superior cloth run roughshod over them. Nothing to do with ill disciplined forwards losing their heads (though I really do hope that Norwich’s Marc Tierney has found his again, such was the unbridled ferocity of Ivan Klasnic’s attack on him last week). That ‘butt’ would have put Rowdy Roddy Piper in hospital so it’s no surprise that Tierney went down quicker than a thirsty hooker. But I digress – the reasons alluded to are not the root of Bolton’s current problems at all. Honest guvnor. I swear on Jedward’s lives…
Arsenal will win. I say that with weary, browbeaten acceptance. It’s just how things are. Yes, Bolton will give them a game. Maybe to the extent that I return here next week rejoicing in the woefulness of my predictive powers. But it’s unlikely. There may be changes following the midweek cup win (Wheater for Knight anyone?) but whoever plays will struggle to keep tabs on Van Persie and particularly Arteta, who I believe will be a great signing. Proven Premiership quality, he’ll flourish in this setting and form a formidable partnership with Wilshere when he returns from injury. The home crowd will be right up for this and spur their team onto a narrow 2-1 victory. Coyle and Wenger will put aside their little handbags episode from a couple of months ago. And Theo Walcott will once again highlight the yin and yang nature of his game as he effortlessly blends the raw speed of Carl Lewis with the finishing skills of Leona Lewis.
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