Today we play Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium, kick off 4p.m.
We have lost Abou Diaby to a calf strain from the north London derby, so I expect to see the following line-up:
Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy
Walcott Van Persie Nasri
On paper that is a team which should smash past a Bolton side which was torn apart by Stoke last week in the FA cup semi finals. You would expect their morale to be shattered after such a crushing defeat and the prospect of having to host Arsenal next should be a daunting one.
However, this is not the same Arsenal side that had the best away record in the first half of the season. If this match was 6 months ago I would be comfortable in thinking this was a near certain 3-pointer. A series of disappointing results since the Carling Cup final has left us with a weakened morale of our own to be worried about.
Arsene speaks about how to rectify this:
“It’s down to belief. Belief is the mother of the feeling and the feeling is the direct consequence of the motivation you put into your next game. If your belief is very low, your feeling is very low. What I think we can get from our performances is the belief that we have the quality.”
I believe we have the quality too. However, what I see is a team whose battery dies at around 65 minutes in each game. For me, this is the problem we face at the moment. This team is clearly exhausted, their season is over and they need a summer break. In every game a few traits can be seen consistently. One of them is a lack of creativity in the final third in the final 30 minutes of a match. For many, this exhaustion stems from not having a summer break. We never have a good season after a World Cup and I always worried this season would be the same. The World Cup, the pointless replays against lower league teams we played at the beginning of the year, the injuries to key players who haven’t been able to recover their best form. All these have killed our engine.
I disagree with people who say we don’t have good mental strength. I was at White Hart Lane on Wednesday and I saw a team who gave everything. Never once did I get the impression that one of our players didn’t know how important this game was for the club or the fans. While the last 30 minutes was painful to watch (they created chance after chance), I never felt it was happening because we didn’t care. The exhaustion caught up with us and the mistakes and loss of possession flowed from there.
On to today’s game and this is one we should win. However it is one of those games where we’ll need to score 3 or 4 to make sure it happens. I can foresee a good first half and a couple of goals, but then the second half will happen. I hate the second half.
“Let’s just play for it first and have a go. For me it is important to give absolutely everything until the last game of the season and to be proud. Then, as I have said many times, if there has been somebody better we will have to accept that but, at the moment I don’t accept that there is somebody better.
I am convinced that if we win our five games we will win the Premier League.”
After yesterday’s result for Man Utd, I can’t see how we’ll win the Premier League now. 7 points from 12 will win the league for them. We have to keep going, try to win the last 5 games and see where it leaves us, but I don’t think that even the most optimistic Arsenal fan believes we will win it now. You could look at the fact both Chelsea and ourselves have to play them to give us a little hope. They also have two tough games against Schalke to play in between those games. You never know. Unfortunately I’ve been following this league for too long to really believe it will happen for us this year.
Nonetheless, here’s hoping for victory one out of five today.