Arsenal looks to cement title bid with Bolton win
Arsenal will get a true picture of its Premier League title chances Wednesday after hosting Bolton in its game in hand over the rest of the top four. A victory at Emirates Stadium would take Arsenal second in the standings, above Manchester United, and just a point behind Chelsea after 20 matches.sports Updated: Jan 05, 2010 21:08 IST
Arsenal will get a true picture of its Premier League title chances Wednesday after hosting Bolton in its game in hand over the rest of the top four.
A victory at Emirates Stadium would take Arsenal second in the standings, above Manchester United, and just a point behind Chelsea after 20 matches.
That would signify a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Arsene Wenger's side. Hopes of a first title since 2004 had been severely hampered by a home loss to Chelsea in November that left Arsenal 11 points behind the leaders.
But the Gunners have since won five of their last six matches to put themselves back in contention as Chelsea and United have struggled for consistency.
"One month ago we were far from the top teams, and since have created momentum," Wenger said Tuesday. "We refused to give up and continued to fight and believe in our strengths. The biggest test in our camp was the mental strengths of the players and the solidarity of the players. That has been tested.
"What we have realized in one month gives us a good springboard to go even further. Why should we stop here?"
Arsenal is also in knockout phase of the Champions League and the fourth round of the FA Cup, which delivered the club's last title in 2005.
"We are a team who has grown up together and wants to achieve things," Wenger said. "We have not won anything yet together and that makes us hungry for success. ... I want to show that our way can be successful."
That means resisting making a string of big-money signings and instead nurturing young talent.
"In the modern game, there is a lack of patience and one response when you lose a game _ people say to you, 'Buy, buy, buy,"' Wenger said. "When you have players who are 21, 22, they can only become better. When they are 33, they can only be worse at 34 and that is why we are in a position where we need to have the needed strengths to be patient because we have the quality." Arsenal will be without captain Cesc Fabregas for another two weeks with a hamstring injury, but 19-year-old midfielder Aaron Ramsey has proved to be an adept replacement, scoring two goals in as many games.
Denilson has returned to fitness following a back problem, just as combative midfielder Alex Song goes away with Cameroon to the African Cup of Nations.
But Wenger is still on the market for new players in the January transfer window.
"Ideally because of the number of games you have in January, you want to act as quickly as possible," Wenger said. "But at the moment it is very quiet. You hear here and there a player is going, but there is always more talk in the media than movement and more speculation than acting."
Bolton, which is in the relegation zone, could be traveling to north London _ weather permitting _ with former player Owen Coyle installed as manager if compensation is agreed with Lancashire rival Burnley.
Bolton fired Gary Megson last Wednesday and Coyle has told Burnley that he wants to leave after guiding the team into the Premier League this season.
"There will be someone new coming in. As a player you would like that to happen quickly," defender Andy O'Brien said. "It's a really big month for us and some difficult games but we are looking forward to the challenge.
"We were unlucky last year not to get a draw against Arsenal at the Emirates. They are a very good side and we have got them twice this month, so hopefully we can gather some points." Arsenal-Bolton would have been overshadowed Wednesday by the Manchester derby between City and United, but the first leg of their League Cup semifinal was postponed due to the heavy snow and ice affecting traveling in northern England. The other semifinal between Blackburn and Aston Villa on Tuesday was also called off. While the City of Manchester Stadium pitch was deemed playable, accessing the ground would have been dangerous due to the heavy snowfall and ice covering surrounding roads.
The match will now take place on Jan. 19, the original date for the Old Trafford second leg, which is now scheduled for Jan 27.