Arsenal host Bolton Wanderers at the Emirates Stadium this Saturday in North London, and Arsene Wenger will be hoping that the gunners can secure a much needed Premier League victory.
Arsenal have got off to their worst league start since 1953, losing three of their first five games. If they lose to Bolton this weekend, the questions that are being asked of Wenger will become all the more pressing.
For their own part, Bolton have lost their last four consecutive league fixtures and Wenger’s charges will be hoping to gain momentum and put some much needed points on the league table before meeting Tottenham in the North London derby next week.
Both sides began this season’s campaign with reputations as Premier League heavyweights. However, as a result of a string of shocking performances, both sides are now hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone.
Arsenal’s shock 4-3 loss to Blackburn on Saturday saw them drop to 17th, with just four points from five matches, having conceded 14 goals along the way – the most in the division.
The Ewood Park defeat was wrought with errors, demonstrating the deficiencies in Arsene Wenger’s team at the moment, with the lack of defensive stability, communication and ability to cope with pressure most concerning.
Arsenal’s defensive weaknesses were exposed in their 8-2 loss to Manchester United earlier in the season and they will need to be on top of their game to contain a Bolton side who have scored eight goals this season, which sees them behind only Sir Alex Ferguson’s men and their rivals Manchester City.
However, Bolton hold the second worst defensive record in the league conceding 13 goals and now sit at 19th on the table, with only West Bromwich Albion below them.
Great expectations had followed Bolton Wanderers into this year’s league campaign with Eoin Coyle’s side hoping to build on the exciting brand of football which they displayed last season.
They got off to a positive start against QPR with a 4-0 victory, but haven’t won a point since and have now lost nine of their last ten Premier League games.
An unfortunate run of fixutres, which saw Wanderers play Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United in the next three games can be held partly responsible for their run of consecutive defeats.
However, an exceptionally disappointing 2-1 loss to Norwich City at home in Bolton’s last Premier League appearance demonstrate that Coyle is facing some serious problems.
Despite disapointing Premier League forrays so far this season, Bolton – like Arsenal – are going into this match on the back of an impressive Carling Cup victory with a confidence restoring 2-0 win at Aston Villa on Tuesday.
The manner of Bolton’s performance was impressive, with new arrivals Chris Eagles and Gael Kakuta (loan) both finding the back of the net in a result which will give Owen Coyle hope that his side can turn around their poor start to the season.
Wenger’s side avoided further criticism on Tuesday night and a shock of gigantic proportions when they battled back from behind to defeat League Two outfit Shrewsbury Town 3-1, thanks to goals from Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun.
Both teams are in desperate need of a win and will take great confidence from their morale boosting Carling Cup performances.
However, while Bolton are expected to field a side very similar to the one that featured in the midweek Carling Cup game, a different Arsenal side will line-out at the Emirates, hence fatigue of the Bolton players may play a part in the outcome.
In injury news, Bolton fans will welcome the return of Stuart Holden to full fitness. The American made a successful return to the Bolton first team after being out with a knee injury since March. Holden featured for the full 90 minutes against Villa in the Carling cup, and gave an encouraging performance.
Bolton are expected to field a traditional 4-4-2 formation. Zat Knight will return to the center of defense alongside Gary Cahill after being rested in the Carling Cup. Robinson and Boyata will complete the back four.
Holden and Reo-Coker will feature in the center of the midfield. Holden will replace Pratley, who didn’t have an impressive outing against Norwich.
Klasnic, who saw red against the Canaries last weekend for a head butt on Morison, will serve his suspension and thus, will not be available for selection. It will be a big blow to Bolton given the striker’s decent form in front of goal.
Tuncay, who started on the right for Bolton against Norwich, is likely to be replaced by David Ngog after a less than impressive display last weekend. The former Liverpool man will start upfront with Davies.
New arrival Chris Eagles who found the back of the net in Wanderer’s victory against Aston Villa will also get a start this weekend.
Marcos Alonso is expected to return by Ocotber 15th however, Lee Chung-Yong and Tyrone Mears are both long term casualties as they recover from broken legs, while Sean Davis (knee) and Sam Ricketts (calf) are also some way from returning.
After resting key players for the midweek League Cup fixture with Shrewbury Town, Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly return to full strength for the visit of Bolton. Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere remain long-term absentees, while Yossi Benayoun has picked up a strain that will leave him on the sidelines for a couple of weeks.
Bacary Sanga and Andre Santos will come in at full-back, with Alex Song and Mikel Arteta sitting deep in midfield, and Aaron Ramsey, Gervinho and Theo Walcott deployed behind Robin van Persie.
Arsenal will also be without Sebastian Squillaci (calf), Abou Diaby (ankle) for the match, which is shaping up to be pivotal in their season.
Despite their terrible run of form, Arsenal are favourites to win at home and will take heart from their successful record against Bolton.
The Wanderer’s win at the Reebok Stadium in April last year ended a run of eight straight Premier League victories for Arsenal over the Trotters.
Arsenal have won nine and lost none of the 12 Premier League home games against Bolton, with the Trotters last league win in north London coming back in January1962.
Kick-off is at 15.00pm.