Arsenal could be fielding a less-than League Cup strength side for
the FA Cup tie at Bolton Wanderers tomorrow. And it's far from completely
Thierry Henry and Lauren are set to be rested because of
what we hope are minor hamstring problems. Latest on the official site's
updates page is that the extent of Henry's problem is not yet known. He limped
off the pitch after 80 minutes on Tuesday.
Sol Campbell was going to be rested for the same reason, but
Arsene Wenger has said that he's changed his mind on that score
because of a calf problem that's likely to keep Gilberto out,
although it's not clear how there's a direct connection.
It's a shame, for me, especially if it means Sol partners
Philippe Senderos. As so many people are commenting now,
Phil and Sol don't look right together, and it could be
because they're both used to playing on the left of the
partnership. Bring back Johan Djourou, say I.|
Jens Lehmann is likely to be rested as usual for the cups.
That shouldn't be a problem because Manuel Almunia has also
been looking good of late.
There are other injuries to Ashley Cole (thigh), Pascal Cygan
(hamstring), and Gael Clichy (foot). Clichy says he should be back soon,
as should Cole,
which would be great because the left-back problem is still here.
Very much so in fact: with Cole, Clichy, Cygan, and Lauren all out
for tomorrow it's hard to know who'll play there. One possibility is
I suppose a centre back, probably Senderos (which would explain
Campbell's recall - hardly to do with Gilberto's absence is it?).
Another possibility might be Sebastian Larsson.
Cesc Fabregas serves the second of his 3 match suspension and
Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, and Emmanuel Adebayor are all
still on African Nations Cup duty (although Adebayor could be
with us soon - Togo have been eliminated with one game left to play).
So, up front we should be strong enough with Jose Reyes, Dennis Bergkamp,
and Robin van Persie all fit (Theo Walcott can't play, he's cup-tied). But if we want to score goals then
Robin surely has to start. And Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg
have to be on form (they've both been coming back to it, thank god).
Bolton will be without Abdoulaye Faye, who scored one of the goals
in the 2-0 loss
at the Reebok at the start of December, because he is in Africa. And they'll
be without Jay-Jay Okocha, El-Hadji Diouf and Radhi Jaidi for the same
Hidetoshi Nakata returns from suspension but Khalilou Fadiga could miss
out with a knee injury. Gary Speed is definitely out with a knee
injury and Henrik Pedersen with an Achilles injury.
Sam Allardyce has has
been reported as saying that because of his absentees, Bolton won't
be able to bully Arsenal tomorrow and will take a different approach. You're fooling
Kick-off is at 5.40 and the game is live on the BBC.
Friday afternoon update...
Arsene Wenger has confirmed the absence of Gilberto and that Campbell "will certainly play".
In addition, Bergkamp and Pires are to be rested but Ljungberg and van Persie return. So, van Persie to start alongside Reyes, presumably... which is good. I'd guess at Freddie, Flamini, Diaby, and Hleb in midfield and Gilbert, Senderos, Campbell, and either Djourou or Larsson in defence.