The Bogey Team v The Comeback Kings…
Myles has touched on Thierry Henry not playing in the first half these days and I made the point a while ago that with Henry’s age he is a more calculating player – picking his moments to hurt teams, with the goals against Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United and Liverpool prime examples.
But is this damaging the way the team plays?
Arsenal are renowned for hitting teams as soon as the first whistle blows and over the years we almost come to expect Arsenal to score within the first 10 minutes.
But have Arsenal lost this cutting edge early in the games?
The biggest problem is without Arsenal having a decent first half we are always susceptible to conceding the opening goal and making things hard for themselves.
And in the last few games, against Spurs (twice), Wigan, Manchester United, Bolton and Middlesbrough we have been poor in the first half and conceded the first goal (with the exception of the second Spurs game).
Can Arsenal keep this up?
It takes so much energy and mental strength to comeback and I for one fear that if Bolton score first in the FA Cup tie we might not have enough to claw yet another game back in our favour.
Saying that though, the 12 comebacks Arsenal have had this season – and the one against Manchester United in particular – is an impressive statistic, but is Arsenal’s luck about to change?
Bolton know how to get a result against us and while people will complain that they are too rough the fact is they get the results, and they are only one place below us in the Premiership table.
The early team news is that Jens Lehmann and Thierry Henry have been rested, and apart from the long-term absentees Arsenal will be at full strength with Freddie and Hleb returning to the squad.
And with Adebayor starting on the bench against Wigan it looks like he will start against Bolton.
But as the season has gone on as well as the game on Sunday – it’s clear that Adebayor and Henry are the best partnership, while Baptista and Aliadiere are the next. And for the performances against Liverpool and Spurs in the Carling Cup I hope Baptista and Aliadiere start together, but that looks unlikely.
The outcome of the game will depend on the return of Alexander Hleb, who will be the difference between the two teams. Arsenal have severely missed his excellent ball retention and penetrating passes which cause the oppostion all kinds of problems.
And I hope Arsene leaves out Walcott who has been ineffective and is just short of confidence. If he starts Bolton will cope with him easily.
If we can nick the first goal then I can see the game finishing 2-1 to Arsenal. But if we hit the self-destruct button and concede the opening goal then it’ll be a long, hard night for the Gunners!
Update: Does anyone actually know that Henry is not in the squad for the Bolton game?