By Richard Clarke
Arsène Wenger is not prepared to tolerate even the thought of tiredness as Arsenal end their globetrotting week at Bolton on Saturday.
The Frenchman has taken his side to Blackburn and Kiev since the weekend coming back each time with satisfactory results. With Chelsea playing Manchester United on Sunday, this game gives Wenger the opportunity to steal a march on one of their main Premier League rivals. That’s why fatigue can NOT be factor at the Reebok Stadium.
“It will not be an issue because we don't put that in our brain,” said the Frenchman. “You want just to keep the focus as we had it at Blackburn and Kyiv then let's get the maximum out of the game.
“When you are a competitor you want competition so you cannot complain when you have that competition and you are tired. This is a fantastic opportunity because when you are a football player you want to play football matches.”
Arsenal had a similar run of away games last year and it proved costly. They went to Sevilla, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the space of 13 days. Although the defeat in Spain brought an end to Arsenal’s 28-game unbeaten run, it was no great problem in itself as they had already qualified from Champions League Group H. However they went on to drop five points in the three Premier League games – and, remember, they only lost the title by four.
“Yes at that stage we played four away games on the trot,” said Wenger. “We lost in Sevilla but after that we won at Aston Villa.
“At Middlesbrough it's true we were a bit jaded physically. But I don't expect that [again]. We had a bad start up there and, of course, when you are a little bit jaded it is harder to get back into your game. So it's important we have a successful start to this game.”
Wenger has the same squad to chose from as Kyiv because Samir Nasri (knee), Abou Diaby (thigh) and Mikael Silvestre (muscular problem) are all still out. However to keep the side fresh, the manager intends to make changes.
“Nobody has come back from Kyiv with any knocks,” he said. “But we will rotate a little bit because it was a very physical game.”
Bolton have made an adequate start from their four games so far. They have lost both away games but have picked up a win and draw at home against Stoke and West Brom respectively – two sides who they may face in a relegation dogfight.
Bolton seemed all but down last March when Arsenal came back from two goals and one man down at half time to pull off a storming 3-2 victory. The game was a Reebok revenge for Wenger, who suffered a couple of bruising defeats during the Sam Allardyce years. While Arsenal have had their fair share of victories too, Wenger feels this fixture has always been one of extremes.
“I felt it was always very good or very bad,” he said. “Rarely inbetween. But then for years they had a very good side and to be honest they still have. Nobody likes to go to Bolton because everyone knows they give you a tough commitment.
“We are preparing ourselves for another away game and one where we need mental resources to get the result.
“Only this time we want to win the game without being 2-0 down.”
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