Coyle leaps to Wenger’s defence

Four draws from their last five games have hurt Arsenal’s hopes of

surpassing Manchester United and some supporters have expressed

their frustration with Wenger as they near the end of what would be

a sixth successive season without a trophy. Coyle said: “They’re

six points behind Manchester United with Manchester United still to

play. Arsenal have shown before that they’ll be in the mix and I’ve

got no doubts they’ve got a fantastic chance of winning the league.

“If I wasn’t a football manager and someone said who would you go

and watch, I would watch Arsenal every week because I love the way

they play and the quality of the players they have. “Arsene Wenger

is, always has been and always will be a truly outstanding manager,

one of the best managers in world football. “We’ve had our

arguments along the way but that goes without saying because he’s

passionate about his team and I am about mine, but you can never

doubt the quality of Arsene Wenger as a manager and the teams he’s

built after he’s lost big players year in and year out.” Bolton in

many ways seem unlikely allies given Wenger has in the past been a

strong critic of the Trotters’ style of play but the relationship

has improved since Coyle took over last season. The Frenchman’s

frustrations will also have been eased by an improvement in

fortunes against Bolton, who were a bogey team for Arsenal for many

years but have lost their last nine games against Wenger’s side.

The change in relationship was emphasised last year by Wenger’s

decision to loan prize youngster Jack Wilshere to Bolton. The move

paid off handsomely, with the teenager gaining valuable first-team

experience, and he returns to the Reebok Stadium for the first time

with the Gunners as a full England international and having just

been voted Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of

the Year. Coyle said: “He’s coming on the back of winning his Young

Player of the Year award, which was well earned and we’re delighted

for him. Outside his qualities as a footballer, he’s an outstanding

young man, and somebody I’ve got a lot of time for. “But he knows

for the duration of the match we’ll be doing everything we can to

try to win the game and stop him showing his quality. It’ll be

great to see him, but that’ll be after the game.” The most

important thing for Coyle on Sunday is that Bolton put in a good

performance and start to bury the memory of last weekend’s 5-0

thrashing by Stoke in the FA Cup semi-finals. The Scot has made no

attempt to hide the pain and disappointment of their Sunday

afternoon at Wembley and he believes Arsenal’s visit could be just

what the doctor ordered. He said: “I don’t want any of the

supporters to think that after the game the players didn’t think

about the match or they weren’t hurt or disappointed. Of course

they were. “It was a great opportunity but it’s passed us by and we

can’t affect that now. What we can affect is what’s to come. The

target is the same as last year, to finish as high up the table as

we can. “As horrible as last Sunday was, I wished there was a game

on the Monday. There wasn’t and we’ve had to wait a week and now we

have to make sure that when it comes about we’re ready to go. I

believe it’s a very good game for us to play.”