Arsenal look to go top by beating Bolton
Written off three months ago, Arsenal can claim top spot in the
Premier League with a victory over Bolton on Wednesday and propel
itself toward a first title since 2004.
The Gunners looked unlikely title contenders when they found themselves 11 points off the pace following a 3-0 home defeat by Chelsea in late November, but have forced themselves back in contention despite a string of injuries.
Now a repeat of Sunday's 2-0 victory over Bolton would enable Arsene Wenger's side to dislodge leader Chelsea on goal difference.
"It is important psychologically - not mathematically so much," Wenger said. "We have a good opportunity to do it so we have to focus."
But the French manager's big concern is staving off more injuries - just as Cesc Fabregas returned from a three-match layoff to inspire a 2-0 victory at Bolton on Sunday.
As well as long-term absentees Robin Van Persie, Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou, the injury list includes Theo Walcott, Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner, Aaron Ramsey, Fran Merida, Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere.
"We have analyzed absolutely everything," Wenger said. "It's strange because the more injuries you get, you then seem to get even more because you always play the same players. Also, you rush some players back and then you have more chance to get them injured again."
For now, Wenger is glad to have Fabregas, who scored the opener Sunday, back leading the team.
"He looks like a real general in midfield now and, of course, that helps as we go into a period of important games," Wenger said. "It was a test of character (at the Reebok Stadium) and they have shown plenty - which is very good news for us.
"Over the years our strength has increased and we showed we have matured - we know when to go for the fights and we know when to put the ball down. Without a doubt there is still more to come because we are a young team. We have a very tough run of games coming up but let's be focused on the next one and keep it simple."
Arsenal has not won the title since 2004 or any trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.
"When the season started, we were not all convinced in our squad maybe that we could be where we are today," Wenger said. "Now that we are there, we want to have a go."
In Wednesday's other league match - also postponed because of snow early this month - Liverpool hosts fourth-place Tottenham, with the Reds in desperate need of points to close in on the Champions League places from seventh.
Liverpool is 14 points behind Chelsea and are four adrift of the four elite European spots. Its current problems have been compounded by injuries to striker Fernando Torres, who will be out for six weeks after undergoing knee surgery at the weekend, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun.
"I'd be lying if I stood here and said that the absence of Gerrard and Torres won't matter," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "Of course, they are two world-class players, and they will miss them. But they have a strong squad. I have never been there and had an easy game. It is a difficult place to go."
Also Wednesday, Aston Villa hosts Blackburn in the semifinals of the League Cup looking to protect a 1-0 lead from the first leg at Ewood Park last week.