Monday 19 February 2018

Wenger looks for spell at top in title mind games

Matt Hughes

ARSENE WENGER believes that his Arsenal side will gain an important psychological advantage in the Premier League title race if they go top this evening.

Victory by two goals or more over Bolton Wanderers at the Emirates Stadium will take Arsenal above Chelsea on goal difference -- albeit having played a game more -- and, according to Wenger, give his players a huge boost.

It is so tight at the top that Manchester United can regain the lead by beating Hull City on Saturday, when Arsenal and Chelsea are involved in the FA Cup. But Wenger is convinced that looking down on their rivals even for a brief period would be of immense benefit to Arsenal, not least because their title chances have been widely dismissed for much of the season.

"At the moment there is not too much mathematical meaning, but it would have a psychological meaning," he said.

"Everybody wrote us off and we are back in it, which is a big step we have definitely made. It's a nice target to have, but let's first of all focus on winning the game."

Wenger believes that Arsenal's feat in making up eight points on Chelsea since a 3-0 defeat by the leaders at the end of November has restored his side's credibility as they bid to end a five-year wait for a trophy.

"At least we are in a position to fight for it and have a go. That's what we want to do.

"We know that there is a long way to go, but I have the confidence that my team will give absolutely everything. I trust their hunger, I trust their appetite and I trust their spirit."

Arsenal bring back Denilson in the midfield holding role tonight, while Gael Clichy could make his first start since October at left-back.

Sol Campbell will not be in the squad tonight, with Wenger preferring to give him a full week of training ahead of a potential return against Stoke City in the FA Cup on Sunday.

The arrival of Campbell has pushed Philippe Senderos closer to the exit, with Celtic poised to agree a loan deal for the Switzerland defender until the end of the season.

Campbell, meanwhile, has issued a writ against Portsmouth for €1.7m relating to allegedly unpaid image-rights fees and bonuses.

Pompey failed yesterday in an attempt to have a winding-up order issued by the British Revenue and Customs thrown out.

The case, which could pitch Portsmouth into administration, will now be heard on February 10, though the club have said they will appeal against the decision.

Should HMRC succeed in winding up the club, then Campbell may have to join the list of the club's creditors as he seeks recovery of €1.67m plus interest he claims to be owed.

His claim, detailed in a writ lodged with the High Court earlier this month, suggests that the club may have been struggling to pay their players on time long before the troubles of recent months.

Arsenal (probable 4-2-3-1) -- Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Denilson, Diaby; Rosicky, Fabregas, Eduardo; Arshavin.

Bolton (probable 4-4-2) -- Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Lee, Muamba, Cohen, Taylor; Klasnic, Davies.

Irish Independent

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