Gunners keen to beat freeze and maintain momentum

Everton fans will be hoping to avoid the fate that befell Bolton supporters in midweek when they arrived in London after a long journey from the north-west only to find their game at Arsenal had
fallen foul of the weather.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is as keen as anyone to see Saturday’s fixture at the Emirates Stadium fulfilled as he fears his side are already on the brink of being forced to play three games a week for the foreseeable future.

The Gunners are fighting on three fronts, with the Champions League and the FA Cup also on their agenda.

Had Arsenal beaten Bolton on Wednesday night they would have gone second ahead of Manchester United and cut Chelsea’s lead down to just one point.

Now it remains a lottery to see who gets to play over the weekend as freezing temperatures continue to put fixtures in jeopardy.

The Frenchman has already been busy with his calculator however, and estimated at the start of the season that the Premier League will be won with a lower than usual points total.

“I said a few months ago that 78 to 83 points would win the title and I stick by that,” Wenger said.

“If you multiply the current numbers by two then you will not be far from that. Chelsea have played 20 games and have 45 points, we have played 19 games and have 41 points. If you multiply that by
two it’s 82 points. The champions will be around there with 82, 83, 84.

“Don’t forget we all have to play each other again. Nobody will run away with it and get 19 wins. At the moment there are six or seven teams who could finish in the top four and they will all play each other. That means everybody will drop points.”

With Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner both out injured and Theo Walcott also sidelined, Wenger knows he needs to bring in another striker if the title challenge is to be maintained.

That has prompted a mountain of speculation, with sources in Spain indicating that Wenger would be willing to part with play-maker, captain and current top scorer Cesc Fabregas if Real Madrid were willing to part with Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain.

Both players are rated in the superstar bracket and have price tags to match but Wenger is thought to be exploring cheaper options as well.

One appears to be giant Côte d’Ivoire striker Lacina Traore (19) who is currently with the Romanian side CFR Cluj.

Traore certainly seems keen. “It is sensational to hear Wenger is watching me,” he said “I could be a success in England. Even though I am still young, I have a lot of experience and a lot of ambition.

“It would be a dream for me to get to play on a team so great. I would have a chance there because Arsene Wenger relies heavily on young players.”

Russia forward Andrey Arshavin is set to return following injury, and the same applies to midfielder Denilson. But Fabregas is still out with a hamstring problem and Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboue are both away on African Cup of Nations duty.

Everton look set to hand an instant debut to Landon Donovan, the United States forward. The loan signing from LA Galaxy has been handed the number nine shirt for the Toffees, whose manager David Moyes is still beset with selection problems.

Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka are long-term injury absentees, striker Louis Saha is unfit again and fellow forwards Jo and Aiyegbeni Yakubu absent through club suspension and international duty respectively.

Donovan was keen to adjust to the English game as quickly as possible. “I will have to get used to the style here but me and Tim Howard have had some discussions about it, and what to expect and I
think I will be prepared,” he said.

“I like a fast-paced game, I like to take advantages and chances quickly and that will suit me well. Going into a World Cup and playing in England will keep me sharp.” – AFP

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