If we must have Premier League football on Easter Day, it may as well feature teams whose season is in need of resurrection.
Bolton Wanderers died a death at Wembley of all places last weekend, losing the chance of European football and leaving their season without further purpose; Arsenal have won two matches out of 10 in all competitions over the past few weeks, going out of three cups and finding the life ebbing out of the easiest championship to win for many years.
When Arsène Wenger's team beat Owen Coyle's 4-1 at the Emirates in the fourth game of the season, giving them 10 points and 13 goals at that early stage, then followed up by demolishing Braga 6-0 and Tottenham 4-1 in their opening cup matches, they appeared to be confounding those who felt the summer recruitment of Marouane Chamakh, Sébastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny was insufficient basis for that long-awaited trophy. Now the doubters seem certain to have had the last word, even if Wenger insists, like the Iron Lady of old, that he is not for turning.
On Good Friday, at the training ground, he made a stout defence of his beliefs, insisting: "I tell you something, we will continue to have an absolute commitment to youth... and we will add to that what is needed." Supporters, of whom an increasing percentage are growing rebellious, will have been pleased to hear him agree that players must share the responsibility with the manager, adding: "It is a togetherness. There is no contract that says if you do not win a trophy you can leave." But a majority of fans must surely have been more desperate than Wenger to have won one of the two domestic cups, now that he appears to regard the FA Cup as contemptuously as the League Cup in claiming: "There's two trophies in the season, the championship and the Champions' League."
Wenger continues to believe the former is winnable this season but it now seems certain that whereas Manchester United have compensated for a relatively poor away record by winning almost all of their home games, Arsenal will pay the penalty for, well, conceding penalties and late goals in costly draws with Spurs, Liverpool, Newcastle and others.
For Bolton, after their humiliation by Stoke, there are only artificial targets to aim at, like ensuring a place in the top half of the table. The sound of clutching at straws was evident when the underrated midfielder Matt Taylor said: "It's a huge game against Arsenal. We want to do well and if we do then everyone starts focusing on how well we did, as opposed to the FA Cup semi-final."
Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pmReuse content