Pires AND Ljungberg is not always the appropriate selection
If it didn’t come into Wenger's head after the Boro defeat, or press his mind after the West Brom defeat, than it must be now after the lame submssion to Bolton. Our midfield needs reinforcement. And no more still-developing youngsters; the players that come in must have good experience, size and strength.
A midfield of Pires/Fabregas/Gilberto/Ljungberg is not made for all-weather away games epitomised by Bolton away in the winter mud, wind and rain. Compared to other midfield line-ups across the country they lack size, strength and defensive tenacity. This was exploited by motivated and physically strong players like Faye, Nolan and Speed, with weather and pitch conditions that were also in their favour. This exploitation of our lightweight midfield is becoming the norm in away matches, and is the main reason why Arsenal's defence is being exposed as much as they have been this season.
I'm quite sure Wenger has pinpointed this as the main reason behind this uncharacteristic woeful away form. Post-match he said:
"The commitment of Bolton in the challenges was superiors to ours. We were beaten on pace and challenges and paid for it. It was a tentative and frail performance from us."
Vieira, Edu, Parlour, and Petit are central midfielders of the Wenger era that I would prefer to see combined together to play in the exact same conditions as the game on Saturday. They had the necessary qualities of power, presence and tenacity to really get stuck in and take control of games away from home when all the conditions were against AFC. The need for CM back-up to Fabregas and Gilberto is merely underlined by the Bolton submission.
Furthermore, Tony Adams remarked a couple of seasons back that there were some away matches where he doubted Wenger's use of both Pires AND Ljungberg away from home. His reasoning was that both are relatively lightweight players who are much better attacking than they are defending.
I agree with his reasoning for tough games like Bolton away. Parlour was excellently used as a right midfielder to give added security to the central midfield and defence; Gilberto was sometimes picked there to do a similar job in the unbeaten season; and Benitez has started to use Gerrard in this role to give added stability to the Liverpool midfield in away matches with positive effect.
I would like to see a similar-type player in the squad that could be utilised in the same way on the right of midfield. An excellent contributor to EFT, GunnerPete, called for Eboue to be used in this way before the Bolton game fearing the worst about Ljungberg's suitability for the game. I'd like to see him play this role tomorrow in the low-key Ajax match and analyse his fit for the role.
With every away defeat to lesser opposition it becomes even more acute that the squad needs extra midfielders with the necessary experience and physical presence for matches like Bolton away. Mourinho stated last week that he is not buying in January, so the door is open for Wenger to take advantage and bolster the midfield area for what will be a crucial second half to the season.