When Arsene Wenger re-signed Sol Campbell for Arsenal and predicted he was still good enough to force his way into England's World Cup finals squad, it only added to the motivation of one of his central defensive rivals. Gary Cahill might not have the same experience, the array of medals or play for one of the Premier League's elite clubs, but there is no doubting his merits.
Consistently strong performances in a struggling Bolton side have attracted attention, including that of the England manager Fabio Capello, who has called him up for several squads without yet giving him a first senior cap. If there is also truth in frequent tabloid newspaper speculation, then Campbell, 35, may be keeping a place at the Emirates Stadium warm for Cahill next season. The Bolton player, 24, has ambitions, but said: "I am happy where I am at the minute. I am enjoying my football as I have since I came here and I am still learning."
But he is desperate to make England's squad for the World Cup. "I am not going to lie; I am ambitious," he added. "I have just turned 24 and have got ambitions about what I want to achieve with my career. I have got a few months now to try to get myself on that plane, the same as a number of players have. I will be working as hard as I can to do that." Despite being locked in a relegation fight, Cahill is convinced Owen Coyle will help improve the team and his game. The new manager has encouraged the players to express themselves.
"He has not really said I want you to get the ball down and throw step-overs," smiled Cahill. "But if you can express yourself a little bit more at club level and play a little bit more you can show a range to your game. So yes, maybe him coming in is helping. "First and foremost I have got to work hard for the team, though, because you definitely have more chance if the team is doing well as well as yourself."
Positive signs of that were shown on Sunday against Arsenal when only the class of Cesc Fabregas and Bolton's profligacy in front of goal left them unrewarded. The two sides meet again tonight at the Emirates and Cahill knows it will be a "big ask" to stop the Gunners, who will overtake Chelsea on goal difference at the top of the table if they win by two clear goals, an achievement that would be "important psychologically, not mathematically so much," according to Wenger.
@Email:email@example.com Arsenal v Bolton, KO 11.45pm, Showsports 3