Bolton v Arsenal, Premier League, January 17, 2010
Two clubs who have hit the headlines this week face off in the first of two games between Arsenal and Bolton in four days following the postponement of last weekâ€™s rearranged fixture at the Emirates.
Sol Campbell and Owen Coyle filled up the backpages over the past few days and whilst the involvement of the former seems unlikely, Boltonâ€™s new boss has a lot of thinking to do ahead of the visit of the Gunners.
Coyle has been particularly unlucky to face a baptism of fire facing the Gunners twice in four days in his opening two games but he does have a good record against Arsene Wenger. At Burnley, Coyle oversaw a Carling Cup win over a young Gunners side and just a few weeks ago came away from a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor feeling his team should have beaten Arsenal.
The difficulty for Coyle is that we expect the former Bolton striker to implement a different, more expansive style of play at the Reebok, but this may be hard to achieve in just a few days. This is also combined with the fact that Boltonâ€™s best hope for this match is to play physically, harry the Gunners and snatch some goals at set-piece situations.
Although Gary Megson was sacked due to Boltonâ€™s poor league position, the Trotters have games in hand on every team in the division and could well find themselves in mid-table off the back of the new manager effect which usually sees an upturn in fortune. The home fans should also be buoyed by the return of a former hero, replacing a hugely unpopular manager.
Ivan Klasnic is undoubtedly the danger man for the home side after scoring four goals in his last four Premier League appearances and Kevin Davies will also fancy bullying the Arsenal defence. The likes of Matty Taylor, Lee Chung Young and Tamir Cohen provide energy in the middle of the park and Fabrice Muamba will be keen to prove himself against the Gunners, where he came through the ranks.
The big test for Bolton is how they defend. The Trotters have conceded 21 goals at home, the most in the division and face an Arsenal attack who have claimed the most away goals in the Premier League (23). (6/5 to be under 2.5 goals in the game, 5/6 to be over.)
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger welcomes back captain Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy from injury and both can be expected to walk back into the first XI. Sol Campbell will have to settle for a place on the bench at best if he has signed for the Gunners in time, but judging by reports that he was tired during his 45 minute appearance for the Arsenal reserves, we may not see him appear for a few weeks yet.
The Gunners missed a great opportunity to close the gap on leaders Chelsea when they drew 2-2 with Everton last week and Wenger admitted after the game that his side had done well to secure a point. Alexandre Song, currently in Angola with the Cameroon national team at the Africa Cup of Nations, is a big loss and his physical game is suited to away days such as this one.
Having failed to bring in a target striker to replace Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin will likely lead the line and his form is crucial if Arsenal are to seriously challenge Manchester United and Chelsea.
Arsenal have everything to play for and a good record against Bolton in recent games, the Gunners have won the last six successive matches, but Bolton have a new manager and one would imagine some renewed optimism.
101gg predicts: Bolton 2 – Arsenal 2 (21/1)
Full match odds here.