Arsenal v Bolton, Premier League, January 6, 2010
Making a case for Bolton to claim anything from their trip to the Emirates is difficult.
The brief hiatus from league football allowed the Trotters to lick their wounds after firing manager Gary Megson, as the northerner’s recorded a comfortable 4-nil victory over Lincoln in the FA Cup. That success followed a run of four unbeaten matches, in which Bolton beat fellow relegation candidates West Ham, while draws were recorded against Manchester City, Burnley and Hull. On paper, at least then, Bolton appear to be in decent nick, unbeaten in five games in which they’ve scored a healthy 19 goals in the process. (Arsenal are 11/10 not to keep a clean sheet.)
Further, in historical terms, Bolton have been known to be Arsenal’s bogey team. During the reign of Sam Allardyce, Arsenal used to regularly come unstuck against the Trotters with the Gunners losing four matches, drawing two and winning just once of all the matches played between 2005 and 2007. But that Bolton hoodoo has vanished in recent seasons, the Gunners having won their last six against Wanderers with Bolton’s last win at the north Londoners being their famous 3-1 FA Cup victory all the way back in 1994. (Watch here.)
Fast-forward to today’s Bolton, and the old relics of the hustle and bustle tactics that have served Bolton so well over the past decade continue.
Up-front, they will rely on the burly nature of captain Kevin Davies (9/2 to score) to partner with top scorer Ivan Klasnic (4/1 to score), who offers more of the silky touch in front of goal. Matty Taylor (6/1 to score), whose free-kicks have been flying in this season, will be instructed to guide quality balls into his frontmen at every opportunity, while the much underrated Tamir Cohen (8/1 to score) will be asked to get into the box to further bolster the visitors’ offense with extra numbers.
Chung-Yong Lee (15/2 to score) , who has impressed since joining from FC Seoul last summer, will look to add to his four goals from midfield while offering defensive support down the right hand side, while the excellent Fabrice Muamba has a potentially soul-destroying ghost-chasing evening ahead of him as the holding midfielder attempts to break up as many Arsenal attacks as possible.
Between the sticks, evergreen goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen should return after being rested for the FA Cup win against Lincoln to help plug a defence which has conceded 36 goals already this season. Elsewhere at the back the Bolton defence has some good and some lessÂ positive aspects to it, with joint leading goalscorer Gary Cahill (12/1 to score) claiming top billing while the likes of Jlloyd Samuel, Paul Robinson and Zat Knight come with more hazardous warning labels.
Bolton’s leaky defence (Bolton are 12/1 to keep a clean sheet) will be music to the ears of Arsene Wenger, who should be able to field a formidable line-up despite a spate of absentees.
Arsenal will again be without captain Cesc Fabregas (hamstring), joining the likes of Nicklas Bendtner (groin), Theo Walcott (side strain), Gael Clichy (back), Kieran Gibbs (foot), Robin van Persie (ankle) and Johan Djourou (knee) on the treatment table. The Gunners will also be without Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboue who are both on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.
Brighter news for the Wenger Boys should see playmaker Andrey Arshavin (EVS to score) recover from a minor foot injury. The Russian will link up with Cro-zilian forward Eduardo (11/10 to score) in the home attack, supported by up-and-coming 19-year-old Aaron Ramsey (7/2 to score) who has snatched the headlines in the past two matches against West Ham and Portsmouth by twice finding the back of the net.
Arsenal’s midfield will also see the return of Denilson in the holding role with the Brazilian recovered from a back problem.
More than their individual parts though, Arsenal as a club appear to have turned a corner of late. Just over a month ago Arsenal’s title hopes were being written off after Chelsea recorded a triumphant 3-nil battering at the Emirates that left the Gunners 11 points off the pace. But the Gunners have since won five of their last six matches to haul themselves back in the limelight, and with Chelsea and Manchester United faltering of late, victory over the Trotters would propel Arsenal into second, and just a point behind the Pensioners at the halfway point of the season.
Bolton will look to contain Arsenal as much as possible, with their best hope of scoring being from free-kicks and corners. By contrast, Wenger’s charges will persist with their trademarked pass-pass-pass style of football as they continue their march towards the top of the Premier League table.
101predicts: Arsenal 3 – Bolton 0 (15/2)
Full match odds here.