If they don’t, we could be in for a bumpy ride. This week I’ve been talking to Chris about the tie.
We then embarrassed ourselves as a strong first-team line-up failed to
perform and were deservedly knocked out of the Carling Cup by Northampton,
compounded by the fact the Gary Cahill was sent off, getting himself a
PGL: Last season Arsenal broke our Reebok jinx after coming back from 2-0 down. Many predicted that was the end of your spell in the Premiership but you stayed up, did it change the fans opinion of Gary Megson?
Chris: I’ve seen us lose cup final’s, miss out on promotion and get relegated in the past, but personally, that defeat last season was probably the lowest moment of my time following Bolton.When you’re winner went in, it took all hope away. The week after we lost 4-0 away at Villa and we looked destined for the drop, but a win over West Ham the week after started our unbeaten end to the season and somehow we managed to survive by the skin of our teeth.
Opinion of Megson has never been high with the Bolton fans, about 95%
weren’t happy with the appointment, but we had to accept he was the boss and in the end he did what he was brought in to do. He’s spent around £30m since the turn of the year though, and if results continue to go against us and performances don’t improve, it won’t be long before the “Megson Out!” chants begin to circle again.
PGL: You’ve got ex-gunner Fabrice Muamba in your ranks, a player many Arsenal fans rated while he was at the club, how has he settled in?
Chris: Muamba has done okay since signing from Birmingham, but he’s yet to do anything special. He looked promising in pre-season, but they were mainly against lower league teams.
PGL: Megson spent £8.2m Johan Elmander during the summer what have you made of him so far? Should the Arsenal defense be worried?
Chris: Elmander scored twice on his debut in a 5-0 friendly win at Doncaster and scored on his Premier League debut against Stoke. But he limped out of that game with a hamstring injury and again at Newcastle the week later after tearing the muscle. He is expected back for the Arsenal game but I wouldn’t count on him playing the full 90 minutes. If you allow him time on the ball he can punish you as he isn’t scared of running at people and can shoot with both feet.
PGL: We played champions league Wednesday night, how much of an advantage do you think it is getting teams after midweek European games?
Chris: Obviously, the extra rest will give us a little bit of an advantage, but Arsenal’s extra class should shine threw as top pros should be able to play two games in four days. Wenger played a strong side though so hopefully if we’re still in the game with half-an-hour to go, your guys should start to tire and that’s when we would need to take advantage.
PGL: Megson is making some confident noises about the tie, but with Walcott on fire and Ade hitting three at Blackburn, how will the Bolton defence deal with our attacking football?
Chris: We’ve had a good record at home to Arsenal in recent seasons, but Megson is of a small minority who is confident about the game. With Gary Cahill’s suspension, summer signing Danny Shittu has been given a chance and is too easily beaten. Andy O’Brien is a no-nonsense defender and always looks for the easy option, but his lack of pace is a worry, especially as he will be up against guys like Adebayor and Walcott.
PGL: The Blackburn fans gave us the silent treatment last Saturday… for those who haven’t visited the Reebok, what kind of atmosphere can Gooners expect come 5.30?
Chris: To be honest, I don’t think you will find much improvement on your trip to Blackburn. By winning the game so easily, that would have silenced their fans, hopefully you won’t find it so easy at the Reebok.
Even though we’ve been here 11 years now, the atmosphere still isn’t too
great, even though the club have dedicated the North Stand (opposite the
away stand) as a singing section. A 5.30 kick off won’t help either as most will probably stay and watch it in the pub.
PGL: I know ‘Big Sam’ is a legend at Bolton but was there a little bit of you, deep down, that was delighted he failed at Newcastle?
Chris: When Allardyce left, he went public in saying he wanted a break from the game, but less than two weeks later he was appointed at Newcastle, which annoyed most Bolton fans. His first game was a 3-1 win against, guess who? …Bolton! This was hard to take and even though he should have been given more time, the majority of us were happy to see him lose his job.
But the water is now under the bridge and after seeing us go down the pan
since he left, we tend to look back on the good times. He somehow persuaded players like Okocha, Djorkaeff, Campo and Hierro to join us and we qualified for Europe for the first time in our history, and he was in charge for all but two games as we made it again the season before last. We just want to get back to where we were.
PGL: And finally Chris, what’s your prediction for the game?
Chris: We desperately need to improve on the showing at Fulham otherwise we’ll be in for a big home defeat. But naturally, we should perform better at home and if Elmander and Smolarek are in the side, we could cause problems going forward.
With Arsenal only having three days since their last game, I think they
could tire towards the end but I think they’ll easily have enough to get
something from the game.
I think Wanderers will go in front but Arsenal will come back to win the
PGL: Cheers Chris, I’ve witnessed us come out second best at Bolton too many times to be over confident! But if we can control midfield and take our chances we should have the quality to come through. I’m going Bolton 1 – 3 Arsenal but if we don’t manage to dominate Nolan and Co. it could be a very tricky tie.