Wednesday 1st February 2012. 8pm
The Reebok Stadium
Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal
Formed by the Reverend Thomas Ogden as Christ Church FC in 1874, the club changed it’s name to Bolton Wanderers in 1877, they chose the name as they had difficulty in finding a regular ground at which to play their matches before settling at Burnden Park. They remained until 1997 when they moved to their present home, the 28,000 seater Reebok Stadium. Also known as The Trotters, nothing to do with Del Boy, they where founder members of The Football League in 1888. Despite spending 72 non-consecutive seasons in the top flight they have never won the league title, their best finishes being third in 1891/92, 1920/21 and 1924/25. Currently in 17th place they are just one point above the drop zone.
Over recent seasons the Trotters have been something of a bogey team for Arsenal who found the “rugged” style of play, adopted under previous manager Sam Allardyce, not to their taste.
Since Owen Coyle took over as manager in 2010 the style of play has become less reliant on the physical and has taken a more technical turn. A financial loss of £35.4 million, for the year ending 30th June 2010 pushed debts up to £93 million and forced the sale of arguably their best player, England international centre back Gay Cahill, to Chelsea for a reported £7 million.
Sunday’s FA Cup win over the Villains came as a welcome relief after three straight league defeats. Much has been made of the second half turnaround but in all honesty Arsenal should never have been in need of such a recovery. There were enough scoring opportunities to have put the game to bed in the first half, not for the first time too many of those chances were spurned.
Now it’s a return to Premiership action against Bolton and let’s hope that our players can show a little more composure in front of goal and that we can take advantage of any chances offered. This game is going to be no walk-over as Wanderer’s recent 3 – 1 home win over Liverpool should demonstrate.
All Arsenal fans will be delighted at the return from injury of Mikel Arteta and, particularly Bacary Sagna, providing they show no ill effects from their exertions against Villa I would expect them both to start this evening.
Fabiansky, unsurprisingly maybe, had an edgy game on Sunday so I fully expect the excellent Szczesny to take his customary place between the sticks. Suddenly the back five looks a whole lot stronger. It will be interesting to see what happens when Gibbs returns to full fitness and one of the three centre backs has to make way for him.
Rosicky had a very good game, on Sunday, and could well retain his place at the expense of Ramsey who looked shattered by the end of the match and may well be given a well earned rest.
There appears to be no call to tinker with the front three, both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain have the pace and guile to torment any defender while RvP’s hunger for goals shows no sign of being satisfied yet.
Sagna Meretesacker Koscielny Vermaelen
Rosicky Song Arteta
Walcott van Persie Oxlade-Chamberlain
With the likes of Thierry Henry, Ramsey and Coquelin on the bench this squad should be strong enough to cope with a resurgent Bolton side so long as all the Arsenal players have the right attitude from the opening whistle right through to the final second of added time.
In order to get an opposition view I contacted the Voice of Bolton where Anis was kind enough to answer a few questions.
How do you see your side doing this season? It’s been a tough season for the Whites, and with many a result not going our way, we’ve made it quite difficult for ourselves this season. However, there has been a glimmer of hope over the past few games, some we’ve walked away with the spoils, whilst some the performances have been worthy of 3 points but we’ve walked away with none.
How well do you feel the club is run/managed? You’ll hear quite a few different stories in regards to how the club is run/managed – however, this is something we can’t really comment on as we don’t exactly know the facts. We’ve seen an increase in debt within the club – but that doesn’t necessarily mean the club is being run badly. There may be a whole host of other reasons for this debt to occur. Then, you’ll find the fans who don’t quite like Phil Gartside, who believe the club is being run into the ground.
We’re currently in the middle – we’re not trying to be neutral, but if we have the facts – then we’ll have the voice.
Do you approve of the change in playing style since Owen Coyle took over? Of course. Our football at the Reebok has been more attractive since Coyley took over. He proved Bolton can play a different style in his first season at the club. Even though the results haven’t been going our way, this is something we don’t aim to change due to the lack of results.
What do you see as the long term prospects for the club? Currently, our main focus is survival, after that I’m guessing to better what we’ve achieved this season (if we survive). Take each season as it comes and try to aim for a top 10 place. We’ll be happy with that for a few seasons or so.
Finally would you care to predict the final score? It’s going to be a tough game, especially with Van Persie being on fire. However, with the recent form of Bolton, we predict a draw (1-1). Although, if we win, we’ll take that too!
Thank you Anis for your very honest opinions.
I’m not going to try to predict the final score or even the result. This is a vital game for both clubs for very different reasons.