In the years gone by I’d have talked about Bolton with a degree of contempt in a manner similar to what I use for Stoke or Blackburn. This has changed somewhat since the appointment of Owen Coyle, one of the few English managers that I respect. Even then, and with due respect, I don’t expect Bolton to be any different from the other mid-table teams that come to the Emirates.
In his pre-match press conference Arsene said that Bolton had a good combination of technical and “hoof and chase” football. Against Arsenal we can be certain that the latter style will dominate. Tactically, I expect them to play some long balls to Kevin Davies or out wide for Petrov to chase.
In the three games so far they’ve gone with a 4-4-2 with Elmander playing alongside the Foul-King of Premiership. I’ll be surprised if they play the same system against Arsenal because in my opinion it leaves them weak down the middle and also on the left where Robinson isn’t very quick and Petrov isn’t renowned for his hard work. Although it can be argued that Elmander has been amongst the goals and deserves his place, I’ve a feeling it will boil down to the level of ambition that Coyle has.
Their main goal threats will come from aerial balls into the box via set-pieces and open play, and it will be a big test for our newcomers in central defence. I hope they are well prepared for the physical nature of Davies’ game and don’t do anything rash due to inexperience of this style. Bolton will also be strong with shots from outside the box.
You can get an idea of Bolton’s tactics from the following image created using the Guardian Chalkboards. Against Fulham at home (Right side of the image) Bolton launched a number of long balls and plenty of crosses into the opposition box. In their away game at Upton Park most of their play was down the left via Petrov who is probably the most talented player in their team right now. Ironically, they did get a good goal from a rare cross from the right.
Bolton will not offer any surprises and barring our central defenders everyone else should be well aware of what they need to do. If the coaching staff do their jobs right this game should not be a difficult one.
Having said that, we cannot forget the horrendous start we had in the same fixture last year. We conceded two stupid goals; one came from a scuffed clearance by Clichy and the other from a clumsy tackle that led to a penalty. We must not be the architects of our own downfall – you’ll probably read this in most of my previews.
Our midfield will have to be closer to the defenders when we are defending. We need to win the second ball and we also have to be alert to the runs from midfield. I think we did this really well against Blackburn but the real proof of improvement is in consistency.
Tactically, I think we will just continue the way we have been playing. Chamakh will be back in the starting line up and there is no doubt he will be a key player tomorrow. We will need his talents on set-pieces at both ends and also his work rate and link up play.
The other big decision is probably on the right. With the in-form Walcott missing, I think Rosicky will start on the right. We might lose some width but will gain technically and from his creative play. He also has a great cross so we should not miss Walcott much, although his pace against Paul Robinson would have been real fun to watch.
There is a good argument for Eboue to get a starting birth ahead of Rosicky. The Ivorian will certainly add to our physical strength so that might be a factor that Le Boss might consider. His pace and skills on the ball are not bad either. I think, with this being a home game, Wenger will chose the more attacking option of going with Rosicky rather than a somewhat defensive choice of playing Eboue.
I think the rest of the team will pick themselves. Unless there has been some injury or tiredness problem in the international break, I expect the midfield trio to retain their places. Song and Diaby will offer the much needed physicality and Cesc is Cesc, the best midfielder in the league. If he is fit and ready to play he should play.
Arshavin will be on the left, Clichy and Sagna in the usual roles, Almunia in goal, and a new French central defensive pairing.
The starting line up is likely to be,
Almunia – Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Diaby – Rosicky, Chamakh, Arshavin.
We have 7 games in 22 days and there will be need for rotations later on. I guess some might feel that one or more of Gibbs, Vela, and Eboue should get a chance in this game. Most of us will agree that rushing Nasri is not a good idea.
I feel that it might be better to start the game well and be in control before giving a few minutes to the the likes of Vela and Gibbs towards the end.
I strongly believe we should win this game without much alarm. Bolton are undefeated in three games and will undoubtedly work hard all over the pitch. We cannot take a win for granted but an error free performance should see us through.
Chamakh amongst the goals, Cesc getting closer to his best, and a clean sheet will make my day!