This will be a short preview as I’m quite busy over the weekend.
As far as the team goes I expect only one change, Wilshere to come in for the injured Diaby.
Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Wilshere – Walcott, RvP, Nasri.
Both teams undoubtedly have a lot of goals in them. This game could turn into another cliff-hanger as the Wanderers have a good record at home. They have also shown considerable improvement in their playing style under Owen Coyle but in this game I expect to see them revert to their tactics of yore.
Kevin Davies will receive a lot of long balls and once again winning the second ball will be the key. The same can be said about set-pieces. Not only do Arsenal have to win the first header, they also have to get men out to block a shot on goal or a cross from the clearance. Those two are going to be Bolton’s main goal threats. The hosts can also play football on the ground these days but I don’t expect serious threats on that front unless Song or Wilshere make major mistakes.
The front three should get plenty of chances to score. Bolton will try to push forward and there will be space behind their defence for Van Persie or Walcott to make a run. I’m not sure who is playing at left back these days at Bolton but if it is Paul Robinson, Walcott will have a great chance of going past him. At the same time the Englishman will have to be wary of some X-rated tackles.
Nasri will be most effective when he gets a chance to drift in. It will be hard to find the right balance between coming in and offering width.
Depending on the number of attacking player’s Bolton start, at least one full-back might have a man who won’t track him well. In such a case I’d like to see the wide attacker moving in often and the full-back overlapping at opportune moments. Arsenal haven’t quite worked out the timing of the runs by the full-backs so this might not actually happen.
Song and Wilshere will have to provide better cover and mistakes like the one by Diaby for the first Spuds goal have to be eliminated. They will also have to handle the pressure of the home side and bring the ball out for Cesc and the forward players.
Cesc has to offer more than his recent performances. It’s difficult to blame him but his work rate doesn’t seem to be at the level we see when Fabregas is fit and enjoying his game.
This is another game where I expect at least three goals. Both goalkeepers will have to make some saves and Szczesny will get chances to show that he is a quick learner.
Djourou will have to do better in the air and in one-v-one situations where he seems to get turned more often than I’d like.
Most importantly the players must play positively for ninety minutes. Self-doubt, hesitations, or nerves will only make Bolton stronger.