A trip up to the north west beckons our weary team and our magnificent travelling support.
Some would say we’re a team traumatised by recent setbacks in the league: the loss of a two goal lead last time out, the late, late penalty equaliser against the ‘dippers last weekend and the pair of home nil-nils against Blackburn and Sunderland.
Suffice to say on paper the results don’t suggest a team brimming with confidence. Having said that it can be argued that save for the last thirty minutes of the NLD our attacking and midfield play showed genuine endeavour and self-assurance, even if the defensive frailties continued to persist.
It is fortunate that a feature of previous league campaigns is that most trips to the north west would be in the bleakest portion of the season where a trip to Lancashire would be about as welcome as a cold shower to start the day, however travelling to Bolton will, for the outstanding travelling Gooners, not be an arctic affair on this occasion.
Traditionally most Bolton games have been bruising encounters, who can forget the game where we had player after player stretchered off after the good old British values of “getting stuck in” got their due reward?
Of course this was in the halcyon days of Big Fat Walrus-face Sam, Jose Mourinho’s successor in waiting. It has been said that Owen Coyle has been attempting to get his team to use the grass on the pitch a bit more, rather than the air above it exclusively and in one way Bolton’s last game against a team with a manager that makes Allardyce look like Pep Guardiola, Stoke, showed they couldn’t compete with a “robust” approach as they crashed out of the FA Cup 5-0 to Pullis’ pugilists.
Form wise prior to the FA Cup semi Bolton beat West Ham convincingly at home (3-0) but lost away to Birmingham city (2-1) and before that a narrow loss at Old Toilet to ManUre 1-0.
The Bolton striker to look out for is Chav loan player Daniel Sturridge, who has scored six goals in eight appearances, and the reasoning for the loan is obvious when you look at the performance of Bolton’s other striking options: Elmander (one goal in thirteen) and Kevin “Elbows” Davies (one goal in eighteen).
Just to show that Davies has not changed his ways there is only one player in the Bolton squad with more than his seven yellow cards for the season, namely Paul Robinson, with nine yellows. This constant feature of Bolton’s play at least reassures us that even in a rapidly changing world some things just don’t change, and for that we must be thankful.
League wise, while Bolton sit in eighth place and we are third, they have scored twenty goals less than our sixty six yet have let in nine more than our thirty four so in theory an away win is a formality, right?
Turning to our beleaguered boys in red and white we have, barring the Verminator, pretty much our full complement of first choice players available, so in my opinion the match will hinge on whether the desire of the Trotters to bounce back after their drubbing at Wembley last weekend is greater than our wish to avenge the surrendering of two points to Stratford Spurs.
Not only must we enter the last quintet of fixtures fighting for a win to avoid our season fizzling out but it may well be vital we finish second to avoid the potential need to play a pre qualifier to the Champions League group stages should we stay third, as there are mutterings that that only the winners and runners up of the premier League will automatically go to the group stages.
Selection wise I have a dilemma for midfield as a few weeks ago Jack would have been an automatic pick; however Diaby’s last two performances have made Jack a less obvious pick. Having said that, Cesc must have Song with him if Diaby, less defensive in nature than Jack, is to play.
Up top is the question of whether Nasri should play left wing or Arshavin, with neither player being especially consistent recently. Right wing should be Theo’s place but hopefully with licence to play through the centre to give the Trotters something to think about.
In my opinion a free flowing, flexible formation playing at a high tempo is the best way to approach this Bolton team so for that reason, and reasons of sentiment, my team would be:
On a tenuously related matter, if any Gooners are looking for an IPL (Twenty20 cricket) team to follow can I suggest Kings XI Punjab as their owner is a passionate Gooner and he specifically ensured their jerseys were as close to Arsenal’s home strip as possible, they are even both sponsored by Em****es Airlines.
They also have another owner who is worth attention, Preity Zinta, but that’s just me doing my Cosmo Smallpiece impression.
A final point, listen out for the magnificent away support, they consistently do us proud time after time; always outnumbered, never outsung.