Bolton v. Arsenal preview

Bolton.

3 years in a row now Arsenal have lost to Bolton.

Bolton.

Arsenal’s Premier League season now hinges on winning an away match to one of the dirtiest teams to ever disgrace a football pitch.

Bolton. Ugh…

There is a ray of hope here though. Bolton no longer have Sam Allardyce and there can be no doubt that Bolton’s home form against Arsenal was largely (pun intended) a product of the Fat Man. Bolton also let Anelka go this January (which prompted me to predict relegation) and they have really missed his presence. So much so that the second leading scorer on the squad (behind Anelka) is midfielder, skipper, and hard man, Kevin Nolan. Unfortunately for Bolton fans Kevin Nolan won’t be on the pitch tomorrow either, because he is serving a suspension for his 10th yellow of the season.

No Sam, No Nicholas, no Nolan: a walk in the park right? No way.

Bolton are fighting against relegation and players like Davies (7 yellow cards) and Diouf (10 yellow cards) are not going to roll over and let Arsenal tickle their tummies. I fully expected the nasty game to be the one against Chelsea and it turned out to be a pretty fair match between the two — by recent standards. And now, with Bolton and Arsenal at opposite ends of the table but their respective seasons hanging in the balance I’m going to have to move the tense match to tomorrow. Throw in 3 years of bitter history, a depleted Bolton squad which will force them to ugly up the game, and it could very well explode.

Or… Arsenal could score early and put them to bed.

Personally, I’m hoping for the latter. The longer Arsenal wait to score, the more belief will creep into the Bolton side… then, one ball hoofed up to a speedy Diouf and… damn, I don’t want to think about it.

Fortunately, it looks like Wenger has studied the tapes of the last 5 matches and is calling for a defensive renaissance.

I believe we will do it but we need to get back to our defensive stability. We were leading with 20 minutes to go at Chelsea and then surrendered it. What we produced defensively was just not us: we can do much better than that.

Yes. “Defense wins championships” we say here in America (because our sports don’t have draws) and in this case it’s true.  Arsenal need to shore up their defense, stat.

It’s important to note, however, that while Wenger was reminding the team to tighten up their defense, he was also giving 100% support to William Gallas. So, while he’s calling out William to lead the team, to lead the defense, he’s not doing it in such a way as to undermine the squad.

Some Arsenal supporters (me included) would do well to take note of this technique. It’s too easy to slide into attacking and blaming when the team has a slump in form. But that’s when the team need us most — supporting.

And so, Bolton tomorrow at 8am PST in a potentially tense match. It would be a nice match to see Arsenal regain their form, wouldn’t it? No one needs reminding that Arsenal have three tough tests against Liverpool next week, do they?

The match is live on Setanta, which normally means me at the pub at 8am, but I’m busy tomorrow and so I’ll have to watch the replay at 5pm.  Here’s to a break-out match for Arsenal, a 7-0 thrashing, and everyone goes home unhurt!   Hell, I’ll take three points and everyone unhurt.

Until then, kickers…

p.s. The Madness of King Kev has struck again! There’s a story that he wants to sign former Gunner, Reyes. Um, Kev? He’s a striker who scored 16 goals in 69 appearances. And when he wasn’t taking up space on the pitch? He was bitching about the weather or the physical play of the PL. Come on, this story HAS to be a fake, right?

p.p.s. The Madness of Jens Lehmann has struck as well! 20 years ago this would have been a non-story but in these day and times, feeding non-alcoholic beer to a toddler is probably a crime. It’s a real shame that, I remember my dad gave me beer when I was very young AND I TURNED OUT FINE.

Cheers.