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Bolton v Arsenal: the Untold match preview

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By Phil Gregory

After Wednesday’s tumultuous clash with Tottenham at White Hart Lane we’re back to it with another away tie versus Bolton. Despite a shock result in the FA Cup versus Stoke, Bolton’s Premier League home form has been good, with four wins in their last five. While that may be a cause for concern thanks to our recent wobble, when compared to the rest of the league our away form is amongst the best. Only Chelsea have picked up more points away from home in their last five matches than us.

On the injury front we seem to be largely in the clear now. Only Diaby is out of the clash versus Bolton with a calf strain, and the Frenchman’s perpetual injury worries must concern him given the emergence of players in his position like Ramsey and Wilshere. Besides Diaby, Vermaelen and Fabianksi are the only other confirmed absentees, though doubts surround Rosicky’s recovery from illness. That gives us a pretty much full complement of players to select from:

Szcznesy

Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy

Song Wilshere

Fabregas

Walcott Van Persie Nasri

Szcznesy continues in goal, with an unchanged back four in front of him. Song continues in the holding role and next to him, Wilshere comes in for the injured Diaby. While the young England international was rested against Spurs with fatigue in mind and may indeed find himself on the bench again with the coming tie against United in mind, I expect him to start and perhaps get subbed off in the second half if things are going well.

Further forward Cesc Fabregas continues in the midfield playmaker role, with a three pronged attack of Walcott, Van Persie and Nasri in front of him. In regards to Nasri, I was pleased to see him back on the score sheet at White Hart Lane. In my preview I pinpointed a lack of goals from Nasri as being a concern and if he can amongst the goals a couple of times from here to the end of the season it could prove vital.

Given our recent stumble, a few fans have started questioning Wenger’s decision to shift to a 433 shape in recent seasons. It’s quite ironic; considering it’s the shape the majority of fans were angling for a shift to from 442 originally, so I think it’s just a case of “the grass is always greener”, in my opinion.

That said, the question deserves a bit of reflection and I’ll probably approach it in an extended article during the quieter close season. For now, I’ll just say that such calls are probably premature. First and foremost, having three in the midfield is key with the abundance of 4231/451 shapes we come up against. 433 also sets our fullbacks up well, with the attackers movement inside leaving space for Clichy and Sagna to exploit. I’m also not convinced that either of Fabregas or Song would be best utilised in a two-man midfield.

On the flip side, it would allow us to put another striker up front with Van Persie (though his bazillion goals in a handful of games this season suggest he might be able to play as a lone striker despite the claims of detractors). The big plus point of a partner for van Persie would be someone to winner the headers versus opposing centrebacks: Szcznesy’s long punts forward clearly weren’t working from watching the Tottenham game.

Anyway, it’s nothing to do with the Bolton game but just something to bear in when you’re listening to the phone-ins or whatnot. As for the matter at hand, I’m expecting a tight one. Bolton are turning into a great side under Owen Coyle and we should approach this game with caution. Their home record will need to be overcome, but with United nine points clear after beating Everton nothing but a win will keep their title race alive for us. Chelsea drawing level on points gives us an extra impetus to do well but at this stage of the season, proving the team’s detractors wrong should be enough motivation. 2-1 to the Arsenal.

The Unbeaten Run

The Injury Index

Untold Arsenal Index

History of Arsenal including the series on the failures of Herbert Chapman

Making the Arsenal – the book of Arsenal death and rebirth

13 comments to Bolton v Arsenal: the Untold match preview

  • Mr Venger

    We should win this game in normal circumstances, but of late we seem to have run out of legs which is worrying considering we almost have a clean bil of health now. Our main problem from my perspective is the need for a bit more athletisism going fwd , from the bench would be nice to have wellington or myachi to give us some legs for the run in. I’d like to see chamakh contribute more, seems a waste what the hell has happened to him?? We should be able to win this game with the likes of ramsey, chamakh & eboue but rotation seems to of been out of the window lately so probably a good shout on the team selection

  • Sammy The Snake

    Bolton 0-2 Arsenal.

  • Shard

    @mahdain

    I read that article. It is good. The fact that it contains quotes from Patrick Barclay says something. He was one of the very few journalists who came out in the aftermath of the Ramsey leg break and basically called the other football writers lying hypocrites. He said he thinks Arsenal are the most mentally strong team in the league at the time.

    Strangely enough there is another article saying something along the lines of the media being hypocritical in the Guardian. Are we finally getting some recognition from the media?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/apr/23/arsenal-arsene-wenger

  • Wrenny

    Thanks for the link Mahdain, great article. And some hilarious comments too; it never fails to amuse and stupify me after reading a lucid, intelligent article on Arsenal such as that one how some ‘fans’ will genuinely retort against the facts and stats and reasoning they’ve been presented with the same brainless cliched suppositions which they’ve JUST been shown are seriously flawed and cannot be backed up. Stupid much?

    Here’s another good article from Desigunner, well worth a read:
    http://desigunner.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/holes-in-the-fabric-of-the-arsenalsphere-must-be-plugged/#comments

  • Dark Prince

    As always an early goal wil be crucial against bolton. Defending has to be resolute. Plus the goal difference wil be important, so we should score as many goals as possible.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    The only attitude Arsenal can have now is: ‘win the next two games and we are only three points behind.’

    That is within their circle of control.

    Thereafter they need a helping hand.

    But without taking control where they can take control, nothing is possible.

  • Mandy Dodd

    A few years ago. Chuck D, Flava Flav at al warbled “don’t believe the hype”. Unfortunately, Arsenal have a lot of fans that do. They choose to believe The Sun, Talkshite, anyone on Sky, a wife beater / dogger, even players who were once great but took to drink / gambling and now resemble bitter pundits – yes they believe this lot over a manager who has taken a team unbeaten over a whole season.
    This English player thing is a media created myth – I did not see a lot of mental strength out in South Africa last summer.
    If we finish potless – the reason will be a few mistakes at key moments, injuries and biased refs, the latter all that really separates us from Utd. The reason we have not kept pace with Utd and Chelsea over the recent years is too obvious even to mention. Take Spurs, supposed to overtake us at any year, but have spent a fortune and will now prob miss out on the CL. And lets see what happens to their manager.
    Wenger is a genius, as I will take great delight in reminding the AAA when the trophies start arriving.
    I guess when we do start winning, a lot of pundits will look very silly so they have many vested interests in maintaining the status quo.

  • akash

    Yes Chelsea have over taken us for second in the process of drawing the game but let’s face facts if you are not going to win the title who cares about finishing second or third? The only real difference is the London rivalry we have with Chelsea and a few extra quid in the bin of the directors for the slightly higher finishing spot. As a fan I am not really that bothered about that side of things and that is why the current ‘top four will do’ attitude of the club for me is so disappointing. We have managed to clamber into the Champions League for the past 15 seasons in a row, something to be proud of on certain levels but what aspirations do we as a club harbour of actually winning the damn thing?

    In fifteen attempts at success we have won the trophy on zero occasions and have reached the final once. Not exactly the greatest of records and for me the whole group stage of the tournament has got so boring I wouldn’t be overly disappointed if we had a season out of the competition altogether. That way we could concentrate 100% that season on trying to win the Premier League. I for one do not get excited about the prospect of playing teams like Braga or Olympiakos every season. The competition only really gets going at the quarter final stages and by then most seasons we are on our bike anyway. So other than the money the directors of the club receive for taking part in the competition what is the big deal about being in it season after season? We as fans don’t see any of that money being re-invested in the playing squad anyway.

    I guess come the end of the season we can laugh at Spurs fans if they fail to qualify and we make it but that really is about it for me. So I can’t accept finishing in the top four every season as a success. It merely indicates our club being at a certain level and not going forward from where they started off at. We finish every season in 3rd or 4th and we always seem to end up with a similar points tally as well. We are not improving at all and we haven’t moved on as club or improved our mentality as a squad of players for a long time now and those are the realities we need to address as a club if we want to improve.

    I mentioned in a previous article that we wouldn’t reach 76 points this season as we are a team of bottlers. I have been proved right already on that score on more than one occasion. We currently have 64 points with five games to go. We will struggle to get more than 73 points and from where we were and the games we had left to play two months ago that is poor to say the least. Last season we ended the season with a points tally of 75 so someone please try and explain to me how and where we have improved? The reality is we haven’t. We have been flattered by the relative close proximity to teams like Chelsea and United as they are currently well below par. Chelsea won the title by one point last season with a final tally of 86 and the year before that United won it with 90 points where as we finished that season with a final tally of 72. Every season we finish with a figure in the low seventies and even with the top two teams in the country currently being poor by their own high standards that will never be enough to win the title. We have averaged 74.50 points over the past four completed seasons and we are on target to get around that same figure again this season, we will not better it so therefore we have not improved.

    All these figures point to two conclusions in my eyes. We are not improving and we will not win the league unless we start to improve. It is that simple, we need to address the failings and move forward or keep sitting on our hands and pretend that this is good enough. Some people that support our club are happy enough with the current plight and some are not. This split exists simply because it is a game of opinion. If you take into account the money spent by our club compared to our main rivals then where we end up season after season can be deemed as a success. If you look at the bigger picture and judge us purely in terms of where we end up season after season compared to our main rivals who you would have to say currently are Chelsea and United, then you would come to the conclusion that we have failed miserably in recent times and are in need of change. I guess the real truth as always probably lies somewhere in the middle of these two arguments.

    One vital thing to consider though if you are currently sat squarely in the happy brigade camp. We have managed to finish 15 seasons in a row in the Champions League and that is a record to be proud of but if as a club that is the limit of your ambitions you over time fail to hold on to the likes of Cesc Fabregas. If we had shown greater ambition over the past few seasons would our current captain be quite so eager to leave for pastures new? Surely all that really matters is the best for the club we all support. That for me must be to find a way forward that brings a greater chance of success than what we have got over the past six seasons, but also one that doesn’t put the longer term health of the club at genuine risk. We have in my opinion been far too cautious in this regard for the past three seasons and it is time to start shooting a few fifty pound notes around with a little more freedom than what we have done recently. I do not mean in a completely carefree attitude but surely we can do more than bring in the likes of Chamakh on a free transfer? We need higher ambition than that to keep the belief going and we also need better signings at the back than Squillaci when a few quid does get spent. The likes of those two signings from last summer mean you end another campaign empty handed. You simply have to show greater ambition than that in order to genuinely compete at the top level.

    Cesc will be gone from our club by the middle of June and his words reported this week were those spoken by a man that feels he has been let down. He has put all his faith in Arsene Wenger’s philosophies over the past five or six seasons and has not won a single domestic trophy in that period of time because of it. He will go on to pastures new and he will be a better player for that move. I wish him every success in the future as he deserves better than the mediocrity he has been served up during his time at our club. He is a cut above a very average bunch of players in my opinion. I do not see him as a great, but I do see him as a very good player in a very ordinary side. AW goes on about the 15 years in the Champions League record with pride. He should thank the man leaving for pastures new this summer for this record as it has been Cesc that has kept AW in a job over the past few seasons. In my opinion without his talent AW would not have the 15 years in the Champions League record to use as protection against his doubters. Without him we would have been outside the top four on a number of occasions as we simply do not create enough chances when he isn’t playing.

    This summer for me is a time that as a club we need to re-group and come back with a few new ideas. A bit of freshness in the approach is what is required. We need to clear out some dead wood, replace them with a sprinkling of class and then go again in August. We will be minus Cesc unfortunately but that has come about due to a very limited approach in terms of genuine ambition. We need to make sure that the next time we have a Cesc in our squad we do not lose them all over again due to a lack of ambition. We need to be a club where this calibre of player can fulfil their potential. We also need to be able to give them a platform to fill up their own trophy cabinet for us to be able to keep them happy in the future. We have failed Cesc in this regard this time round. Let us make sure we do not make the same mistakes again in the future.

  • bob

    Now that Rhyss has read his Sunday paper and sees fit to bring his snooker analogies to the fore, I offer this from today’s Independent online: We all know the expression: a fish rots from the top. That, plus: where there’s smoke there’s fire. Well, well, how’s this stench from atop of the EPL – Its supremo, Sir Dave, appears to be a bit bendable, methinks: “The position of Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards has come under renewed scrutiny with the revelation that a company run by his son secured commercial deals to provide merchandise both to the Premier League and to help promote England’s 2018 World Cup bid.” Now, yes, innocent until proven guilty. That is essential. My only point is that Sir Dave is clearly of the flesh (fish flesh), and the temptations of the flesh often have the accompanying sound of a cash register; and perhaps, just perhaps, Sir Dave, the EPL boss abides in a culture of corruption that, just perhaps, pervades certain spheres that influence match-betting and related outcomes. Then again, surely those known as Sir (anyone else come to mind?) has said title for services rendered to one’s peers and betters. Well, that said, it’s back to my place on the pub stool. Truth to Power! Down with Kastle Fergus! To all Sirs – up thine!

  • Dark Prince

    Again and again set pieces

  • Shard

    Walter and Tony.. I think it is time we put up a piece on Untold on all that is WRONG with Arsenal. We know the refs are useless, and against us. We know about the finances. But there are things which we do wrong too. I think it’ll be fair to put up that assessment. Perhaps you were waiting for the end of the season for that? Well, I’m not for giving up, but it is the end of the season now. We still need to play well to secure 3rd, but I mean come on.. 2 goals from corners? And not once did we look threatening from corners. We normally don’t in fact. Set piece training I’m afraid, is just not working with us. I think we now NEED Keown to come back and coach us on how to defend.

  • Uj31

    See you all next season. Have fun. whatever.