Arsenal v Bolton Wanderers: Match Preview

LONDON ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: Andrei Arshavin of Arsenal is tackled by Gretar Steinsson of Bolton during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers at The Emirates Stadium on September 11 2010 in London England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

 

10:00 AM EDT/7:00 AM PDT
Emirates Stadium, Norf of London Town
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, FoxSoccer.TV (subsscription)
Highlights: BBC Match of the Day, 10:30 BST/5:30 PM EDT/2:30 PM PDT
Opposition Blog: Lion of Vienna Suite (tribute to Nat Lofthouse. Nice.)

Arsenal welcome 19th placed Bolton to the Emirates this weekend, desperate to take advantage of a struggling side that has had problems defending so far this season. The problem though, is that Arsenal haven't been that good either; wins against Udinese and Swansea aside, and an honourable draw away at Dortmund, Arsenal have been plain awful, conceding 12 goals in their last two away trips. This time, however, Arsenal have home comforts, and a completely rested starting XI. 

Bolton, aside from a 4-0 shellacking of QPR on the first day of the season (A QPR that was completely different to today's QPR), and a credible performance in a 2-3 defeat to Manchester City, have been bad too. They conceded 5 against Manchester United, 3 against Liverpool, and, most recently in the league, lost at home to newly-promoted Norwich, who hadn't won yet. They've conceded 13 goals, the second most in the league (we've conceded the most, though that figure is helped by our reserves 8-2 defeat). 

However, Bolton have always been a team to trouble Arsenal, with the Reebok being the site of a 2-1 defeat last year (which may be more notable for being the last game that Cesc Fabregas played for Arsenal) and the site of many defeats to Sam Allardyce's side. Owen Coyle, though, isn't Sam Allardyce, and his team playing a little more of a passing game, using two out and out wingers and a 4-4-2, scoring one of the better team goals in the league last year. Bolton, though, still have Kevin Davies and his elbows, and will look to trouble a vulnerable Arsenal side at set pieces. Also a danger is the 6'7 Zat Knight and Gary Cahill, but Davies is the main threat. While he's scored only once in the last 8 meetings meetings between the sides (7 Arsenal wins, 1 loss), he's caused confusion at set pieces, and been a troublesome player for Arsenal defenders. Without question, he is the modern day Nat Lofthouse. 

The good news for Arsenal, though, is that Bolton have conceded the 4th most shots (Manchester United, surprisingly, have conceded the most, indicating that their run of good form could soon be in for a harsh ending), and have, overall, looked fairly inept defensively, with Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez running amok against Cahill and co. If Arsenal's passing and movement is up to scratch, as last week's performance against Blackburn indicated, they should have no trouble scoring. 

More troublesome, though, is the defending. Overall, zonal marking hasn't been bad for Arsenal; it's been effective in almost all of our games except Blackburn, while individual errors and organizational problems that are caused because of new players in the back 4 can be fixed. The real cause for concern is Arsenal's pressing game, or lack of thereof; too much space is being given to opposition midfield who find it easy to dink passes over Arsenal's high line, making Per Mertesacker look inept. If Arsenal don't press and play deeper, they can defend better but lose some attacking play, which is why they'll preferably press high up the pitch, as a unit, instead of the haphazard, disorganised stuff that's been done recently. 

In terms of injury news, Johan Djourou and Yossi Benayoun are out, while Aaron Ramsey, Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky are all fit. The predicted lineup then, is:

Arsenal (4-1-2-3): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Song; Ramsey, Arteta; Walcott, van Persie; Gervinho
Subs: Fabianski, Santos, Miquel, Coquelin, Rosicky, Arshavin, Chamakh

Maybe Carling Cup hero Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will find a spot on the bench instead of Arshavin or Santos.

Predicted result: Arsenal  press like mad from the beginning, peppering the Bolton goal before van Persie scores after a one-two with Arteta. Bolton, though, hit back close to half time with a Kevin Davies header, despite creating the grand sum of nothing in the first half. Arsenal, though, come out strong in the second half and score early, but keep everyone nervous until sealing it in the 85th minute. 

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