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Bolton Wanderers vs. Arsenal: match preview


Bolton Wanderers vs. Arsenal not wanderers
English Premier League Round 23
Kickoff: 3 PM EST, Wednesday, February 1
Reebok Stadium, Horwich, Bolton, UK, Urf
Televisual coverage: Fox Soccer Channel
Form: Bolton DLWWW | Arsenal LWLLW
SBN Bolton Perspective: Lion of Vienna Suite

Arsenal kick off against Bolton up in the cold, grey Northwest tomorrow, and appear to be catching the Wanderers at a not-great time, as Bolton have risen from the grave to mash Macclesfield, lash Liverpool, and swat Swansea City in their most recent three matches. Hopefully they don't decide to, uh...arse Arsenal in their fourth.

Join me after the jump, and we'll see what sense we can make of all this.

Bolton ran out in a 4-5-1 formation against Liverpool when they beat them 3-1 last week, and they will probably do similar tomorrow in an effort to negate Arsenal's 4-2-3-1. Against the Reds, David N'Gog started at CF with Mark Davies playing behind him. Martin Petrov and Chris Eagles flanked Fabrice Muamba and Nigel Reo-Coker. Kevin Davies, Arsenal Killer, came off of the bench late, but it's easy to see him perhaps starting against a club he loves to beat up on tomorrow.

Arsenal, for their part, are getting some pieces back in place. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain probably needs a rest, so Andrei Arshavin could start on the left (or maybe even Yossi Benayoun--imagine!). Tomas Rosicky looked really good against Aston Villa in the FA Cup on Sunday, so much so that putting him in front of an Alex Song-Mikel Arteta double pivot and giving Aaron Ramsey a little rest seems possible. Ramsey has played a ton lately, and his form is maybe suffering a little bit because of it, although he did look much better in the second half vs. Villa when he started pushing further forward in the opposition half, looking to run onto passes.

At the back, one will probably see the Vermaelen-Koscielny-Mertesacker-Sagna backline that finished things off at the Emirates. One doubts that Francis Coquelin will see more time at right back after Gabby Agbonlahor gave him trouble, but that's okay, since it's not his position, anyway. Bolton's wingers, Petrov and Eagles, are no slouches (Eagles, in particular, gave Liverpool all they could handle last week), so Arsenal's full backs will have to be on top of their game. This would involve, say, not leaving Arshavin to deal with attacking wing play all by his lonesome while drifting ever closer to the goal, for instance.

Yeah. That would be nice.

Thierry Henry could also feature, especially if Wenger is looking to rest Robin van Persie as much as possible, which might not be imprudent with another match in three days' time, followed closely by a match against Sunderland and a trip to Milan. Wenger will look to use Henry while Arsenal have him, so he could start either on the left or in place of van Persie. The former seems more likely, since van Persie's vacation should have afforded him a lot of rest.

Chelsea dropped two points today in their match against Swansea, so a win tomorrow could see Arsenal pull within three points. Let's make this happen, if it please the team.

Match prediction: Arsenal win 121-104 after a wonderful bit of pegging by late sub Yossi Benayoun and a hand with two sevens, two eights, and a nine allow them to overtake a frustrated Kevin Davies, who's holding a pair and a 15 for four, and there ain't no more. ARSENAL WIN.