Owen Coyle’s managerial debut for Bolton ended in a 0 – 2 defeat against the Gunners. The scoreline suggests an easy victory. It was anything but. To Bolton’s credit, they started the match brightly and nearly scored twice within the first 5 minutes. Arsenal, though intially stunned by Bolton’s aggressive approach and passing movement, regained their composure to take control of the match. It could easily have gone the other way though. What went wrong for Bolton?
1. Return of Cesc
Fabregas is, quite simply, a genius. Describe by our Football Channel pundits as being “from another planet”, he was virtually unplayable in the first half. Despite not being a vocal captain like Tony Adams, Cesc prefers to lead by example. His performance on the pitch speaks volumes and makes up for what his lack of verbal outbursts.
2. Matthew “Many Misses” Taylor
If Matty had been more composed, Bolton would probably have scored at least 3 goals. Instead, he fired the ball into the stands at least three times when it seemed easier to at least hit Almunia. It was surprising; one would expect much better for a player employed an incredible technique to score this wonder goal while playing for Portsmouth.
3. Owen Coyle Tactics
The different between Gary Megson’s Bolton and Owen Coyle’s Bolton could not have been more significant. Gary Megson’s Bolton was one I dreaded watching every week, mainly because they were so boring. Long ball tactics, physical play and lack of invention from every part of the pitch meant a long and dreary 90 minutes. Owen Coyle comes along and suddenly, it’s a brand new Bolton. However, the danger of playing Arsenal is that if you leave yourself slightly open, Arsenal will exploit it and punish you. And that is exactly what happened to them. Owen Coyle’s Bolton resembles his Burnley side: Good passing movement, good rhythm, aggressive offensive play, but too little behind to stop conceding goals. Owen Coyle must find the balance between offense and defense to ensure that teams don’t exploit the space his players leave behind.
Positives to note:
1. Ivan Klasnic
The striker was looking sharp. Spearheading much of Bolton’s attacks, he was a constant threat. Despite missing a couple of glaring opportunities, Bolton looked a lot more dangerous compared to when Elmander was leading the pack.
2. Craig Eastmond
The young midfielder played extremely well. While most young players making their debuts tend to avoid the forward pass for fear of misplacing it or losing the ball, Eastmond showed none of that. The future looks bright for this young man.
3. Fran Merida
Rumours are that Merida will join Athletico Madrid next season in an attempt to secure regular first team football. Judging from his performance, he does make a good case. Arsene Wenger will be looking to convince the youngster to stay after last night’s performance, but will he be able to offer Merida more first team opportunities?
Arsenal and Bolton face each other in the return fixture at the Emirates on Wednesday. Will Owen Coyle adjust his tactics? Will it be another inspirational performance from Fabregas? How many will Matty Taylor miss? I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I can’t wait to watch Bolton play.