Preview by Numbers: Bolton Wanderers v. Arsenal

Reebok Stadium, Bolton
Wednesday, February 1
3:00 p.m. EST, 8:00 p.m. GMT
RSVP on Facebook!

  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Chris Foy
    • Assistants: Gary Beswick and Simon Bennett
    • 4th Official: Peter Walton
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 3 - 0 Bolton
  • This Match, Last Year: Bolton 2 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 58 Arsenal wins, 39 Bolton wins, 35 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-L-L-L
  • Bolton's League Form: W-L-D-W-L-W
PENALTY! PENALTY!!! Photo: Daily Mail.
Had Arsenal not come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and advance in the FA Cup on Sunday, this section was merely going to say "Just win this match, God damn it," or something to that effect. Thankfully, I don't have to resort to that.

Arsenal has moved on to face either Sunderland or Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round, but we'll worry about that in February. It's back to the league now, a competition in which Arsenal has not yet won in 2012. Three losses from three is dreadful for a team with Top Four aspirations, so that streak has got to stop right now.

Bolton may have had a tough start to their season (disastrous, even,) but their form started to turn around the festive period and they are coming off a win over Liverpool and advancement in the FA Cup. One hopes Arsenal can retain some of that second half momentum from Sunday's match in this game and right the ship in the league. Anything less at this point is, frankly, unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Chelsea has dropped points, so Arsenal can close the gap a little bit with a win, while also keeping pace with Liverpool, whose win on Tuesday moved them into fifth.

Arsenal Squad News

Hey, look! It's fullbacks back in training!!!
Photo: Official Site via Facebook.
Out: Gibbs (groin), Diaby (hamstring), Jenkinson (back), Santos (ankle), Wilshere (ankle)
Doubts: Sagna (match fitness)

Well, the transfer window has come and gone and all we have to show for it is Thierry Henry for a few more weeks and a German kid. Color me shocked. Then again, with some of the good injury news, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The bad injury news since my last preview was posted was, of course, the set-back suffered by Jack Wilshere. Word from the specialist he had to see came back positive, but there is still a chance Wilshere's season could be over, without it having ever really started, which is disappointing news for the Gunners.

On the positive side, there are no new injuries following the FA Cup tie on Sunday, and Kieran Gibbs is back in training (though still short of fitness just yet. He's probably two weeks away.) The injury list is down to just five, knock on wood. This means Arsenal will likely field a close-to-full strength squad. Mikel Arteta should return to the starting role in midfield after making an appearance off the bench on Sunday. There's a chance Bacary Sagna could start as well, though that might be a little more doubtful. He has only played for six minutes after being out for four months, so perhaps it's best to use caution with such an integral player. On the other hand, now is not really the time for caution, with three points so crucial. So really, it's a good thing I don't have to make these decisions, because apparently, I'd be terrible at it.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Coquelin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Song, Ramsey, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, van Persie. Subs from: Fabianski, Sagna, Djourou, Rosicky, Benayoun, Arshavin, Henry.

Bolton Squad News

U.S.A., NOT TODAY. Tim Ream looks to be unavailable for
Bolton after having to fly back to the States to clear a
work permit / passport issue. Photo: Daily Mirror.
Out: Miyaichi (loan terms), Alonso (ankle), Gardner (hip), Lee (broken leg), Holden (knee), Davis (knee)
Doubts: Ream (work permit)

Yesterday, Arsenal and Bolton agreed to terms to send Ryo Miyaichi to the Reebok on a loan deal for the remainder of the season. Of course, due to the terms of the loan deal, Ryo is not available to play today against his parent club.

Bolton have five injuries to their squad: Chung-Yong Lee, out with a broken leg, won't be returning until the end of this month. American Stuart Holden is out until the end of next month with a knee injury, Spanish defender Marcos Alonso is out until April with a knee problem, while there is no timetable for the returns of Ricardo Gardner (hip injury) and Sean Davis (knee.)

Bolton could have former Red Bulls defender Tim Ream available after completing his signing last week, but the uncertain status of his work permit could prevent the American from playing. Tyrone Mears has returned from a long spell out with a broken leg, and Jussi Jaaskelainen could be available as goalkeeper after coming back from injury, though he'll still have to unseat Adam Bogdan for the starting spot. Both Mears and Jaaskelainen were on the bench for Bolton's FA Cup win over Swansea at the weekend.

Current Form

Bolton's win over Liverpool two weeks ago will be a lot
less funny to us if they duplicate the feat today.
Still funny for now, though. Photo: Daily Mail.
So, as you may know, Arsenal in league play, have been terrible in 2012. After beating QPR on New Year's Eve, they blew a lead at Fulham and lost, they blew at lead at Swansea and lost (though, they blew that one faster,) and then they pulled level with United at home only to have the wheels fall off again. Three league games in January. Three losses. Three matches without a win for the first time in five years. Away from home, Arsenal have not won since the 2-1 win at Villa Park on December 21. To be fair, five of their seven matches since have been at home, so only the losses to Fulham and Swansea count to that stat. Still, their run of form is enough to have taken them from sole possession of fourth place for the first time this season to five points behind Chelsea for that final Champions League slot.

On the other side, over the first 16 games of this season (through December 17th,) Bolton Wanderers won just three matches and lost 13. Since then, over their last six matches, Bolton have equaled those three wins, drawn once, and lost just two. Their wins in the last six have come against the likes of Blackburn away, Everton away (despite allowing goalkeeper Tim Howard to score against them,) and Liverpool at the Reebok. They have, also in that time frame, advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup, where they will face a Championship side, the winner of the replay between Millwall and Southampton. Bolton Wanderers are fifth in the form table (over the last six matches) while Arsenal are 13th. This form has now been just enough for them to climb out of the relegation zone for the first time since October.

Match Facts

This was pretty much Park Chu-Young's only moment
in an Arsenal shirt... Photo: Daily Mail.
This will already be the third meeting between Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers this season, with both sides having met in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. With both sides advancing to the fifth round of the FA Cup, it's still plausible there could even be a fourth meeting between the two this season in a later round. Both prior matches were at the Emirates Stadium and both were Arsenal wins.

The first meeting this year between the two sides came on September 24 at the Emirates. Arsenal were coming off a loss at Blackburn Rovers, followed by a Carling Cup win over Shrewsbury Town that had seen them momentarily trailing, so things were not pleasant for the Gunners. The match was still 0-0 at halftime, but Robin van Persie scored in the first minute after the restart and then David Wheater was sent off for Bolton. Van Persie completed a brace and Alex Song scored on the cusp of injury time and Arsenal won 3-0. In the Carling Cup meeting a month later, it was also 0-0 at halftime, but this time, Bolton had the first goal inside of two minutes after the restart, courtesy of Fabrice Muamba. Andrei Arshavin engineered the comeback, scoring the equalizer in the 53rd minute, then setting up Park Chu-Young's only Arsenal goal to date, the winner, three minutes later.

Bolton won this fixture last year, 2-1, on Easter Sunday. Bolton led 1-0 at halftime thanks to a Daniel Sturridge goal, nodding in a header after Samir Nasri cleared a Gary Cahill shot off the line. The Trotters got a penalty just after halftime, but could not extend the lead after a terrible spot kick attempt, then Arsenal equalized through Robin van Persie a minute later. The match continued 1-1 until the 90th minute, when Tamir Cohen scored a free header off a corner to put the final nail in the coffin of Arsenal's season.

Before that 2-1 Bolton win, Arsenal had won nine straight against the Trotters, and after the two earlier matches this season, the Gunners have now won 11 of 12.

The Referee

Chris Hoy Foy has been a fan of red cards
this season. Photo: MTN.
The referee is Edinburgh-born cyclist Chris Hoy Merseyside-based Chris Foy. Foy has had a very eventful season, as you probably know, after some criticism for him from Spurs supporters following their loss at Stoke City was misplaced and directed at Great Britain cyclist Chris Hoy on Twitter. Hilarious stuff, but it's a joke you might have seen before. The football comic Studs Up is written by a guy named Chris Toy, who has already drawn his frustration about their similar names.

All of that said, this is Foy's first Arsenal match of this season. Last year, he took charge of Arsenal's 2-1 win at Blackburn, their 2-1 win over Fulham at the Emirates, the 2-0 win over Wolves at the Emirates, then a pair of games against Manchester United (the 2-0 FA Cup loss and the 1-0 win at the Emirates.) Not a bad series of games, on the whole of it.

As for Bolton, this is his second match this season. The other previous game was Bolton's 2-0 loss at Fulham, which was, incidentally, the aforementioned December 17th match that marked Bolton's 13th loss over their first 16 games. Again, since that game, Bolton have won five times over eight matches in all competitions.

Around the League

Today, Chelsea was this close to losing at Swansea (like some team I know well,) before a late goal gave the ten-man Blues (ha ha, Ashley Cole) a point and a 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium. Meanwhile, Manchester City lost as they were shut down by Tim Howard, Darron Gibson, and Everton, 1-0 at Goodison Park. Apparently, the way you beat City is to have a fan handcuff himself to the goalpost during the first half.

The other results from yesterday were basically, business as usual, which is to say, not helpful to Arsenal. Manchester United beat Stoke behind the strength of two penalties, Tottenham Hotspur coasted to three points against Wigan at the Lane (at least it wasn't 9-1,) and Liverpool made easy work of Wolves at Molineux.

With all of the particularly enthralling fixtures being played yesterday, today also sees Aston Villa hosting Queens Park Rangers at Villa Park, Blackburn hosting Newcastle, Fulham hosting West Bromwich Albion, and Sunderland hosting Norwich City. Those are some real glamor fixtures right there.