Bolton Club Focus – Coyle must find cure for Wanderers’ defensive ills

Going into the meeting between the two sides, both Arsenal and Bolton were in similar positions, the Gunners with only three wins in their last 16 matches, and the Wanderers with nine defeats in their last 10. Clearly both teams have been struggling to make an impact in the Premier League this season, finding themselves brushed aside by opposing teams and proving to be very weak defensively.

Bolton made a decent start to the game and were certainly in the mix from the off, with former Arsenal trainee Darren Pratley forcing a good save from opposition keeper Wojciech Szczesny. However, after David Wheater was sent off for bringing down Theo Walcott, who had sped away from the central defender, the game became very one-sided. 1937 was the last time that Arsenal had failed to score in a home league game against the Trotters and they continued this trend in great style, with Robin van Persie scoring his 99th and 100th goals of his Arsenal career.

Although Bolton were forced to play most of the game with 10 men there is no hiding from the final 3-0 score line. In his post match interview when asked about one of the goals Coyle said: “It was certainly a goal that was avoidable,” unfortunately for Bolton fans this is something that has been said and heard far too often already this season, although Coyle is right, many of the goals that Bolton are conceding are self inflicted and more should be done to prevent them. Obviously this is a conundrum for the manager, and it will not be an easy one to solve with his central defensive options short. One option could be to play with a five man midfield and switch to a more counter-attacking style. However, this is not something the manager will likely be keen to do.

Gary Cahill was missing for this game but regardless of this the problems in defence have clearly been around for a while and even with their in-demand defender, Bolton would probably still have struggled to keep a clean sheet in this game. What is perhaps more worrying for Bolton is that Arsenal have also been leaking goals left, right and centre this season yet they only once looked like troubling the hosts. For Arsenal this game could act as a springboard for the rest of their season, something that Coyle would have been hoping for his struggling side to gain from the fixture.

So far it has not been pretty to watch this season for a Bolton fan, and pressure will surely start to pile up, like it or not, on the manager, undoubtedly talented but not untouchable. Bolton’s woes, defensive and attacking, have been lingering far too long now, the slump seemingly beginning after their 5-0 loss to Stoke in the semi-final of the FA Cup last season.

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