Bolton v Arsenal - Bruised Trotters aim for recovery after Wembley woe
Owen Coyle’s Bolton are hurting badly after humiliation at Wembley last weekend.
Their 5-0 drubbing against Stoke City in the FA Cup semi-final was out of character for a side which has built a reputation as one of the Premier League most difficult opponents. Wanderers, now barely mentioned in relegation matters, have pushed on as a top-10 club and were desperate to crown their steady rise up English football’s hierarchy with a trophy.
Instead, they were left nursing the heaviest semi-final defeat since 1939.
Swedish striker Johan Elmander summed up the dejection enveloping the Reebok: “It was horrible. We should be ashamed.
“There were far too many who hid themselves. This just shouldn’t happen. This is absolutely one of the heaviest defeats that I’ve experienced.”
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Boss Coyle was pragmatic – and bullish – as he looked ahead to last night’s trip to Fulham: “The beauty of management is that you have to respond to things like this. You can do one of two things - you can pick yourself up and go again or you can hide. I’m not going to hide.”
While the Gunners have been erratic this season, ahead of last night’s trip to Tottenham they enjoyed the best away record in the Premier League.
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And a common misconception is that the Gunners struggle against Bolton. In fact, they have beaten them in each of their last nine meetings – hammering them 4-1 at Emirates Stadium last September - and have won on their last four visits to the Reebok Stadium. To win again, they must break eighth-place Wanderers’ three-game winning run at the Reebok.
VERDICT: Much depends on last night’s trip to White Hart Lane. If the Gunners are still in the title hunt at the weekend, expect a tight game. 1-0 to the Arsenal.