Bolton v Spurs: Trotters talisman Davies still dividing opinion
Premier League preview Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham Saturday November 6, 12.45pm
FOR footballing purists and lovers of ‘the beautiful game’, it is one of the darkest portents of doom, a sign that the end of the world is nigh – Kevin Davies is an England international.
The 33-year-old became the second-oldest post-war player to make his debut for England when he replaced Peter Crouch against Montenegro at Wembley last month.
Bolton fans understandably hail Davies as their talismanic captain, and the Trotters’ targetman certainly represents one of the toughest aerial threats in the Premier League.
The problem is that the physical frontman unapologetically operates on the fringes of legality, having more fouls given against him than any other Premier League player in five of the last six seasons.
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His 20-minute England cameo did not produce a goal, but he did get a yellow card – his sixth of the season, following bookings in five consecutive Bolton matches.
That is three times his goal tally in the current campaign, after strikes against Birmingham and Aston Villa.
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It would, however, be most unfair to extend Davies’ questionable definition of hold-up play to Owen Coyle’s side as a collective.
The former Burnley boss arrived with a brief to transform Bolton’s style and move away from the route one tactics which were instilled by Sam Allardyce – and he has already made huge strides in his mission.
While the Trotters are still threatening in the air and dangerous from set pieces, the high ball now comes from wide areas in the final third, rather than flying straight up from the back.
Coyle has a hard-working but talented midfield at his disposal, with Matt Taylor, Stuart Holden and Chung-Yong Lee all capable of creating and scoring goals.
The full-backs, Paul Robinson and Gretar Steinsson, are encouraged to get forward and there is also a solid core to Coyle’s side – English centre-backs Zat Knight and Gary Cahill ably protect goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, and Fabrice Muamba provides an extra insurance policy in midfield.
A well-organised Bolton outfit have lost just two of their 10 league games, against Arsenal and Liverpool, with their only home defeat coming against Roy Hodgson’s side in a late 1-0 loss on Sunday.
Coyle also seems to have got the best out of Sweden international striker Johan Elmander, who has netted four times this season after building an increasingly profitable partnership with Davies.
JournalSport verdict: Spurs have only won one of their last 13 visits to the Reebok Stadium, losing seven of their trips to face the Trotters since 1996.
Both meetings in Lancashire ended in draws last season, in league and FA Cup, and this looks like another one.