Bolton, Holden Fall 4-1 to Arsenal

west ham's mark noble battles with bolton's stuart holden FA Barclays Premiership. West Ham United v Bolton Wanderers. 21.08.10 Photo By Karl Winter Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Match Summary: Arsenal 4 – Bolton Wanderers 1 (English Premier League)

In Bolton’s last Premier League match, the squad – despite playing with a man disadvantage – roared back from 2-0 deficit to earn a draw. There would not be similar heroics today. Trailing 2-1 in the 66th, Bolton center back Gary Cahill was sent off following an innocuous challenge, a development that ensured favored Arsenal would control the rest of the match. Given the home side’s superiority in the beginning and end of the game (they scored in the 24th, 58th, 78th, and 83rd minutes), the scoreline suggests Arsenal dominance throughout. But Bolton, after the first goal, made an adjustment that flummoxed the Gunners.

The visitors began the match in their normal 4-4-2, but as Arsenal’s midfield dominance became more pronounced (helped along by striker Chamakh’s role as a false-nine), Bolton manager Owen Coyle shifted outside midfielder Chung-Yong Lee inward and moved striker Johan Elmander to outside midfield, creating a nominal 4-2-3-1. However, Elmander’s positioning created a twist on a traditional 4-2-3-1, as he would often drift alongside forward Kevin Davies when Bolton was in possession. Had Cahill not been sent off, Bolton might have been able to pick up more than Elmander’s 44th minute consolation. As it stood, Arsenal resumed control after the center back’s dismissal and it was only a matter of time before the goals began to flow.

American Performance

Stuart Holden has been a permanent presence in Bolton’s starting XI this season and, in fact, the midfielder has only been off the field for 12 of their 360 minutes played (not including an early round tournament fixture). During the first three matches, he featured as half of a center midfielder pair, though today – as noted above – he spent a decent portion of the game as one of three center mids. Accordingly, this tactical change, along with Arsenal’s quality, forced Holden into a more defensive role than he is accustomed to. In Bolton’s previous three matches, Holden averaged 6 tackles per game. Today he took part in 12.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Though his defensive effort was commendable, he did have one momentary lapse that helped produce an Arsenal goal. In the 83rd, Holden failed to tightly press Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas, who used the space to pick out the run of striker Carlos Vela.  Granted, the match was all but decided at that point and Bolton were showing the inevitable weariness associated with playing a man down against a superior opponent. But a player of Fabregas’ quality should never be loosely marked.

Still, given the class of the opposition, Holden’s defensive work was more than acceptable.

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