Workmanlike Holden Helps Bolton to 4-2 Win

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MAY 16:  Stuart Holden #22 of the Houston Dynamo looks on against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on May 16, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Houston and New York play to a 1-1 Tie.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bull)

In the last month, Tottenham Hotspur beat perennial Champions League contender Manchester United, 2010 Champions League holders Inter Milan, and last year’s Europa League runners-up Fulham. Today, Spurs lost 4-2 to Bolton Wanderers, who traditionally have to fight tooth and nail just to stay in the top flight. Bolton have been better than usual this campaign and Spurs were without Rafael van der Vaart, but the result was still shocking.

As has been the case all season, Stuart Holden was instrumental to Bolton’s success. Holden’s role, after eleven league matches, is quite clear. He needs to swing the ball to wingers Chung-Yong Lee or Martin Petrov (Matt Taylor replaced Petrov today), put in hard challenges when the opposition is in possession, and make sure he is involved on the edge of both boxes.

His tackling and passes chalkboards show that he accomplished all three tasks.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Against Spurs, Holden also demonstrated another necessary skill – the ability to track opposing midfielder’s runs. As could be seen in Thursday’s New York/San Jose clash, failing to follow attackers as they move into the box can easily lead to goals. This is not a flaw of Holden’s. He often followed opponents right to the edge of Bolton’s penalty area.

The only blemish on Holden’s performance was giving up the free kick that led to Tottenham’s second goal. I even tweeted to that effect. In hindsight, however, it’s clear that Holden was only partially at fault. His midfield cohort Fabrice Muamba failed to track Gareth Bale’s run from midfield, forcing a series of switches that ended with Holden putting in a hard challenge on Alan Hutton. Had Muamba stayed with Bale, Holden wouldn’t have needed to cover Hutton.

Maybe Stu needs to teach Muamba – and Rafa Marquez – how to track opponents’ runs.

Gringos, were you watching ESPN early this morning? What’d you think of Holden’s performance?

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