Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bolton Wdrs v Swansea City, Match preview, PL.

Back to the Future?

Having already visited the Reebok Stadium once this year already, when we subsided to an ultimately disappointing FA Cup ejection, our League visit on Saturday promises to have a great deal more at stake.

Not, happily, as much for us as them maybe, since our win at Home against Blackburn put us back into both form and a more comfortable League position, but certainly for Bolton, who will see this as a crucial opportunity to pick up some points in their quest for PL survival this year.

For a side that's spent the last few years comfortable in their PL status it comes as something of a shock - earlier in the Season they looked as if they would be beyond this struggling battle, but, subsequent to the truly horrible bad luck that struck both Fabrice Muamba ( a key player) and the Club, they have struggled to come to terms with the sufficient accumulation of points to allow them to relax a little.

Needless to say, one of the better things to have happened this past week saw Fabrice Muamba, mercifully, released from Hospital, and all of Football wishes him nothing other than our best wishes in his continuing fight toward a decent life.

Just a lovely photo, and best wishes from all of Swansea City and its JackArmy.

It does us well sometimes to take 5m out of our wonderful game and contemplate the seriousness of the rest of life - still, that's what makes this such a fantastic feast for all of us fans - it takes us away from the reality and engages us with flashes of better things. Respect, all round.

A word of admiration, too, to a club that realises it has both a duty and regard to us, the Fans, and who set their prices accordingly. Never the best supported in a hugely competitive market given their geographic location, they have always led the way on realistic pricing, and the levels for this match, at £15 adults; £10 Under-21s; £5 Under-18s; £10 Over-65s are both very welcome and very fair.

Well done Bolton Wanderers, and a lot of clubs could learn from this.

Both Owen Coyle and Brendan Rodgers, two of the more realistic managers in this cut-throat division, are unlikely to let their squads operate on any fanciful level, so we are almost guaranteed to see a passionate fixture, with both teams going full out to win the points, which is, I like to think, as PL football ought to be, in reflection almost of that self same real world.

Bolton's last fixture was at Newcastle on the 9th of this month, their game against Tottenham being put back because of Spurs Cup involvement, so whilst most teams have just 4 or 5 left to go, they have 6. We will face Wolves and Liverpool at the Lib, and travel to Man Utd as well as today.

Bolton go from this fixture v us to a schedule that sees them face Villa, Sunderland and Stoke away, plus Tottenham and West Brom at the Reebok after us.

Thus, it strikes me, compared to some other fixture lists from the clubs from Villa downwards, which, it's generally conceded is where the doomed are currently competing, theirs is one of the better run-ins, not only from individual match ups (which seem OK), but that they've got 2 more games in which to do it.

There is no doubt that they have missed the absent through injury Stuart Holden and Chung-Yong Lee more than most, and their last line up, in that Newcastle fixture was .....
01 Bogdan, 02 Steinsson, 18 Ricketts, 31 Wheater, 32 Ream, 07 Eagles (Miyaichi - 78' ), 10 Petrov, 16 M Davies, 19 Reo-Coker Booked, 21 Pratley (Klasnic - 82' ), 14 K Davies (Ngog - 78' )
22 Jaaskelainen, 03 Alonso, 12 Knight, 17 Klasnic, 24 Ngog, 29 Sordell, 30 Miyaichi

....set out in a 4-5-1 formation with Bogdan in Goal, Steinsson, Wheater, Ream and Rickets across the back, a middle 5 of Eagles, Davis, Pratley, Reo-Coker and Petrov, with Kevin Davies leading the line.

I had been fascinated by the prospective game between Arsenal and Wigan on last Monday evening, particularly since it seemed prior to that game that Wolves and Blackburn were almost gone, and the third space was between Wigan / QPR / Bolton / Villa, but this League regularly throws a spanner into the works, and this was no exception.

Needless to say, it doesn't do to take anything for granted in the fantastic division, since we sat there 9m in and Wigan were 2-0 up at the Emirates. Wow, what would transpire?

That's why you should never, ever take for granted anything in the amazing twists and turns - Wigan, after their 2-1 victory, now look favourites to survive from the bottom few - and who'd have said that before their remarkable wins against both Man Utd and Arsenal in the last week.

On 34 pts, they stand 5 pts in advance of Bolton, albeit on 2 games more, but a crucial 3 ahead of QPR on the same number of games. 4/5 games to go then, and nothing is decided for the 3rd relegation place. What a season!

Back to our upcoming game, and that previously enumerated Bolton side.

Adam Bogdan in Goal has managed to keep out Jussi Jaaskaleinen, one of the PL's better keepers over the last 10 yrs, so soundness there, despite his bright ginger hair.

The back 4 now has David Wheater, ex- Middlesborough, partnered by Tim Ream, a US International signed in the January window in the middle at CB. Wheater is a player much lauded in the English game, and whilst he is a real threat at attacking free kicks and set pieces, often scoring crucial goals, he has always been seen as somewhat flaky in defence when put under the cosh. Ream is still learning the English game, and whilst competent from what I've seen, remains vulnerable for his very newness.

The FB's were the experienced Gretar Steinsson, who goes forward well, and our old friend Sam Ricketts, an experienced pro who lets nobody down, ourselves included.

There is strength across the middle, from the aggressive Chris Eagles on the right, acquired from Burnley, and always able to contribute special moments in going forward, to the perennially tricksy Martin Petrov on the left, the Bulgarian international being capable of winning games from assists and shots (dead ball specialist), although he can be attacked going back to his own goal area.

The middle 3 that day were the rock-hard Nigel Reo-Coker, who assumes the defensive responsibility in this system, the creator Mark Davis, who may be in line for their Player of the Year, and the forever running Darren Pratley, late of this parish, and forever remembered for that goal. Well done Prats.

Reo-Coker came from West ham via Villa, and has always been a sound defensive shield in MF, with the capability to get forward when need be.Tackles, works, grafts.

Mark Davis has had an excellent season - developing into the nearest Holden substitute they could have wished for, picked up from Wolves, this is a creative, skillful adversary, who always threatens to both give vision and execute.

Prats is Prats, as we know - he will run all day, not always to best effect, but always with his heart on his sleeve, and people forget how much his undying enthusiasm and effort can bring to a side that needs example of that commitment. He is no Mark Davis for instance, but it's wrong to forget that Mark Davis is no Darren Pratley either.

Up front was one of the PL's most persistent and everlasting forwards, Kevin Davies. Very often, over the past 10 yrs, he has been both the PL's most fouling player, and the the PL's most fouled player too. In other words, he gives as good as he gets. A sort of "you-kick-me" and an "I'll-kick-you" guarantee. For all that, although visibly fading this year (maybe one season too many) , he remains an inspiration when things are not going quite right, and a threat to score, still. Excellent in the air.

The Bench carried some interesting players - primarily Ryio Myachi, on loan from Arsenal, and a technical and gifted dribbler/wide man that has shown already this season some game winning assists.

Similarly, Ivan Klasnic, the victor over some major health issues who remains a key introductee when he comes on late to change the outcome of games. He sat next to David N'Gog, bought from Liverpool, but this highly rated French Youngster has never gone on to even get close to his "future Thierry Henry" tag of yesteryear.

All in all, a balanced and deserving squad that really should be doing better than it is. So what's the reason for their apparent downfall?

Well, goalscoring has been a problem - they have 30 in total, 19 at Home, 11 Away, so compared to our 38, 22 at Home, 16 Away......the key comes in concession. At Home, this team has conceded 32 times- more than twice our 14 - so at least we have a target.

The victory last week against Blackburn saw us return to a pattern of persistent aggression - a performance that had both tempo and commitment at its heart, since this is what we do best.

I've made the point that it gave the lie to any claim that we can only play one way, and that we "don't have a plan B". Plan B is the implementation of varied patterns and tempo of play. We were all glad to see the clever use of space, and delighted to see balls over the top when needed, so , patience, please, we Swans fans - this team is good enough to work it out on the day.

Given the Manager's confidence in his seemingly first choice XI, I would be more than surprised to see any change in personnel for our delighted Swans. Still, Brendan Rodgers has out flanked me on many occasions this year, and as I'm fond of repeating - what do I know? Whatever, I think most of us will go with it, although if he wanted to really really shock us, I guess that a rest for Michel Vorm would do the job admirably.

Relax, it ain't going to happen.

As I've said previously, this will be a fixture where Bolton Wanderers will give it their all. Let's hope that we are good enough to resist this, and then to play sufficient decent football, of which we're well capable, to come away with the win. A share of the points would not be so hard to bear either.

Please have a good day/weekend all you travelling Jacks, this time it's the Internet for me I'm afraid, and let's hope we can come back to say, as we ever do,

Onward, Swansea City.

Last week's win v Blackburn made sure that neither they, nor Wolverhampton Wanderers, can catch us. Even were they to win all of their games, and we were to lose all of ours, their points total would not be enough. QPR, facing Tottenham on Saturday at Home, followed by Chelsea away, Stoke Home and Man City Away, have only to drop 1 pt and then we are mathematically safe. Similarly, a point for us in our last 4 games would do the same. Personally, I
think that's the likely scenario.

A myriad other outcomes are possible given the involvement of other struggling clubs, but it would be really nice to crow a little. None of these need concern us. Ah well, it'll come soon enough.

Bravo, Swansea City, and welcome Reading, next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A fantastic and well written preview to what i'm sure will be a nailbiting game for us Bolton fans. I fear we are done for if you beat us. Congratulations on a great season in the PL, Swansea fully deserve to be in the mix again next year. I hope BWFC get the win, but i'm predicting a score draw. Safe trip to the Swansea fans and hope they enjoy the game