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Arsenal v. Bolton: Preview

AWOL: This guy.
AWOL: This guy.

Confession time: I completely forgot about this match until 15 minutes ago. Let's blame it on PTSD from our last visit to the Emirates. Regardless of my failing memory, this is not a match to look forward to. I do try to maintain optimism, but Bolton are making that very difficult right now. Another loss would not surprise me in the least. That said, it's not all doom and gloom.

This is the Carling Cup, and while it's a competition that Arsenal are no strangers with, they're unlikely to play a full strength side, especially given the weekend's match with Chelsea. And that's about where the encouraging points end. The stats ahead of this match all point to an Arsenal victory: they have yet to lose at the Emirates in the League Cup, in the last 7 home matches in this competition they've scored 21 goals and only conceded 3, and the last time they went out in the fourth round was in 1999 on penalties.

That coupled with the state of the club at present make for a grim looking match. If the same team that played against Sunderland shows up, we won't lose to Arsenal again, we'll lose to the Arsenal reserves. Hopefully Coyle recognises this as a chance not to play a weakened side necessarily, but a different one. The team has looked most successful when playing a 4-5-1, the midfield simply needs the extra man to put together any significant spells of possession, and too often this season one of our strike pair has been redundant. I'd like to see a midfield of Gael Kakuta - Mark Davies - Tuncay Sanli - Fabrica Muamba - Chris Eagles. That combination both has the muscle to at least compete in the midfield battle and the creativity to do something with that possession when it's won.

Up top recently David Ngog has looked like the most viable option. Kevin Davies hasn't really shown up all season and Ivan Klasnic appears to have accidentally scored all of his allotted goals in the first 3 games. The back four will be interesting as Coyle will be forced into a change by Dedryck Boyata's ineligibility. He will either bring back Gretar Steinsson, who hasn't even been making the bench of late, or have Paul Robinson pretend to be a right back while Gardner deputises the left side. The only place I wouldn't advocate change is the centrebacks, Gary Cahill and David Wheater have made a good team especially in the light of the fact they received little to no help from the rest of the team.

Never has the name Bolton Wanderers felt more appropriate, as the club is rather lost now. But wouldn't a win at the Emirates exactly a month after a loss there be a good story line? And what if it launched a superb run of form? I'm going to choose to indulge in this fantasy, because the only way to survive as a Trotters fan these days is to be a touch delusional.