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Fireside Chats: Tranmere 1-3 Bolton

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Coyle probably didn't make this face in his post-match interview. Probably.
Coyle probably didn't make this face in his post-match interview. Probably.

Of course, it's always easier to go back and dissect a win rather than a loss, figuring out what went right is a lot more fun than what went wrong. However, even with a win, there's a lot to criticise. The goals, although copious, only came from one player. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but is certainly one to watch. Also the first two goals from Benik Afobe were fairly opportunist, a positive in the sense that he has that killer instinct, but it should not be taken as an indication of Bolton dominance in the match itself.

Owen Coyle was, unsurprisingly, incessantly positive in his post-match interview,

"We rotated through the squad again because the whole purpose of pre-season matches is to get game time, and I was pleased with our all-round performance. We were disappointed with our showing against Portsmouth and I said I wanted a reaction.

"We had a good first half and then kicked on in the second. We want to be bedding in good habits at this stage and ensure we get to our maximum. We passed and moved the ball well, there was a lot of good play and we created a number of chances over the 90 minutes."

He also spoke more specifically on a subject that has been really weighing on Wanderers' minds recently: where the goals this season will come from.

"It was good to have Marvin [Sordell] back. He was sharp and looked very good, while Benik showed that not only is he lightning quick but that he has great skill and has an eye for goal. What we have now, with the skipper [Kevin Davies] and David [Ngog], is a good mix of styles up front and bearing in mind that a number of players didn't feature tonight. Marcos [Alonso] and Joe [Riley] came in and Andy Lonergan got 90 minutes - so we saw what strength in depth we have.

"I want players pushing for places. They have to earn the right to wear the shirt and then make sure that they keep hold of it. When you have this type of competition it can only benefit the football club."

He makes a good point in terms of the spread of strikers. There are two relative veterans in the squad, Kevin Davies and David Ngog (although the latter is only 23), and two up-and-comers. in the form of Marvin Sordell and now Benik Afobe. Neither Afobe nor Sordell have been available through much of the preseason, for various reasons, and so the Bolton strike force is looking a little more solid now.

Afobe himself has been put on the spot after his hat-trick last night, his first in about a year, and Bolton's first in a very long time indeed. He spoke with the official site, and kept stressing how easy it was to come into the club and begin to play with the team, which so far looks to be true. He spoke about coming to the club, including the rough-and-tumble reputation earned by Kevin Davies,

"I asked Jack about that story. It's true, and a few of the lads have been telling me the same. It's fine by me. I've been watching the skipper play for many years in the Premier League and I even remember him at Southampton as a good player. I'll be talking to him at training and trying to pick up tips, hoping to pick up on his work-rate, and his hold-up play is unbelievable, so he's someone I think I can definitely learn from.

"He has had a good career so far and I'd like to think I can work with him and get results to help me in my career at Arsenal. There are some good strikers here - I watched David Ngog come through at Liverpool and in France and Marvin Sordell, who I've seen in the (England) Under-21s, he's a good finisher. I can improve at this club."

It's clear that Afobe has already scoped out his striking competition and wants to come out on top. The point of the loan from his point of view, is obviously to develop as a player, something which is difficult to do from the bench. The path from Arsenal to Bolton has already been paved, by Jack Wilshere and Ryo Miyaichi with varying success. Wilshere had an excellent time at Bolton, both improving himself and showing that he had something that was worth looking at. Upon his return to Arsenal, he became an integral part of that team. Miyaichi was much less successful in this, not managing to break into the team as much. Afobe also said a few words on this subject,

"Jack's one of my best friends, not just at Arsenal but in life, and he told me to get up here and enjoy it. Ryo (Miyaichi) said exactly the same. I've known Jack since I was eight years old. He came back from Bolton a better player and that's the plan for me - to be more mature on and off the pitch, living and learning, It's going to be hard but it's something I'm looking forward to. I want to play in front of big crowds and win games. Hopefully that will also mean Bolton has done well and we get back into the Premiership"

If Afobe can make anything like the impact that young Jack did, then we're looking forward to it too.