Key changes from the meeting 5 weeks ago for our visitors have seen Chris Eagles and Kevin Davies fall out of favour with Martin Petrov now back in the left midfield slot and David Ngog deployed alongside Klasnic in a 4-4-2. Keeper Jaaskalanien is a major doubt for this one meaning that reserve keeper Bogdan could get the nod. His only previous appearance this season was calamitous with 2 comedy errors and 5 goals conceded within an hour of their home game with Chelsea. For ourselves, Drenthe, Coleman and Fellaini could all return after being absent from the Hawthorns win. I would expect Drenthe and Fellaini to start, probably at the expense of Phil Neville and Jonny Heitinga. Landon Donovan is available for selection but I would expect him to start from the bench. Anichebe should also get a slot on the bench as he continues to build up his fitness.
If we are to prolong our 4 game unbeaten run we will need to match Bolton in terms of application. Owen Coyle’s men make the most interceptions per game (18) and the 3rd most tackles per game (21) in the top flight – mostly due to them predominately not being in possession. This combative approach has got Wanderers into trouble this season, leading to them accumulating more red cards (5) than any other side. The amount of free kicks they concede in and around their final third could provide rich pickings for Baines and Drenthe deliveries into the box as only Stoke win more aerial duels per game than ourselves.
Our hosts will look to play direct – they average 72 long balls per game- only Norwich and Spurs play more per match. Due to this approach, they register a pass completion of 72% which is quite low – in comparison only Stoke and Blackburn post a lower total in the top flight. Faced with a side who plays a lot of long balls the best strategy is to not press high but drop deeper and keep the lines of midfield and defence close together to win the second balls from kick outs, so positional discipline will be key. We have played direct at times this season ourselves, but the logical plan would be to keep things on the ground and push Osman further forward and have his quick feet running at Zat Knight. Bolton can play it on the ground too with Petrov providing a good range of delivery from the left with 4 assists to his name however he’s the kind of opponent Hibbert relishes coming up against in terms of direct running on the outside to his better right foot.
4.First Half Blues
We haven’t scored a goal in the first half of any of our last 7 games and we have only opened the scoring in the 1st half once this season at home so we are going to need to be patient in possession which we should dominate. From a betting point of view, Bolton have kept just one clean sheet in their last 35 Premier League away games so its unlikely they will keep us out. The chart (right) shows that Bolton concede the most shots per game in the league, whilst ourselves concede the fewest. Tips wise, perhaps a Draw H/T Everton F/T would seem a decent shout . Goodison games have averaged just 2.11 per game which is second only to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium in having seen fewer goals with 44% of our home games having finished 1-0 either way. This could be the most likely outcome on Wednesday night.
One aspect Moyes will perhaps look to tweak in the coming months is the high line we use at home. Recent games have seen us swell possession almost exclusively in the opposition half. Whilst this tactic has contributed to an upturn in results and keeping opposition sides a fair distance enough from our goal to restrict them to hardly any opportunities, it means there is little space to run into for our players whose principal asset is pace. With Drenthe and now Donovan ready to come into the side, we may need to look at moving the line back a tad to bring opposition defences out so we can exploit the space in behind. Either way, we at least now have the option of a plan A and plan B
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