Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool

We don't like to admit that randomness plays a big part in our lives.  Sure, we make comments about luck, or "the rub of the green," maybe even "the way the ball bounces," when we don't get what we want, but we hate to acknowledge, especially when things go well for us, that a part of it comes down to chance.

We could (unfortunately) see this a lot.
As far as football goes, a lot of that chance is dictated by schedule.  Bolton managed to get Manchester United and West Ham when they were struggling, and we got good results from those matches.  We also got Arsenal when they were going well, and we didn't get a result.

Sunday's match against Liverpool is shaping up that way.  The Reds look to finally be shaking out of their early season funk.  Fernando Torres is rounding into form.  A new ownership group has (temporarily I suspect) calmed their fanatical supporters.  Watching Liverpool's last few matches, I have just got the feeling that at some point, someone is going to get a hiding.

Ivan Klasnic

In a bit of disturbing off the pitch news, Croatian international Ivan Klasnic was apparently retained by the Greater Manchester Police and questioned regarding the alleged rape of a 17-year-old woman in Manchester City Centre.

Rape is a disgraceful action, and if Klasnic is guilty he should certainly spend a long period of time, if not the rest of his life, in prison.  At the very least, and this is before any confirmed information has been revealed, Klasnic is guilty of stunningly bad judgement.  Being alone with a 17-year-old girl at 4 AM is not a good idea in general, and really cannot lead to anything good.

Jim Brown is a former American football player, now in his 60's, who often counsels young athletes, particularly African-Americans from the inner city.  One of the first things he tells them is that between midnight and 6 AM, nothing good ever happens to a public figure, and if they stay home during this period of time, they are unlikely to have any off the field problems.  Footballers would be wise to follow this advice as well.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wigan Athletic v Bolton Wanderers

The two Lancashire clubs split the points at the DW Stadium.  If only they were so gregarious with the meat pies and sausage rolls...

This was probably a fair result.  Wigan's goal was offside, but they did have a few other opportunities.  Bolton on the other hand barely sent in any shots, when you would think the instruction going out on to the pitch would have been to shoot early and often, from all distances and angles, to test the shaky and dropped in August goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.  I would say he played a good game, but he didn't, he just wasn't tested at all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ali Al-Habsi

Wigan and Bolton play each other this week, and Wigan will not be allowed to use their on-loan goalkeeper.  This is a big blow for them.  Al-Habsi nearly single-handedly beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane earlier this season, and his insertion into the starting XI really kicked off a surge in form for the Latics.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brazilians in Europe

There are so many of them!  Everyone from AC Milan to Shahktar Donetsk has at least one or two Brazilians, often as many as seven or eight.  Some of the lesser known clubs from places like Romania have more than half of their team consisting of Brazilians.  Not a lot of defenders in that group though.  Or more importantly, holding midfielders.  Now I am not talking about destroyers, everyone has those, I am talking about cultured ballplayers who get stuck in, as the English would say, but also pull the strings and play the passes that create the opportunities for the more attacking players.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bolton v Stoke City

Many people are blaming the referee for Ivan Klasnic's eventful yet brief appearance on Saturday, particularly his flurry of yellow cards and resulting dismissal.  But I really don't see that the referee did anything wrong.  Klasnic (pictured, left) probably should have been sent off for grabbing a Stoke player by the throat before his first yellow.  He was out of control and has only himself to blame.

But back to the football itself.  This was a great game to watch, open and attacking on both sides.  And Bolton were able to grab all three points at the end following Klasnic's superb finish.  I suspect this may be the Croatian hitman's best role, that of a super sub in the final half hour or so.  In all honesty, I would rather see Kevin Davies make way for Klasnic at about the 70 minute mark, but we are unlikely to see a Johann Elmander and Klasnic partnership anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some Event at The New Wembley

At the start of England's match against Montenegro today Kevin Davies was the only forward on the bench for Fabio Capello.  This was because of injuries more than anything.  Gary Cahill was also on the bench, and you could argue, on current form, he has been better than either of the players in the starting XI this season.  Whether he is or not, one would have to say, the inclusion of 2 Bolton players in the England team verifies Capello's claim that he would choose his squad based upon the amount of playing time each player is receiving at his club, and what he is doing with those opportunities.

Davies did get off the bench, Cahill did not, and England were held at home.  I must admit, given the arrogance and sense of entitlement England supporters display, results like this are pretty enjoyable.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stuart Holden Starts for The USA

I thought Holden would be a breakout star for the US at the World Cup, but he didn't get on the pitch.  In hindsight, he wasn't really fit after a rushed recovery from a broken leg.  However, he has been a revelation for Bolton in the center of the midfield through the first two months of the season.  Holden gets to show his versatility tonight though, as he is starting on the right wing for the US against Poland. 

I just hope he doesn't get injured again on international duty.  His poise on the ball and distribution in midfield is critical to the way Bolton play under Owen Coyle.  And let's face it, in between World Cups the US has a 3 year lull until qualifying for the next tournament begins.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kevin Davies for England!!!

A few years ago Bolton beat Manchester United 1-0, and Kevin Davies, playing wide to the right of Nicolas Anelka, absolutely battered Patrice Evra.  There were several questionable challenges and incidents of the ball between the two players, and in all honesty both deserved to be sent off.  It was Davies at his best and worst.

I was feeling the need to gloat about this victory on the following Monday, so I phoned World Soccer Daily, a North American call-in show, to taunt one of the hosts, Howard, who was a Manchester United supporter.  As soon as I got on the air I shouted, facetiously, "Kevin Davies for England!"  Howard, irritated at his team's defeat, proceeding to rant about Davies' inadequacies for a good long while before his broadcast partner explained to him that I was joking.  Unfortunately for England fans, the joke is on them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers

The second half of this match was some of the best football you are ever going to see.  Just a thrilling, end-to-end affair, the technical ability, the tackling, managers matching wits, it was all there.  A great advertisement for the game, as well as for the new positive attacking mentality that has been present at many clubs who would have previously been expected to pack it in and play for a draw.  In all honesty, it was far greater spectacle than the Chelsea v Arsenal snoozefest down in London.

A draw was probably a fair result, although both clubs had several opportunities to secure all three points.  Martin Petrov may have got a deflected goal against Manchester United, but he appears to have left his scoring boots in a brothel somewhere outside Sophia.  One player I really want to mention for West Brom is Peter Odemwingie (pictured, below).  He has been a absolute revelation since he arrived, and it was a real coup for Roberto Di Matteo to sign him.

In my season preview, I wrote of West Brom;

They count on midfielders Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans to provide the goals, as principal striker Roman Bednar just can't get it done at this level. Brunt is only 25, a Northern Irish international who has always shown a knack for scoring goals, and Di Matteo will rely heavily on him.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Will the Real Wigan Athletic Please Stand Up?

Many people had Wigan dead and buried after they opened the season with a 4-0 loss to Blackpool and a 6-0 shellacking by Chelsea, but I was confident in my preseason prediction that they would finish somewhere between 13th and 16th, as long as they kept their best players and dropped goalkeeper Chris Kirkland for on loan Bolton stopper Ali Al-Habsi (pictured, right).

Well, they kept their best players, Al-Habsi came in against Tottenham, where he played an absolute blinder and led them to an epic 1-0 victory, and today the Latics played a huge match at home against fellow lower table club Wolves.  It is too early in the season to panic, but it is this sort of match, at home against a relegation struggler, that teams look back on and regret not getting three points from in May.