Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bolton Wanderers v West Bromwich Albion (or That Damn Peter Odemwingie)

The Nigerian striker will be fit again to play Bolton on Boxing Day.  He is pivotal to what West Brom do, and will make things difficult for the Wanderers.  Not only does he score (6 goals in 11 matches), but his presence and intelligent movement creates space as well as opportunity for the Baggies' midfielders.

If I am honest, Odemwingie (pictured, right) is exactly the type of player Bolton tend to struggle against.  Of course, we have only kept one clean sheet all season, so I think it would be fair to say we struggle against most strikers.

These two clubs played to a draw a couple months ago, in a wide-open attacking match that was one of the finest spectacles of this season.  West Brom will have had two weeks to prepare for this match because of weather-related postponements, while Bolton are coming off an away loss in one of only three matches played last weekend.  Whether this provides an edge to either side on Sunday I am not sure, but going into a run of four matches in eleven days, we may see some squad rotation on both sides.

The weather has been ridiculous in the British Isles, well below freezing with a lot of snow.  It is absurd to play soccer in these conditions, but that is England.  I believe Owen Coyle will have to give some of the fringe players a chance over the next few weeks just to keep the most important stars from burning out.  In some areas, such as right-back, central midfield, and both wing positions, we have seen rotation in the last month or so, and I think that will continue.  Gretar Steinsson, Sam Ricketts, Stuart Holden, Mark Davies, Martin Petrov, and Matt Taylor have all missed matches recently, and I think each of them will only play three out of the four games over the festive period.

I am a little concerned about Zat Knight.  He has not looked to be feeling any effects of overuse, but he has not missed a match all season, and that could start to wear on him as we get up towards 40 games played.

Paul Robinson has also played a lot, and I think young Marcos Alonso, who is finally fit, will get at least one start in the coming weeks.  Hopefully he will play well and seize the starting position from the subpar Welshman.

Fabrice Muamba is probably the player we can least afford to rest, but he runs so much, and plays with such a high level of effort, that Coyle has to be careful with him.

The biggest concern is Lee Chung-yong (pictured, above).  Not only has he been playing non-stop for over two years, but he will be leaving in January to play for South Korea in the Asian Cup.  We knew that when we signed him, and I don't have any problem with him leaving.  However, the South Korean manager's goal is to win the tournament, not to make sure that Lee is fit and rested for the final three months of the Premier League season.  Maybe those goals are not mutually exclusive, we will see.  I have to admit though, I am looking forward to seeing a lot more of Rodrigo Moreno in the coming weeks.

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