It may not be the ideal preparation, but the managerial unrest at Bolton is set to galvanise the team for tonight's trip to Arsenal. Futures are at stake and the players know that nothing will impress whoever takes over from Gary Megson more than a positive result at the Emirates Stadium.
Paul Robinson, the Bolton full-back, summed up the mood of determination within their ranks. "We are all fighting for our shirts," he said. "We know it will be tough against Arsenal, but we have to go there and be professional. "All the pressure is on Arsenal and we will try to take the game to them." The arrival of Owen Coyle as manager will certainly help, with the Scotsman reaffirming yesterday his desire to leave Burnley to take over at the Reebok Stadium.
He was expected to replace Megson at the helm last night, despite the late attempt by Burnley to persuade him to stay at Turf Moor. Coyle wanted the post when Megson was appointed in October 2007, but was passed over and recommended to Burnley instead. But Bolton are a club who hold fond memories for him as a former player and, despite their lowly position in the bottom three, one where he feels he will have the resources to make an impression.
Greitar Steinsson thinks so too, as the Icelandic right-back added: "We have a lot of exciting players and the new manager will have plenty of options to work with." With a day to prepare for Arsene Wenger's third-placed side, it will be a baptism of fire for any manager. But this is the sort of challenge Coyle will thrive upon and the reason why Bolton were so eager to get him. Those characteristics have been evident during his impressive tenure as Manchester United and the Gunners found to their cost against the league's newcomers.
The 1-0 win over Sir Alex Ferguson's champions will be an endearing highlight of his time with the Clarets. As will the spirited 1-1 home draw against Arsenal last month. They were the only points Wenger's men have dropped in their past six league games. As fate would have it, Coyle played when Bolton last triumphed at Arsenal, 3-1 in 1994. Yet it will take something special and inspirational to stop Arsenal at the moment.
There is commitment to go with the class in Arsene Wenger's side. If they can achieve a fifth consecutive victory tonight they will move to within a point of the leaders Chelsea as they look for their first title since 2004. firstname.lastname@example.org Arsenal v Bolton, K0 11.45pm, Showsports 1 & 2