It appears Owen Coyle was destined to face Arsenal in his first game in charge as the Bolton manager. It is a huge test for someone who has a major challenge ahead of him. His initial agreement to leave Burnley for Bolton came on the day of their proposed league game at the Emirates Stadium.
But bad weather meant the game was called off and Coyle will now get the chance to see how his new side perform home and away against a side "that is a role model for any young manager". The Reebok will host the Gunners today before the return encounter on Wednesday. "You look at the way Arsene Wenger has built that club and the style of play. I am a big admirer of them," said Coyle. "Arsenal can hold their own against the very best and they are in the last four of the Champions League nearly every year because of the quality they possess. We have to make sure that we are ready to match that.
"There's no doubt that Arsenal back-to-back is a baptism of fire, but these are games that we believe we can win. "We know their strengths far outweigh their weaknesses. We have to nullify those threats. What we have to do is show pride and what it means to play for Bolton." Coyle says the "players are singing from the same hymn sheet" already, including the captain Kevin Davies, who will be pivotal to his team's chances of avoiding relegation.
"The lads' reaction to the appointment of the new manager has been great and everyone is looking sharp and enjoying the football we are playing," said Davies. The forward has continually troubled the best defences with Bolton's more direct style. Yet it will be interesting to see how he fits in as Coyle plans to play a passing game that was so attractive at Burnley. It is a game that Wenger will not relish. The type that can eventually determine the outcome of a championship.
With Sol Campbell, who was officially confirmed as an Arsenal player yesterday, still to regain match fitness before he can play, Arsenal will have two key players back to strengthen his side in the shape of Gael Clichy, the pacy full-back whose runs down the left have been missed, and their inspiration captain, Cesc Fabregas. His last league appearance was memorable when a 27-minute cameo and two goals ended Aston Villa's resistance on December 27.
When Coyle's Burnley held Arsenal 1-1 in earlier in December, it was significant that Fabregas went off injured after scoring. Wenger is convinced few can cope with his team if they play to their optimum level. "When you are a good team and play well, you can win everywhere in the world," he said. "Any team are awkward at the moment for everybody and every team are highly motivated against us and we are used to that.
"We know if we play at our best, then we can win, no matter what happens with Bolton. We will focus on that." email@example.com Bolton v Arsenal, KO 8pm, Showsports 1 & 2