Tottenham Hotspur vs Bolton Wanderers, Saturday 17th March 2012, White Hart Lane, 5.30pm kick off, ESPN & ESPN HD
THFC1882 is pleased to welcome back Adam Nathan for his preview of the FA Cup Quarter-Final game, a game that could prove to be a pivotal point for the rest of Tottenham’s season.
Bolton Wanderers arrive at the Lane on Saturday evening to take on a Tottenham side who have had one of their worst months in recent memory. Banishing thoughts of a disastrous period in the Premier League in order to focus on the cup is an absolute must, but as the thousands of Spurs fans arrive in N17 at the weekend, they would be forgiven for having more than one eye on the absolutely crucial league fixture against Stoke on Wednesday night. That is not to diminish the importance of the cup by one iota. The FA Cup is a bastion of footballing tradition across the globe, and we would celebrate a victory at Wembley on the 5th of May with unbridled joy, but even Chas and Dave would forgive the Spurs faithful if their celebrations of a (hopeful) win on Saturday were slightly clipped, with the memory of three awful weekends still fresh in the mind.
Everyone has had their say on the past three games, so further analysis would be futile. Whether the focus of your anger is aimed at the manager, players, coaching staff or the new evil Chirpy, what is clear is that something has gone very wrong, and the sooner we can get ourselves back on track the better. My personal opinion is that everyone at the club has seemed to take their eye off the ball by a few crucial percent (well, perhaps not the mascot), and as a result, the whole club has struggled. The England job issues have done us no favours whatsoever, but as a nation we should be used to utter ineptitude from the FA and be looking to ignore it at all costs. Naturally that is a very utopian view of the situation, but if we continue to let the issue cast a dark cloud over the club, we will continue on our downward spiral.
Therefore, whilst the league may be firmly on all of our minds, the game this weekend could hopefully provide a bit of respite and allow the players to get back to doing what they do best; playing top quality football. With Bolton embroiled in a tussle at the bottom, they should provide a perfect opposition for us to get back on track. That is not to say that it will be an easy game, far from it, but I would certainly expect the Trotters to sit back, allow us plenty of possession and invite us to break them down, just the kind of opposition that we enjoyed so much success against in the early stages of the season. Saturday’s game represents a real opportunity to get our best players back on the ball for long periods of the game, return to a slick passing game and get some confidence pumping through our battered veins once again.
With regard to selection, I would hope to see a very strong team striding out of the tunnel at 5:25. Some may argue that resting players for Wednesday would be wise, but I think that would be a bad move; we have never been particularly eye-catching in FA cup ties under Harry for whatever reason, and labouring to a hard-fought victory with half a side would only raise more doubts about the Stoke and Chelsea games to follow. We need a return to the style that so dismantled Newcastle in early February to breathe life and optimism into the club again, and to do that we need a full team out.
Whether or not that happens of course is a completely different matter, and as usual, the Van Der Vaart or Defoe debate will no doubt rear it’s ugly head again. The Dutchman has his doubters of course, but I would hope that many of them were forced to reconsider their opinions after his substitute appearance against Everton last week. That was the performance of a true winner and a true professional. The way in which he demanded the ball and almost moved the whole game twenty yards closer to the opposition goal was a joy to watch, and whilst Bale and Modric are probably better players than Rafa, they don’t even come close to his mentality and level of professionalism when the chips are down. Defoe on the other hand has actually been very good when called upon this year. He looks stronger and more of a threat against better opposition, especially at home, and his two goals against Stevenage would give him a strong case to continue his good FA Cup form. Starting the two of them will be a difficult one to manage unless Van Der Vaart begins the game from wide right (well, at least it won’t be Bale), but I’d be inclined to return to a team as close to the one that was so devastating between September and December. The right side of midfield presents a problem, but I’d like to see us set up with Bale, Modric and Van Der Vaart behind Adebayor and Parker and Sandro sitting in midfield. That formation doesn’t have to be defensive, as we showed away to Norwich and Wigan, and I think it is the best way to solve the issue of Lennon being injured. In terms of what the team will be however, I would not be surprised to see Adebayor and Defoe start up front with a midfield four of Van Der Vaart, Modric, Livermore and Bale. At the back I’d expect to see Walker, Nelsen, Kaboul and Ekotto protecting the goal of Carlo Cudicini.
Probable line up:
As for Bolton, you will have to forgive me for not offering a predicted line-up as I have seen very little of them in the cup this year, but I’d expect the dangerous Klasnic to return to the side in place of David N’gog after his goalscoring appearance last weekend. Mark Davies will certainly give the defence problems if allowed time and space, and we will have to watch out for the blistering pace of Arsenal loanee Ryo Miyachi who has had an excellent start to his Premier League career in the North West.
Overall, I desperately hope that we use Saturday’s game as a launch pad for the rest of the season. The last three weeks have made for painful viewing, and a home game in the cup with the prospect of a Wembley appearance should be more than enough to get White Hart Lane rocking again and our beloved team back on track. If we start the game as we did against Newcastle then I’d expect us to run out comfortable winners, especially with Bolton having to focus primarily on staying the division, so I’m going to plump for a 4-1 Spurs win. A result and performance like that would give the whole club a huge boost and do wonders in our quest for Champions League football again next year.
Come on you Spurs
Adam ( @adamdnathan on Twitter )
The opposing fan’s view this week comes from Dominic Walsh and I’ll let him introduce himself.
My name is Dominic Walsh and I’ve been following Bolton for around 24 years. I have seen many ups and downs in that time. The ups have largely outweighed the downs though. When I was younger I used to love going to the game to watch John McGinlay and Andy Walker score goals for fun. It was also great being the team that upset the bigger teams in the cup for a few years. Between 1993 and 1994 we beat Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Aston Villa andNorwichas a team lower in the league. This era was a major turning point for Bolton. We got our first promotion to the Premier League in 1995 and reached the Coca Cola Cup Final.
In recent years, Sam Allardyce brought arguably some of the greatest players in world football to the Reebok. Seeing Jay Jay Okocha run around in a Bolton shirt alongside Youri Djorkaeff was truly amazing for a lad like me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would happen after some of the gloomy afternoons as part of small crowds at Burnden Park watching us play in division 3.
Under Sam Allardyce we enjoyed some of our greatest moments. Following his departure we have struggled an awful lot but under Owen Coyle last season things seemed to be looking up.
This time last year Bolton were riding the crest of a wave in the league and looking forward to a quarter final trip to Birmingham. That day ended being many Bolton fan’s favourite game of last season. Lee Chung Yong dispensing a 90th minute winner at the away end in front of a 5000 strong away following was truly incredible. Unfortunately, our season and fortunes took a severe downward turn not to long after.
At the same stage this season we are fighting a relegation battle and showing extreme inconsistency in performance in addition to missing some of the great players that helped us defeat Birmingham last year at this stage.
In recent weeks Bolton have been lining up with a 4-5-1 formation with David N’Gog leading the line as Kevin Davies has fallen a little out of favour due to a poor first half of the season. Down the flanks, Arsenal loanee Ryo Miyaichi has shown some great touches of brilliance and some stunning pace. I think he could provide us with plenty of chances in this game as well as in the rest of the games in the end of season run in. On the flipside, Chris Eagles has been Mr Inconsistency; one great game to three or four not so great. Martin Petrov has a great ability to deliver a killer ball into the box but again hasn’t shown it on a regular basis.
In the centre, Owen Coyle has been prone to chopping and changing quite a bit. Mark Davies has grown in confidence this year and is finally showing some of the promise that made, the now unemployed again, Gary Megson sign him from Wolves. He has been one of our main attacking threats. Fabrice Muamba and Darren Pratley seem to be rotating a fair bit alongside the ‘stand in’ captain and largely ever present, Nigel Reo-Coker.
At the back, we have had Tim Ream in our ranks for a few weeks since Gary Cahill joined Chelsea. He joined us from New York Red Bulls in January. He has been paired with Zat Knight or David Wheater and they have been assisted in the full back positions by Gretar Steinsson and Sam Ricketts.
I think we will keep the 4-5-1 formation for the game with the two wide players making a forward 3 in attack. Who Owen Coyle will start with will be tricky. He may choose to rest a few ‘key’ players with a view to ensuring Premier League survival. Tuncay may come into the fold in the attacking line along with Marcos Alonso making a return from injury in defence at left back. I would expect to see Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic at some point during the game to. It would be nice to progress with a win and build some momentum going into the last few games of the season.
As much as I would love to see us get something from the game, I can’t see us getting the win. In all honesty, I want to ensure we stay in the countries top division this year. I think we will and I think we will build well next season. If I was to predict a score I’d go for the home win. Maybe 3-1. This being the cup though, I guess anything can happen!
Dominic ( @bwfcdom83 on Twitter )
Many thanks to both Adam and Dominic for previewing the game for us.
So Spurs go into the game as favourites but both teams you could say have other things on their mind at present. This is the FA Cup though and Wembley is calling!
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