Ahead of tomorrow’s game against Bolton, Chris Mann from the excellent Bolton blog, Burnden Aces, has shared his thoughts on tomorrow’s game, which Chelsea player he would most like at Bolton and Gary Cahill’s chances of success.
Mowing Meadows: Chelsea have won 12 of their last 14 games against Bolton and haven’t been beaten by them since 2003. Do you fancy your chances of putting a stop to that record now more than ever?
Burden Aces: If there’s one thing Bolton have been good at down the years, it’s handing out victories to teams who are desperately in need of one. You could call us the Premier League’s charity case as I can’t remember the last time we really took the game to a struggling side and won.
The latest example came earlier in the month against Wigan. We would go seven points clear of them with a win and despite them having failed to pick up three points in nine games, we promptly rolled over and lost 2-1 to them at the Reebok.
Chelsea beat us 5-1 earlier in the season and on that day, we were an absolute shambles from start to finish. We were lucky to keep the score at five!
Bolton have to take the game to Chelsea and let them know they’re in a game. If we can get on top early on then we could be in with a shout. If we fail to do that, expect Chelsea to make it 13 wins out of 15.
MM: How did you feel about Gary Cahill’s departure and how do you rate his chances of succeeding at Chelsea?
BA: Cahill’s departure hasn’t had the big impact many outside of Bolton would have expected. Yes, he was our best defender, but we have arguably the worst backline in the league and he was a major part of that.
He was never worth the £17million pricetag that was being branded about by Owen Coyle and in the end, £7million for a player desperately out of form and with only 6 months left on his contract is good business for a club like ours. If only we could have sold him last summer, maybe we could have picked up a fee of around £10million.
I really hope he does become a success at Chelsea but a lot of that will probably come down to who he partners in central defence. Cahill has never been and never will be a leader and he needs somebody in the mould of John Terry next to him.
In his early days at the Reebok, Andy O’Brien was his regular partner and Cahill benefited from his experience. In recent times, Zat Knight has been his colleague and only Gary Megson and Owen Coyle know why the partnership lasted for the best part of three years.
If Chelsea can get Terry back in the team and put Cahill alongside him, I think they will have a solid partnership. Putting Cahill alongside Branislav Ivanovic or David Luiz will only highlight his lack of leadership skills and these things are highlighted a lot more when you play for a club like Chelsea.
MM: Which Chelsea player would you most like in your squad?
BA: There’s only really one answer for this and that is Frank Lampard. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s scored against us down the years. He may be getting on a bit and seems to be a little out-of-favour, but he could still do a job for pretty much any team in the Premier League.
We’ve seen Manchester United bring Paul Scholes out of retirement recently and I don’t see why Lampard can’t continue playing for another 4 or 5 years, just like Scholes. He’s been relatively injury-free throughout his career and will always maintain that goal threat.
If nothing else, if he played for Bolton, at least it would put an end to him scoring against us!
MM: Which Bolton player do you think would be good enough for the Chelsea squad?
BA: Chelsea have taken quite a few players off us in the last decade (Eidur Gudjohnsen, Tal Ben Haim, Nicolas Anelka, Gary Cahill). He’s missed the entire season with a broken leg, but on his day I believe Lee Chung-Yong can play for any team in the league.
He’s still young and if he can recapture the form he showed over the last couple of years upon his return, hopefully he can play a big part in helping us secure our top-flight status for another year.
Lee has all the tricks and skills, but he also has an end product. He has been a regular on the assist columns since joining us in 2009 and he also weighs in with 5-6 goals a season. Playing alongside better players, those stats would only improve.
MM: Do you think you will avoid the drop?
BA: Just before Christmas, we had nine points from 16 games and my answer would have been no. We hit a bit of good form over Christmas and into January, but after pulling out of the bottom three, we lost at Norwich City and then at home to Wigan.
After our game on Saturday, we have Manchester City away next weekend. Following that, we have QPR at home, Aston Villa away, Blackburn Rovers at home and Wolverhampton Wanderers away. If we are serious about staying in the league, we need to take at least nine points from those final four games or we are going to struggle.
We have a good run in, but with only 2 home league wins all season, it’s no secret where we need to improve. Personally, I think Bolton’s time is up, but if we can sort out our home form quickly then we should be in with a good chance.
MM: Who will get sacked first – Coyle or Villas-Boas?
BA: The pressure seems to have eased on Owen Coyle since the turn of the year, but I think he was very lucky to still be in charge at the turn of the year.
Switching to Villas-Boas, the pressure is really on him at the moment but you can see what he is trying to do. It doesn’t matter if they’re fan favourites, the likes of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are coming to the end of their careers and they need to be slowly edged out.
Villas-Boas may be keeping them on the bench, but the quality of players he has brought in to replace them is nowhere near the same level and that is where he is struggling.
For once, Chelsea need to stand by a manager, but I don’t really expect it to happen and would be surprised if he is still in charge at the start of next season.
MM: Finally, what do you predict the score will be tomorrow?
BA: As I mentioned at the start, Bolton really need to let Chelsea know they are in a game right from the first whistle. I’m not too sure we can do that and I pray this isn’t the game where everything seems to click into place for you.
The heart says a 1-1 draw but the head is going for a 2-0 home win.