The problem with just looking at a league table is that often we don’t get a clear sense of recent form. That is certainly the case with Chelsea and Bolton. While both Bolton and Chelsea sit comfortably in the top half of the Premier League both teams have struggled lately.
Chelsea can trace the start of their slump back to a November 7 visit to Liverpool and for Bolton it kicked in about a month later. There are signs that Chelsea are showing improvement, there is no such indications of encouragement for Bolton at present.
When things go badly for a side fingers are often pointed in multiple directions and so it has been with Chelsea. The 16 goals allowed by Chelsea over the last 12 games are only magnified when you realize that this is a team that only conceded three goals in their first ten matches.
The midfield has often been ponderous and slow and in attack the goals have dried up for the players that Chelsea have come to rely upon. Over half of Didier Drogba’s 9 goals this season came in the first five games while he has only scored once in the last six Premier League matches.
Nicolas Anelka has only two league goals in the last five months and it is all summed up by the fact that defender Branislav Ivanovic is Chelsea’s leading scorer in the last five league games with a pair.
Nonetheless Chelsea did put seven unanswered goals past Ipswich in the FA Cup and followed it up with a 2-0 win over Blackburn last weekend. The display against Blackburn may have been far from convincing but Chelsea never looked to be in any trouble from a Blackburn side that played like a sedated sacrificial lamb.
The high point of Bolton’s season to date was probably the 5-1 dismantling of Newcastle at the Reebok. As is often the case an outstanding result can often bring regression rather than progression and such has been the situation with Bolton.
Only a couple of wins and a couple draws in their last 9 outings have seen Bolton slip. What would have admittedly been an unlikely chance to finish in 5th spot has rapidly receded with a points gap of 7 and a game more played.
Just like Chelsea, the players supplying the goals that supplied the points for Bolton have not been producing the goods. Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander have only added a goal each to their scoring totals of 6 and 8 over the last 9 games. It doesn’t help that Chung Yong Lee who leads Bolton with 6 assists this season is off at the Asian Cup.
Bolton should have one new face in their squad for Monday’s game – that of David Wheater signed from Middlesbrough. Whether this is a sign that fellow centre back Gary Cahill may be departing we can only wait and see.
Wheater showed genuine promise when he broke into the Boro side a few years ago but seems to have lost his way somewhat. If Owen Coyle can find a way for that early promise to blossom then Bolton might have picked themselves up another bargain.
Just like Tottenham and Manchester United last weekend you get match ups from time to time that just belie logic. One team may better than the other but the results are so overwhelmingly in favour of one side that it is difficult to explain. Bolton and Chelsea are one of these match ups.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 15 meetings with Bolton going back to December 2003 when a last minute own goal by John Terry at Stamford Bridge presented Bolton with all the points. To put that in some perspective Claudio Ranieri was the Chelsea manger that day.
The last time Bolton won against Chelsea at the Reebok was the season that the new stadium was opened – 1997. Dean Holdsworth scored the only goal that day for Bolton.
And just to lay Chelsea’s overwhelming superiority on even thicker Chelsea have won of their last seven visits to Bolton, have scored 14 goals and Bolton have failed to score a single goal.
Bolton have still only lost once at home this season – 1-0 to a very late Maxi Rodrigues goal for Liverpool.
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