Owen Coyle aims to launch entertaining era at Bolton when Arsenal visit in Premier League

16 January 2010 04:30
In the vicious social Darwinism of English football, Owen Coyle's approach shouldn't work. The Championship should chew up and spit out those with the audacity to demand that victory is achieved in style. Don't bring your aesthetic ambitions where they don't belong. Who are you anyway, Arsène Wenger?

The Championship's Dr Pangloss was not put off though. Instead of being ripped up by those red in tooth and claw, Coyle's Burnley played their elegant way into the Premier League and, until last week, looked like staying there. It is a truly remarkable achievement. You suspect Coyle's departure will be a tough one from which to recover.

 Related ArticlesArsenal confirm Sol Campbell signingPortsmouth v Birmingham offMegson 'on gardening leave'Wenger backs Campbell staminaWenger confirms Campbell dealBlackburn Rovers v Fulham: previewTough too will be regime change at Bolton. It has been an easy club to stereotype under Sam Allardyce and Gary Megson and often not unfairly: these are managers that deal in the hard science of winning.

Efficiency trumped expression. Well, that's about to change.

Introducing his football principles to Bolton will be a profound challenge for Coyle. His mission is to bring a 10th season of Premier League football to Bolton he will want to do it in style. If he succeeds, the fans will love him; if he fails he will be too easily dismissed as a man who failed to grasp what was needed in this link of the football food chain.

Bolton's makeover begins on Sunday and, fittingly, the opposition are Arsenal (because of winter postponements, Bolton will travel down to the Emirates on Wednesday for a return fixture). Wenger's work at Arsenal is the example for expansive managers like Coyle to follow — he has raised the bar for fusing style with success. 'Arsenal are the market leaders in that type of football,' Coyle said.

'Arsène Wenger and the job he's done, he's built different teams, he's lost huge players and I mean players on a global scale, guys that could play for any team in world football, people like Thierry Henry. He's lost those players and built up teams again. For me, he's the perfect ambassador and role model for building that type of team.'

Wenger, who successfully changed the culture at Highbury from the more pragmatic legacy of George Graham, expressed admiration for the work Coyle was doing last season, after his youthful team were beaten by Burnley in the League Cup quarter-finals and before his full-strength side beat them in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Wenger expects Coyle to to take his ideals with him, to impose his football philosophy on his new club.

'Every new manager brings his own style and Owen Coyle will do that,' he said. 'There are more and more teams playing good football in the Championship. It was no surprise they came up and they were starting to show the signs of a team that will stay up.'

There is a crucial difference in Coyle and Wenger's aesthetic, though. The Arsenal manager encourages a high-tempo, intricate passing game, designed to create spaces around the edge of the box. It's as much about speed of thought as speed of boot. When it works it is the most exhilarating football to watch in the club game, with the possible exception of Barcelona.

Coyle's idea of the beautiful game is, in an important way, more traditional, more rooted in a British way of playing. It is an attacking, passing game sure, but based more on employing orthodox wingers to stretch teams out wide. Wingers have rarely been indulged by managers in the last decade, so Coyle's belief in what many saw as a tactical anachronism shows a sensitivity of the, ahem, wider purpose of football: to entertain.

'As a player, it's the kind of team that I always liked to play in because, as a striker, I believe that the best sight in football is the ball hitting the back of the net,' Coyle said. 'Second to that I believe that one of the classic sights in football is a winger taking on a full-back and getting crosses in the box because as a fan you automatically get out of your seat and think something exciting is going to happen. That's what we're here for, we're here to excite fans and get them out of their seats and hopefully they'll bring their pals back and we fill this stadium and that's what we're trying to do.

'To do that, I believe you have to pass and move the ball and get your wide players on it. I like to play the game at a decent pace, with the ball moving quickly and making one-versus-one situations where you can excite people. To do that you have to pass and move that ball very quickly.'

If he can translate that vision on to the turf of the Reebok Stadium, then Bolton's supporters won't quite know what's hit them.

Source: Telegraph