Bolton are indeed in 20th position in the Premier League, but maybe it’s not as bad as it seems after a quick glance at the Barclays Premier League table seven games into the 2011-12 season. Looking back at the results thus far, gameweek 1 had Bolton Wanderers going to Loftus Road to face Queens Park Rangers. Traveling to a newly promoted club is not an ideal start to the season as we’ve seen in previous years but Bolton crashed QPR’s party and made a statement with a 4-0 victory.
What followed was a home match against big boys Manchester City, a trip to Anfield to play Liverpool, a home match against defending champions Manchester United, a home game against Norwich City, a trip to the Emirates against an albeit struggling Arsenal and finally a home match against Chelsea. Norwich City aside, Bolton played five of the top six teams from last season. There was the red card by Ivan Klasnic at home against Norwich City in a moment of madness that, despite being 2-0 down at the time, really ended any hope of a result in that game.
Though with a goal difference of -12 and just 3 points at the basement of the table, those being from gameweek 1, there may be a bit of a need to worry but before there are calls for Owen Coyle’s head one must put into perspective the opponents Bolton Wanderers have had thus far in the campaign. Chelsea and Manchester United put 5 past Bolton, Arsenal and Manchester City both put past 3 and Norwich 2, all with Bolton scoring just 4 in just 5 games, not exactly promising.
There was the transfer period where many clubs, notably Tottenham Hotspur, were chasing Bolton’s prize jewel Gary Cahill. The loss of Johan Elmander, who had his best season in a Bolton shirt, scoring 10 goals and providing some moments of brilliance, could play a key part. So too could the loss of Chelsea youngster Daniel Sturridge, who is making a case for a first team regular spot in the Chelsea team at the moment despite the best efforts of Owen Coyle to secure Sturridge on loan for another year. Matthew Taylor left to West Ham, though his presence was not exactly what it was before and Tamir Cohen only made a handful of appearances for them.
Bolton brought in two players Owen Coyle managed at Burnley in Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears, Tuncay and Dedryck Boyata on loan, as well as Nigel Reo-Coker and Darren Pratley on free transfers. While David N’Gog looks to replace what Elmander and Sturridge did last season, it’s not an easy task for the youngster. Kevin Davies is aging, though is still a presence and questions have to be asked of certain players the likes of Gretar Steinsson, who have been vulnerable this year. Zat Knight did show some fire in his substitute appearance against Chelsea and the second half performance was certainly an improvement but nonetheless the score read 5-1 at the end of the match.
I think the loss of form and overall feel of Bolton Wanderers can be attributed to the long-term injuries of two key players — their creative outlets, Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong. With the devastating news that Holden will be out a further six months after already enduring a long six month lay-off before returning for just one match, and Lee Chung-Yong being out until at least the early months of 2012, Bolton have some players that need to step up before this “mini-crisis” turns into a full-blown crisis. So let’s take a look at the upcoming fixtures up to the new year for Bolton and see just how they might fare against teams not in the top six last year.
- Wigan (A)
- Sunderland (H)
- Swansea (A)
- Stoke (H)
- West Brom (A)
- Everton (H)
- Tottenham (A)
- Aston Villa (H)
- Fulham (A)
- Blackburn (A)
- Newcastle (H)
- Wolverhampton (H)
Stoke City travel to Israel for a Europa League game before the game against Bolton and Stoke have not fared well thus far with games that come the weekend after Europa League games, which is not uncommon for teams in their first European travels. Aside from the visit to White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur, the rest of the games look promising if Bolton can get things organized. Before you know it Bolton have a good run going before they start the new year. But of course there will be bumps along the way. The Sunderland over Chelsea type results you always encounter, which is why we love the game so much, so don’t write Bolton off just yet.
What do you think about the upcoming fixtures for Bolton? Do you think Bolton are a victim of a tough schedule and things will even out? Will they do a reverse Hull City? A 14th placed finish last season was disappointing after a run of five losses to end the season. Bolton were in 8th and even as high as 6th before this miserable run of form.