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Bolton Wanderers

Why You Shouldn’t Write Off Bolton’s Chances Yet

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.

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  1. Liam

    October 12, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    It’s not just that Bolton have been losing but that they have been losing big that is most worrying.

  2. Gerald

    October 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    BWFC should rise up the table with this part of the scedule. I really do believe that Owen needs to rethink his strategy versus the bigger clubs. Owen dies great versus the rest of the league, but I would rather have A defensive strategy against the big clubs and not try to match them offensively. It rarely works and can hurt with goal differential in the end. Cmon Bolton.

  3. Bentley

    October 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Of course they will get better. Especially with the upcoming fixtures being the teams that they could get the best possible results from.

    In my own personal opinion, to say Owen Coyle is going to be in trouble is just stupid. If you blame the bad form of Bolton on a manager like Coyle then you’re really sadly mistaken. Owen Coyle is probably the best fit for Bolton and the bad run of form couldn’t possibly be his fault. This happens to the best of teams and i hate that people point fingers a the manager first and ask questions later.

  4. Chris S

    October 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    As a Bolton fan I can reliably inform you that there are now more fans in the ‘very worried’ camp than the ‘we’ll be alright’ camp. This is the worst start to a season since 1902, and yes we were relegated that season.

    We might’ve been less worried if they’d at least gone down with a fight in most of the games, but apart from the Man City game the team’s been quite apathetic. This down in the dumps approach stretches all the way back to the 17th April when Bolton played Stoke in the FA Cup semi-final. They went as favorites and ended up being spanked 5-0, mentally and physically they were completely broken. Bolton then went on to lose the following of league games of the season. It appears to have left Owen Coyle dumb founded about how to change things. He sticks very ridgedly to 4-4-2 and doesn’t want to change things, even if he doesn’t have the personnel to play 4-4-2.

    Now injuries have hit the club very hard. The loss of your best midfielder Stu Holden, best full back Sam Ricketts and best winger Chung-Yong Lee would’ve hit any club hard. They also lost Johan Elmander, who demanded an undeserved massive pay rise and Daniel Sturridge who went back to Chelsea. Between these two they scored 20 goals last season, how much would a 20 goal a season player cost, £20 million?

    The main issue with the team has been the left hand side of defence and poor marking at set pieces. Every scout in the league has picked up on how weak the team is on the left side and if you watch any Bolton games you’ll see teams attacking down their right wings. Paul Robinson is glacially slow and prone to get caught out of position and Zat Knight, who’s on the left side is technically poor and sometimes looks very clumsy. Martin Petrov, for all the ability he offers in attack, will not track back. So Bolton have to stop pretending he’s a midfielder who’ll defend and separate him and Robinson.

    Now Coyle’s defensive frailties are starting to show themselves all to often. On the Bolton News website Coyle suggested that the players do their jobs defensive jobs in training and then go astray in games. But Coyle doesn’t seem to have that nasty streak in him to give them a bollocking and drop some of his favorite players. You can’t always play pretty football if you don’t have the players. Until Holden and Chungy come back he’s going to struggle to play the passing game he wants.

    As mentioned in the column Bolton have some ‘easier’ games coming up. But the fans are unconvinced that they’ll be able to just snap out of their losing streak. The fans have been running the maths and have worked out that if they don’t get 6 points in the next 5 games they’ll be lucky to beat the 37 point mark this season. Remember Bolton had the worst away record in the league last season, mainly down to Coyle’s obsession with 4-4-2, and now they haven’t got a point at home this season. When the pressure to win becomes this great the players may be unable to cope. If they don’t cope then Eddie Davies, the owner, may well wield the axe on Coyle. Which would be a shame, but appears that Coyle’s footballing philosophy is really only suitable for technically superior players. So he’s stuck in a ‘catch-22’ situation of being unable to produce at a smaller club so wouldn’t be given the reigns of a more gifted squad of players elsewhere.

    Now on the plus side. All those tough games we’ve played this season only produced 1 point last season and nobody panicked. The only cock up has been Norwich, two easy set piece goals, conceded and Klasnic got sent off for a stupid head-butt. Bolton do look like they can score goals, and as we all know it’s a lot harder to score goals than sort out the defence. As mentioned in the article the games do get easier. So as long as they don’t panic they should start picking up points, while our rivals have to play the tougher teams.

    If Bolton do get relegated they have a very large debt to service. Though it is large 90% is owed to the owner Eddie Davies and not to the banks. He lent the club money to buy the stadium, training ground and academy. So at least the debt is in bricks and mortar rather than the squad. It also looks like Gary Cahill will go for a free at the end of the season, which is another blow after losing Elmander on a free. But the club just doesn’t have the money to offer them expensive long contracts. So if the player does play well, Bolton run the risk of losing them on a free.

    Personally I think Bolton will improve, because they can’t get much worse. It looks like they’ll only stay up due to other teams troubles being worse than their own.

  5. Fernando

    October 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Bolton have run into a perfect storm of issues that have curtailed whatever rise Owen Coyle was on.

    However, Bolton aren’t the only team who have gotten screwed by the schedule and by injuries. The current 11 haven’t done the job and Coyle hasn’t shown the ability to improve the performances of the Trotters. Bolton can’t score and are conceding an alarming amount of goals.

    Both Holden and Lee are important players but they won’t solve the goal scoring issues by themselves. Coyle has every right to see out the remainder of the year. Come December and Bolton are still bottom expect a lot of panic buying during the January transfer window.

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