Season Preview: Bolton Wanderers

by Kevin Coleman

This will be Owen Coyle’s first full season at Bolton after taking over from the sacked Gary Megson midway through last season. After a brief bedding in period where form didn’t pick up after the much unloved Megson reign, Coyle has lifted the Trotters but it remains to be seen whether that can spill over to this season, with the honeymoon period well and truly over.

Coyle left Burnley last season, and ultimately saw them relegated under Brian Laws in dismal circumstances. It may have been different if he had stuck around, but a decent 14th placed finish and 39 at Bolton and he has guaranteed himself Premier League football for another year.

Bolton have had a number of problems over the years, but the reign of Gary Megson – after a brief unsuccessful spell with Sammy Lee – was one of the most unpopular reigns of any manager in the league. To this day Megson remains uncertain why exactly he was so badly scrutinized while at the Reebok, but his forgettable spell at the club came to and end and the fan base won out. Now, Owen Coyle is quite the popular man around Bolton – but for how long? With the lack of finances at the club, player spending and squad strengthening has been rather weak in the last few seasons. The squad seemed a lot stronger back in the days of Sam Allardyce since their promotion from the Premier League ten years ago, however the successful times of when Nicholas Anelka was banging in the goals on a weekly basis has been replaced by the non-scoring efforts of Johan Elmander, as Bolton teeter just above the top half of the table and on the threat of being sucked into a relegation battle.

Since his arrival just after the 2010’s January transfer window opened, Coyle has lived within his means with some small signings and a couple of loan deals. However the squad still needs a major strenghtening scheme to have any hope of rising out of a relegation threatened season, as the gap between relegation and safety widens.

Last Season: 14th
Manager: Owen Coyle
Odds:
1000/1
Ins: Martin Petrov (free from Manchester City), Robbie Blake (free from Burnley), Marcos Alonso (£1.6m from Real Madrid), Ivan Klasnic (free from Nantes).
Outs: Ricardo Vaz Te, Zoltan Harsanyi, Stuart McDonald and Chris Stokes (released).

WHAT’S CHANGED?

The signing of Martin Petrov from Manchester City on a free is a major coup for Bolton. The left sided midfielder was one of the performers in his position a few years ago before the Abu Dhabi riches came flowing in. The Bulgarian’s pinpoint crossing ability will benefit the big men in the box, such as Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander. The fact he joins on a bosman really sweetens the deal for the Trotters.

Also arriving at the Reebok is Robbie Blake, who worked under Coyle at Burnley. Blake will hardly be much more of a squad player at the Reebok, and is another free transfer.

Ivan Klasnic makes his move from Nantes permanent, after doing well last season on loan. Again, it’s a free transfer – but the Croatian’s eight goal haul last season is not to be sneered at, any improvements on his tally will be massive for Bolton.

The biggest move is Marcos Alonso, a 19-year-old wing back who joins from the Real Madrid youth setup for around £1.6million. Coyle has high hopes for the young talent, who may be thrown into the deep end from the get go.

Those who are leaving the club include Ricardo Vaz Te, however the Portuguese midfielder only played 53 games in his seven year spell at the club.

Tactics: Coyle has varied his formations from game to game, but 4-4-2 has probably been his most favoured since joining Bolton. However, he does have options open to him and the arrival of Martin Petrov may see him rotate formations again to play Chung Yong Lee and Matt Taylor. He may stick with the two man attack when playing away, with maybe Klasnic or Davies up front in away games. The aerial ability of Elmander and Petrov’s crossing may give him reason to start the Swede a bit more regularly.

Key Player: Jussi Jaaskelainen has always been a hero at Bolton for his impeccable goalkeeping performances which often keep them in games. The Finnish international has been at the club since 1997, and has been one of the most reliable and popular goalkeepers in the Premier League over the last few years.

Fixtures: Bolton begin their season at home against Fulham and Mark Hughes, a tough opener but with a home backing they’re well capable of getting a win. A week later they visit West Ham at Upton Park, before hosting Birmingham at the Reebok, an away tie against Arsenal and another away game against Aston Villa.

First five fixtures: Fulham (H), West Ham (A), Birmingham (H), Arsenal (A), Aston Villa (A)

Where will they finish? A weak enough squad and the honeymoon period over for Coyle, it could be a tough season for Bolton who’s form away from home has been particularly poor, while home record aren’t the best. Without a huge goals source, Bolton may rely too heavily on their wide players ability without much end point. 18th

Apologies for the weekend hiatus. Read all of our previews here.

2 Responses

  1. Nice preview Kevin. I had missed the Petrov move, a pretty interesting signing for the club. However, as a US fan, I can’t help but think that it’s not gonna help Stuart Holden in his quest for playing time.

    He’s a really interesting player, versatile and precise on set pieces. I think he enjoyed a couple of great games last season before getting injured in a friendly vs. Holland. Hopefully he’ll see the field this season too.

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