Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bolton sign Bulgarian winger to stabilize young midfield

I just had to use this break in World Cup action to give an update on my mighty mighty Bolton Wanderers. Owen Coyle has managed to sign a top class left winger who was never able to establish himself at Manchester City due to three managerial changes, fitness issues, and a revolving door of player acquisitions.

Fact is, Martin Petrov is class. He showed it for Bulgaria, he showed it in Germany, and he showed it at Atletico Madrid. He even showed it in spurts at Man City, where he had to fight his way into the team past a flotilla of big name, big money signings. For me, this is the Coyle equivalent of when Sam Allardyce signed Jay-Jay Okocha for Bolton back in 2002.

Petrov runs at defenders with pace, puts in a good cross, and scores goals. He can play on either wing, and given the youth and versatility Wanderers have in the midfield, he will be allowed a good deal of freedom to attack.

I have to say, I really like the way the midfield is shaping up. We still have several veterans such as Matt Taylor, Ricardo Gardner, Tamir Cohen, and Sean Davis (who is really like a new signing). But it is the kids we are excited about. Some of the luster has faded from Joey O'Brien (24 years old) and Chris Basham (21), but if they ever return to fitness, I still think they can be useful players, if nothing else for their versatility.

After he put on a show for a surprising South Korean team at the World Cup, all eyes will be on Lee Chung-yong (22). He will receive a much needed rest over the next few weeks, and take his place as one of the first names on the team sheet once the season starts. But he is just the tip of the iceberg in a loaded stable of midfield youngsters.

Fabrice Muamba has established himself as a destroyer in the center of the park. His passing improved dramatically following Coyle's arrival, and as the 22 year old continues to improve, an England call-up is looming in the not-too-distant future.

Mark Davies is also 22, and so thoroughly dominated Arsenal last January that William Gallas decided the only way to stop him was to brutally fracture his leg. Davies will be back at full strength this season, and gives Bolton a tireless box-to-box central midfielder willing to defend and attack with equal aplomb.

Stuart Holden (24) is perhaps the most intriguing of all. He can play on either wing or in an attacking central role, and may be able to provide the creative spark Wanderers have been lacking in the middle of the park. He looked outstanding in the US warm-up matches before the World Cup, and many soccer fans stateside are perplexed as to why he did not feature more in the US campaign once the tournament started. I am fine with it, because he will be fit, well-rested, and ready to contribute once the season starts.

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