It figures, doesn't it? My beloved Bolton Wanderers finally come to the US on a preseason tour, and they do not play anywhere near New York. Instead, they are playing Toronto FC as I write this. It is 1-1 at halftime.
I have been thinking the past week about what formation Bolton will play this season. Owen Coyle seemed to play 4-4-2 at home and 4-5-1 on the road last season. But I think he has learned some things from last years Champion's League and the World Cup. 4-2-3-1 has become the most effective formation in football.
Interestingly, that seems to be the formation Bolton are playing against Toronto tonight. Fabrice Muamba and Joey O'Brien were the holding midfielders, with Martin Petrov, Mark Davies, and Matt Taylor the attacking 3. Taylor was really getting forward, oftentimes actually ending up ahead of Kevin Davies, who was the lone striker. I think Matt Taylor is poised for a bounce back season, as he was in poor form for most of last year.
As for the general formation, I really like it, and I think Wanderers have the personnel to play it. Muamba will definitely be one of the holding midfielders, a real destroyer who I think is going to get attention from England manager Fabio Capello as this season continues.
The second deep lying player needs to be a passer, someone who can get the balls Muamba wins and put the attackers into good positions. Sean Davis is probably the favorite for this role, but I can see Ricardo Gardner spending some time there, or maybe even Stuart Holden. Although as I write this Gardner is looking very lively on the left wing. Anyway, I think Tamir Cohen and Joey O'Brien are too similar to Muamba to play with him.
If it were my decision, it would be Stuart Holden. He is just so impressive every time I see him play. He is an excellent passer, has a good shot on him, and just doesn't give the ball away. He is decent sized, strong on the ball or challenging for it, and not afraid to put in a tackle. Just great composure, and he puts in very accurate free kicks. He also runs miles, and that is especially important, because for all his gifts, Muamba is not a very cultured passer. His midfield partner will need to get close to him in order to control the ball and initiate the attack.