Thursday, April 28, 2011

Central Midfield

I don't intend to blame anyone for yesterday's loss to Fulham.  Bolton have been poor away from home all season, and this was just another in a long lineof performances that should be forgotten.  I half expected to see Owen Coyle walking up to people at Harrods with a sweaty map and asking which way to the Thames.

That said, central midfield, thought to be a strength a few months ago, has really become a problem.  Throughout a good part of this season the triumvirate of Stuart Holden, Mark Davies, and Fabrice Muamba controlled the middle of the park.  Times have changed though.  Holden has a long term injury, Davies has had to deal with a few niggling ankle problems, and Muamba, while impressive, has a somewhat limited skill set.  In the last few matches, we have seen Johann Elmander, Tamir Cohen, and even Ricardo Gardner partner Muamba.  Now, I like all three of these players, and I think each of them has something to contribute.  None of them is an adequate replacement for Davies or Holden though. 

Megson signing Sean Davis has been out for almost two years, and at this point, we have to say a comeback is unlikely.  The same holds for Joey O'Brien.  The strength of the position is OK, as long as our first choices are fit, but we need to work on the depth.  As we get closer to summer, I will address each position and how important it is for us to add players.  At this time, you can assume central midfield will be relatively high on the list.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bolton Wanderers v Stoke City

The team lists are out, and it is Ivan Klasnic partnering Kevin Davies up top.

Johann Elmander returns to central midfield, where he was so impressive last weekend.

Paul Robinson is back, and after two weeks on the sub's bench to avoid suspension, I am sure he will be overly anxious to kick somebody.  Will be a shocker if he doesn't get a yellow card in the opening fifteen minutes.

Stoke's back four looks to be lacking pace, the best way forward might be to get Lee Chung-yong or Martin Petrov in behind.  Stoke have Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant on either side.  I think we will see a lot of diagonal balls early (from both sides) to try to bring the wingers into the game.  That is where both clubs are strongest today.

Kickoff is less than a half hour away.  Wembley is rocking.  It is going to be epic.  Cummon Bolton!!!!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

FA Cup Semi-finals

Some of you may have noticed that the headline for this post has an -s at the end.  Yes, it is plural.  There are actually two FA Cup matches this weekend.

Now, it is no surprise that the Manchester Derby has received more coverage, it is certainly more of a glamour tie than Stoke v Bolton.  However, I have watched some recent sports news from the UK today, and the first match got all the coverage.

Normally this type of thing doesn't bother me, but this match at Wembley is a big deal for Stoke and Bolton, and to not even get a mention on a 60 minute sports news program seems awfully disrespectful.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Whenever I Think I Know What I am Doing...

...I look back at my preseason predictions.  Just a few gems;

On Wigan, currently bottom of the table, I wrote;

A couple injuries and some bad breaks could pull the Latics down into the relegation battle, but more likely they will have one or two good runs of form that will be just enough to safely ensconce them in the 13-16 range of the table. 

On Wolves, currently 19th;

Owen Coyle Wants Goals!

Bolton's manager has put out an extremely attacking lineup for today's home match against West Ham.

It's a little unclear what the formation will be, but I will try and discern what I can.

Zat Knight partners Gary Cahill in his return from injury.  Consequently, there is not even a place on the bench for David Wheater.  Coyle has played our two most attack-minded fullbacks, Gretar Steinnson and Marcos Alonso.

Fabrice Muamba will hold in front of the back four, while Martin Petrov and Lee Chung-Yong will rampage up and down the wings.  Now this is where it gets confusing.  Kevins Davies and Daniel Sturridge are up top, but where is Johann Elmander playing?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bolton Wanderers v West Ham United

I am not as down on the Fabrice Muamba-Tamir Cohen central midfield pairing as some supporters, but it does leave us lacking creativity in the middle of the park.  For a more detailed preview, check out this entry at the Manny Road blog.


Maybe distracted is the wrong word, but I feel like some of the intensity has left this Bolton side in the last couple league matches.  I can't say I blame them.  They sit eighth in the table on the magic 40 points, they have an epic FA Cup semi-final at Wembley coming up, their free-flowing style of play has made them media darlings, and they no longer have an insane red-haired man screaming at them every day.

The supporters have joined this party as well, they are talking about the trip to London, talking about summer signings, and generally enjoying a great season.

The media has also joined in.  In fact, this article in the Bolton Evening News focuses not on the game at hand (West Ham visits tomorrow), but on the summer plans of Johann Elmander, whom Owen Coyle desperately wants to keep at the Reebok.

I would like to see Elmander stay, and I think there is a good chance he will.  Johann knows he has a good situation in Bolton, and he has been nothing but appreciative towards Coyle for revitalizing his career.  Many supporters have been bleating about loyalty and what not, but I have no problem with him letting his contract run out.  He's 29 years old, this will probably be his last big contract, and I don't blame him for wanting to keep all of his options open.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mental Mistakes

When it comes to sports, no player is ever perfect.  No matter how good an athlete you are, there are balls you can't reach, attackers you can't catch, shots you can't reach, etc.  It's physics, it's reality, and much as we wish it wouldn't, it sometimes intrudes on our little world.  However, these are physical mistakes.  Everybody is going to make physical mistakes, and these are easily forgiven.

Mental mistakes on the other hand, are an entirely different animal.  Most mental mistakes are avoidable, and usually pretty easily so.  Flying into a challenge with both feet off the ground 80 yards from goal in the first ten minutes of a Champions League match is certainly avoidable.  Doing so twice, in the first leg of the biggest match in your club's history, is downright stupid.  As Peter Crouch trudged off the pitch today, the fans at the Bernabeu Stadium chanted, "Tonto, Tonto!"  This means, "Stupid, stupid!"  I see no reason to argue with them.