Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's a Mindset

At the height of the Allardyce era Bolton finished level on points with Liverpool.  Goal difference gave the Reds the fifth spot in the table, while Bolton had to settle for sixth and a UEFA Cup spot.  At that point Wanderers were routinely taking points of "top 4" clubs and many supporters probably considered us on level ground with the likes of Liverpool (The feeling was not mutual, as Liverpool fans don't consider anyone to be on level ground with them).

Then the dark times began, and the manager did not even attempt to compete with clubs like Liverpool.

Now, Bolton are back.  There is not the talent level, nor the results of the Allardyce era, at least not yet, but the thinking has returned.  This is very important.  Under the Ginger Mourinho, lip service was paid, working hard for the cause and all that, but fans and players both knew we didn't stand a chance.

What Owen Coyle has brought to the club, more important than his eye for talent or tactical acumen, is the belief, the mindset, that we can win every week.  Not steal a point, not avoid embarrassing ourselves, actually beat clubs, no matter their position in the table.

This should be very interesting at Anfield today.  My prediction; 2-2.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Morality Play?

Bolton has signed a new sponsorship deal.  They call it a partnership these days, but it's with a company from Korea called Hanwha to be a new sponsor at the Reebok.  Hanwha will be placing advertisements around the stadium espousing their advances in solar energy.  Sounds good right?  Wanderers can always use the money from something like this.  There is a problem though.  Hanwha produces landmines.  Or to be fair, they produced landmines in the past, and may still do so.

No matter what one's political affiliation, I think we can agree on landmines being one of the most horrible inventions in human history.  South Korea is one of the few industrialized countries in the world that still allows the production of landmines, although the government claims none have been manufactured since 2000.

Either way, questions remain.  Are Hanwha's profits blood-money?  Should Bolton Wanderers not only accept that money, but enter into a "partnership" with this company?  Have Hanwha done anything wrong in manufacturing a product to meet worldwide demand?

Carling Cup - Bolton v Macclesfield

Owen Coyle said he was going use our entire squad today in the 2nd round of the Carling Cup, and this was true.  Tuncay Sanli's debut performance was the big story, and there are a lot of other places where you can read about that.  I prefer to focus on some of Coyle's more interesting choices, today and in the future.  A few inclusions were obvious; Mark Davies, Darren Pratley, David Wheater, and Adam Bogdan were definitely going to play from the start.

We miss you Stuart!
Wheater and Bogdan have clearly defined roles, they are the third-choice central defender and second-choice keeper, respectively.  They are good players, and could start for several clubs in the Premier League, but the men in front of them are entrenched.

It is a very different story for Mark Davies and Darren Pratley.  And this will be an important story throughout the season.  For most of last season, central midfield was our strength.  Stuart Holden, Mark Davies and Fabrice Muamba were always formidable, and often dominant.  Then Holden got injured.  Then Davies got injured.  Then our lack of depth got exposed.  Coyle was determined not to let that happen again.  He has signed Nigel Reo-Coker as well as Pratley for central midfield depth.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Great Match!

Shame about the result.  Bolton lost, yes, but they did present themselves in an admirable manner, particularly in the last 30 minutes.

And no, I do not know what the hell Jussi Jaaskelainen was doing on the Silva goal.  Sometimes a goalkeeper, no matter how reliable, just has a howler.  Normally I don't talk about fashion on the blog, but the new home keeper's shirt is just atrocious.  Hot pink?  What is this, a Poison concert in 1987?

For me, the most impressive performance was that of Martin Petrov.  That was why we signed him.  When he is fit and on form, he is still one of the best wingers in the league.  Now, he is not going to be that good, especially for 90 minutes, in all 38 league matches this season.  But if he can keep putting in those types of crosses fairly consistently, he is going to create a lot of goals for us.  His accuracy of passing, combined with Ivan Klasnic's finishing skills, will create a lot of goals for Bolton Wanderers this season.

Next is a Carling Cup match with Macclesfield, followed by a visit to "high-flying" Liverpool.  Given the lack of squad depth at Bolton, it will be interesting to see if Owen Coyle presents an opportunity to some of our really young players Wednesday, or mostly sticks to the first team.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Preview-Bolton Wanderers v Manchester City

Bolton and Man City are both coming off big 4-0 wins last weekend, but the ability of the two clubs to maintain those types of performances is, of course, quite different.

The match is at the Reebok, but so far this season home teams have not faired very well.  This fixture also starts a very difficult run for the Trotters.  After City, there is an early midweek Carling Cup tie against Macclesfield.  I would say this will give some of the fringe players a chance to impress, but given our injury list and relatively lean squad, there are not a whole lot of fringe players to use.  Either way, Macclesfield should be dealt with.  Maybe Tuncay Sanli will get his first start, and that will be reason enough to tune in.

That's when it gets tricky.  Bolton are away at Liverpool next weekend, and while I don't believe the Merseyside club is a title challenger, they are unlikely to allow the Wanderers to pick up 3 points.  The international break is then followed by a visit from Manchester United.  United will probably win via an Own Goal, a penalty, a dodgy sending off, and 11 minutes of stoppage time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Question: What the Hell is a Frimpong?

Answer: A holding midfielder for Arsenal football club who is quite exciting going forward but tackles late and recklessly.  Not to be confused with a Song, a Diaby, a Flameini, or a Viera.

In all seriousness, Arsenal looked very young and inexperienced in their loss to Liverpool at the Emirates today.  The refrain in the media regarding this result for the home team is going to something along the lines of "same old Arsenal," and that is not wrong.

But the second, louder cry amongst a certain segment of the English football viewing population is going to "Liverpool is back," or "The Reds are a title contender," etc.

Don't believe this.  It's just not true.  Liverpool are not title contenders.  They are not even close.  I even made a small wager yesterday that they would finish below both Manchester clubs in the final table.  I can't wait to try on my shiny new Bolton shirt next May.

Liverpool have several weaknesses, and they start at the back.  If I thought that Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel would be the regular partnership for central defense at Anfield, I might give them a tiny chance, instead of no chance.  But it will be a cold day in hell before "Anfield Legend" Kenny Dalglish drops "Legendary Scouser" Jamie Carragher from the starting XI.   And Carragher is terrible.  he was always wildly overrated, but now he is a shell of his former  half-decent-defensively self.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What a Start!!!

As I wrote yesterday, Gary Cahill is top class.  Owen Coyle says he wants to offer him a new contract, and that negotiations are ongoing.  The next few weeks will show whether the Scot is being sincere, or trying to drive up the price (A frugal Scotsman, what a shock).

That said, QPR did create some chances, and Bolton will need to tighten up the defending a bit, as much as is possible when carrying the useless sack of meat that is Paul Robinson up and down the pitch.  I saw two weaknesses yesterday, and Robinson was definitely one of them.  He just provides very little going forward, and is a train wreck defensively.  Just about every threat comes from his side.  And the attacks in the middle have every space, because Cahill and Zat Knight shift to their left to cover for Robinson.  Getting beat and then fouling (pictured, right) seems to be the only task Robinson is capable of completing.

Great Result yesterday, but please Owen, drop Paul Robinson!

The second problem, there is no pace in our strikeforce, none.  Robbie Blake is still on his way to the other end of the pitch.  Ivan Klasnic is a great finisher, as he showed yesterday, but he needs someone with pace to play off of.  And Kevin Davies needs to be dropped.  The ratio of balls won to possessions given away plus fouls conceded has swung decisively into our opponents favor.  I would bring Tuncay into the starting XI short-term, but long term we need a pacy striker with an eye for goal to partner Klasnic.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bolton's Starting XI vs. Queen's Park Rangers

And so it begins...

Owen Coyle's first line-up is posted, and there is no doubt the manager has been hamstrung by injuries to Stuart Holden, Lee Chung-yong, Sam Ricketts, and Tyrone Mears.  Tuncay will not be available as his work permit has not cleared.  Now I don't know Coyle's plans, but for me, all 5 of those players would be starting if they were fit.  So here is a look at what the gaffer has conjured up with our remaining squad players;