Showing posts with label Bolton Wanderers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bolton Wanderers. Show all posts

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Was that a tumbleweed I just saw?

Some of you may have noticed a distinct lack of activity on Musings this month.  There is a reason for that.  I have been offered, and accepted, the opportunity to write for a Bolton Wanderers blog called Lion of Vienna Suite, on the SB Nation network.

Given that this blog receives heavier traffic than Musings, and is part of a massive network with a heavy promotion element, this decision was a no-brainer (kind of like dropping Paul Robinson).  My two online homes will link to each other.  While my analysis and commentary about Bolton Wanderers will appear exclusively on Lion of Vienna Suite, Musings is not going dark.  It will serve as an archive of my previous Bolton-related writing, while also presenting a platform for me to express my opinions on other world events, such as political intrigue, pop culture madness, and San Francisco Giants happenings (Melky effing Cabrera, that's really the best Sabean could do??!!).

So, it's a brave new world, I hope you will join me there.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sam Ricketts

...is back.  And he is playing left back.  Thank goodness.  Even if he is not match fit.  Even if he is not match sharp.  Even if he is still on crutches.  All of that could be true, and he would still be better than Paul Robinson.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bolton Wanderers v Relegation (and Aston Villa)

If you look at the past several seasons in the top flight, there is always a club that is "too good to go down."  Newcastle held that title at one point, and West Ham has held it three or four times.  Leeds and Southampton in 2004 and 2005 were too good to go down.  Millwall and Birmingham played in Europe the seasons after they went down.  It kills me to say it, but this season's Bolton team has that feeling.

Big names are underperforming; Gary Cahill, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Kevin Davies, Martin Petrov, Tuncay, Paul Robinson

Injuries have exposed a lack of depth and creativity; Stuart Holden, Lee Chung-yong, Tyrone Mears, Sam Ricketts, Marcos Alonso, Ricardo Gardner

Bad luck seems to play a part in a lot of results; Red cards, shots off the post, flukey deflected goals for the opposition.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Downward Dogs

Bolton Wanderers are struggling right now, more for consistency than anything else.  Under Owen Coyle, Bolton have always been a Jekyll & Hyde team, not just within a season but often within a match.  In the first half of last season, we scored (often more than once) when we were on top, and rode our luck when we weren't.  This year's problem is that whenever we play poorly we concede goals, and lots of them.

Some would say that bad luck with injuries has caused this defensive frailty.  Dedryck Boyata, Marcos Alonso, Tyrone Mears, Sam Ricketts, and now Joe Riley have all missed time.  That argument is valid.  My first choice back four if everyone were fit would probably be Mears at right back and Alonso at left back, with Boyata and Gary Cahill in the middle.  However, all the blame can't be placed on injuries.  Zat Knight, Gretar Steinnson and David Wheater are certainly capable defenders, and both performed quite well last season.

Our defensive problems cannot be solved by personnel alone.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Don't Want to Get Carried Away...

...But what a performance!  Bolton Wanderers really got it right today.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows that scoring is not our problem.  Only Chelsea, Arsenal, and the 2 Manchester clubs have more goals than Bolton.  The five goals was great, yes, but the defense was far more significant going forward.  The difference?  Fabrice Muamba and Nigel Reo-Coker working together as a pair of holding midfielders.  Reo-Coker handled the center of the pitch fairly well, with support from Mark Davies.  Mumba had one job; Protect Paul Robinson.  And he did it with aplomb.

Chris Eagles also seemed to get the message.  For all of his skill going forward, and he was impressive today, Bolton's problem is not scoring goals, it is keeping them out.  Protecting Robinson, who is clearly our weakest least, is critical.  Maybe in a few weeks, when Ricardo Gardner is back from suspension, when Marcos Alonso and San Ricketts are back from injury, this will no longer be an issue.  Robinson will be nowhere near the first team, and Bolton will be climbing up the table.  However, until we get those players back, Muamba would appear to have a very important job to do.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The definition of Insanity

Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. 

Relevent example; Owen Coyle starting Paul Robinson at left back each week and expecting him not to be directly responsible for conceding goals.

Now, I know some might consider the continued involvement of Kevin Davies just as egregious, but I addressed this in September most recently, and in April, plus a time or two before that.  It is a different type of problem.

At least Kevin Davies has been a valuable member of our squad for many years, and he can probably still contribute in a part-time role.  Robinson however, is crap, and has always been crap.  As long as Robinson is starting we will be in trouble.  Most clubs don't even bother attacking the right side of the Bolton defense.

The whole league can see it, why can't Owen Coyle?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stuart Holden Heartbreak Horror!

Terrible news.  Bolton's American talisman, after one game back, a 2-0 win over Aston Villa in which Holden was every bit the puppet master he had been before his injury, has to have another surgical procedure on his knee, sidelining him for six more weeks. 

Now it is true that Bolton have had a shocking schedule to start the season.  They have already faced Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, with Chelsea to come this Sunday.  But the fact remains, they are bottom of the table, with three points from six matches.  I believe, partially because of the fixtures played thus far, Wanderers can recover from this.  But a healthy Stuart Holden (not to mention a healthy Lee Chung-yong) is critical to any grand revival.  In his absence, it may be time for a change of system and personnel.  My proposal;

Jussi
Gretar Steinnson, Gary Cahill, Zat Knight, Dedryck Boyata
Mark Davies, Fabrice Muamba
Martin Petrov, Tuncay, Gael Kakuta
David Ngog

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Someone needs to play there...

When I lived in Hawaii, I often visited Kapiolani Park on Saturday afternoons to join in the myriad kick-arounds that were taking place.  The hardest part of these informal matches was finding four (more often 3) people willing to play as a defender.  The title of this post was the usual refrain in eventually convincing someone to step to the back of the attacking queue.  Bolton Wanderers have a bit of the same about them at the moment.  Owen Coyle's philosophy allows for central defenders and (especially) fullbacks to bomb forward at any and all times.  The holding midfiedler is also given a rather long leash in his forays into the offensive end of the pitch.

Bolton are shipping goals at the moment, and more attention really needs to be paid to the defensive end.  I have stated several times that I think Paul Robinson is a big part of the problem and needs to be dropped.  Beyond him though, I don't believe it is a personnel problem, but a formation problem.

When Wanderers have been at their best under Coyle they have featured a central midfield of Fabrice Muamba and Stuart Holden.  Muamba is a destroyer, an incredibly fit and powerful athlete who breaks up play all over the field.  Holden, while quick and good in a tackle, is blessed with an amazing sense of positioning.  He is always exactly where he needs to be.  Now that Holden is back from injury, I believe Coyle will return to this central pairing.  I still don't think we will beat Chelsea next week, but after that, when our season really begins, I think Bolton supporters will be reminded how lucky we are to have Holden and Muamba at our disposal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bolton in Crisis!

Or so the Bolton Evening News will scream today.  I don't want to be quite that dramatic, but there do appear to be many problems, particularly in defense.  In my (possibly biased) mind, all of these problems can be traced back to Paul Robinson.  As I stated in my last entry, Robinson is clearly the worst player in any top flight league in Europe.  There is not a single football-related skill he possesses.  Worse, his mere presence forces the entire team to shift out of position in a vain attempt to cover up his inadequacies.  In the second half of Wanderers' game against Norwich, it reached the point where Zat Knight was just going all the way to the sideline and essentially playing left-back.  Unfortunately, this left a huge gap in the middle, which led to both Norwich goals.  I don't blame Knight though.  Big as he is, it is impossible for one player to cover the entire left side of the field.

Long story short, Owen Coyle needs to drop Paul Robinson.  Now.  I don't even care who replaces him, anybody would be better, and noone could possibly be worse.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Long Slow Sunset of Kevin Davies

For the last ten years, through four managers and hundreds of matches, Kevin Davies has pretty much been the first name on the teamsheet for Bolton Wanderers.  He has never been seriously injured, and has served as club captain for the last few seasons.  There were a few occasions when Davies had to be shoehorned into the team as a right winger, but for the most part, he has earned his position on merit.  Never a prolific goal-scorer, he has been an effective player none-the-less, creating opportunities for teammates and managing several 10 plus goal seasons.

It has always been a delicate balance for KD though.  The manager has had to calculate the perpetual fouling, the easily given up possession, and the poor finishing in front of goal, then compare it to the myriad of headers and resulting flick-ons, the numerous free kicks won, and fairly reliable ten goals a season.  Unfortunately, in the last year or so, Davies' scale has finally tipped in the wrong direction.  At this point, Owen Coyle is playing his skipper purely based on reputation.

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.

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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dark Clouds are gathering...

...two weeks before the new season starts.  The Wanderers are in danger of falling behind the pack very early this year.  First of all, the early schedule is brutal, absolutely brutal.  Our first game is what you never want to open the season, a promoted team away.  Fired-up fans, fired-up players, and usually a nervy draw that looks bad later in the year when others are getting 3 points at will.

After that, we run the northwest gauntlet, City-Liverpool-United.  It's quite possible Bolton could have no points after 4 matches.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gardner Stays

Ricardo Gardner may have been born in Jamaica, whom I am watching play the US in the Gold Cup semi-fina this afternoon, but he now calls Bolton home.  It was this stability, and his family's comfort with the northwest, that caused Bibi to turn down Sam Allardyce's offer of a big money contract with West Ham and stay at Bolton for less money.

I have always liked Gardner, but he is no longer the marauding left-back that may have been the best in the premiership for a year or two under Big Sam.  At 32, his extraordinary pace robbed by age and injury, he is little more than a role player, versatile and good for depth, but not to be relied upon.  Realistically, if Gardner makes more than ten appearances next season, it is probably not a good sign for Bolton.  That said, it will be nice to have him around.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fare Thee Well Dear Wanderers...

Word has been leaking out that Bolton have offered some players new contracts while letting others go.  Robbie Blake has a deal for next season.  Ricardo Gardner has been offered something (with a rather severe pay cut I would imagine) and he has a decision to make.

Jlloyd Samuel has been cut loose.  I don't quite understand why he has been frozen out by Coyle, especially in favor of Paul Robinson.  When Samuel was first choice two season ago, he had a fine year, and he was a big part of the reason we stayed up.  Maybe he is just too much to deal with off the pitch.

Joey O'Brien is leaving as well.  Thinking about him just makes me sad.  Whenever he was fit, all four of our recent managers made him first choice in central midfield, and he always played well.  He simply couldn't stay on the field.  Some bodies just aren't built for the abuse of professional sports.  I hope the change of scenery does him good, perhaps he can build a career somewhere else.

I am sad to see Tamir Cohen go as well.  He was never going to be first choice at a Premier League club with top 10 ambitions, but I thought he was decent midfield depth. 

Let's just hope Owen Coyle can bring in some upgrades this summer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bolton's Goal-scoring Prowess...

...may once again be dependent upon Nicolas Anelka.

No, the Frenchman will not be returning to the Reebok, but where he plays next year will have a big affect on who is up front for the Wanderers.  If Anelka stays at Chelsea, that could well mean that Daniel Sturridge is available on loan for another season.  As we all know, Owen Coyle would love to have the young striker back at Middlebrook Leisure Center.

However, if one or more from Anelka, Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda, and Salomon Kalou decides to move on, Sturridge will probably feature in Chelsea's first team next season.  If this scenario sounds familiar, that is because we went through the same thing with Jack Wilshire and Arsenal last season.

I think Daniel Sturridge is an outstanding player, and I want the absolute best for him and his career, I just hope that best involves a 25-goal season for the Wanderers in 2011-2012.