Tom Jenkins describes which systems would be best to play to our squad’s strengths…
Bolton are back after the two week sabbatical and, sadly, Neil Lennon has had nothing to show from it in terms of improving our squad. Thankfully, in my humble opinion, the club turned down the chance to offer Emile Heskey wannabe Shola Ameobi a contract and we now appear to be stuck with the players we have had since the window closed in September. As always, I am quietly confident that a turnaround is near and if the right system is in place to utilise the player`s strengths fully, we will see results change. I have picked a few options out and, if you read this Mr Lennon, I`ll work for free should you wish to hire me.
1: The Standard 4-2-3-1
For the majority of his time at the club, Neil has stuck to the most popular formation of today and seen mixed results. I for one would use this only away from home to offer greater stability in defence but you can only do this if you are willing to counter. This is where, like under Dougie, we saw our team be fairly solid but only because we had no intention of venturing over the halfway line. To resolve this, you need the right personnel and the key positions are the ‘2` in my opinion. Too often both Medo and Spearing were put in this area of the field to be the cautious holding players but they instead got in each other`s way and left us with, at the best of times, 10 men. Neil`s preferred pairing is Danns and Mavies which, in fairness, has worked reasonably well but I don`t think any Bolton fan will see is it as a permanent solution. Given our inability to keep centre-halves either fit or available, more stability is needed without losing impetus. Thus, for me, Spearing in for Danns (like against Derby) is the way to go and, now that we have a fit Pratley, Mavies can be pushed forward so attacking is guaranteed.
Ideal Line-Up: Amos/Pisano Wheater Prince Moxey/Spearing Pratley/Clayton Mavies Clough/Madine
2: The Divisive 3-5-2
I am not crazy about this system just because of how badly it has gone in the past (see Boro in August) but that isn`t to say it could never work. Now, more than ever, we have the player to pull it off and, if it was heavily practised, I wouldn`t mind trying it again. We have full-backs who can play wing-back roles comfortably and also pacy centre-backs in Derik and Prince to boot. Going forward we could be very effective as this system encourages crossing and big men up front is something we have. However, while both defence and midfield look solid in this system, using those two big strikers isn`t a mouth-watering prospect, for me. Yes they would get lots of crosses but you can`t always be one dimensional and I don`t think either Heskey or Madine`s ground work is good enough to play through the middle with them both up front. I think it is worth a shot but selection could prove difficult.
Ideal Line-Up: Amos/Prince Wheater Derik/Pisano Spearing Mavies Pratley Casado/ Madine Heskey
3: The Variation 4-1-2-1-2 (Wide or Narrow)
This is the one I`ve been crying out for for ages. Selection wise the positions pick themselves as we have the central players to play narrow and, finally, the wide players to vary it. I feel it gives us the opportunity to play the attractive and expansive football that could get us up the league. In an ideal world we could partner both Clough and Clayton and I know everyone is excited about that as a prospect. The defence, because we now have options, will be strong no matter who starts and if we go narrow our plethora of central players comes in to play. I also think that this formation would suit the likes of Josh Vela and Mark Davies down to the ground as they could easily dictate play while Spearing and Pratley work their socks off. I think this is more of a ‘home game` system but what a prospect (with a fully fit squad) it could be.
Ideal Line-Up: Amos/Pisano Wheater Prince Moxey/ Spearing Vela (Feeney) Pratley (Wellington) Mavies/Clough Clayton