Date: 4th September 2013 at 10:36am
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Robb Moss pops in with an article. It’s a good read and he’s certainly done his homework.

Thanks for the article, Rob Moss and thanks for the work put into devising it. These are worrying times for Whites’ supporters but with fans like ours, who care as much as they obviously do, it gives us hope. Enjoy…

Following the total failure to move on our dead-wood on transfer deadline day and with the loan window opening in 7 days` time, I was having a look through our squad list. Which got me thinking…

What on earth can we actually do about the squad?

We have three goalkeepers. Ádám Bogdán, Andy Lonergan and Jay Lynch. Jay Lynch is only 20 years old and it’s important to have a young goalkeeper if only to ensure that the reserves can continue to play football. We know that Bogdán has his faults, but he’s probably all we can afford. And we know that Lonergan has stepped in and performed admirably when called upon, but also that he’s not quite up to Bogdán’s quite variable standard. And we still need a substitute in case Bogdán gets injured. Can we do anything about the goalkeeping position? Probably not. Other areas are more desperate.

Okay. So what about left back? Well, we have one. Marc Tierney. And I think he’s done pretty well so far this season, it would be difficult and perhaps unfair to blame our defensive failings upon him. We don’t really have the funds to go and get a better one even if we loan him out. Other areas are more desperate.

So how about right back? Well, it’s not much better – we have two, and one of them is injured and the other one is rubbish. Joe Riley would no doubt be getting a look in right now, but there’s no point worrying about that because we’re unlikely to see him play this season. And Tyrone Mears… well, the less said the better. So we’ve ended up with a centre back, Alex Baptiste, filling in. Could we do something about this in the loan market, get ourselves a half-decent recognised right back? Probably… but we won’t. Other areas are more desperate.

Let’s stick to the sides of the pitch for now. The left side of midfield. We have surprisingly few left-footed players in the squad. Moritz, Ream, Lonergan and Tierney are left-footed and Holden and Odelusi are ambidextrous. Only one of these is an out-and-out left winger – obviously Odelusi. His youth and inexperience mean that he gets overlooked for the spot on the left wing by many a right-footed player. Ordinarily the spot is taken by Lee or Eagles, with the opposing winger position going to the other player, and Pratley appearing somewhere when one of them is out. Should we sign a winger? Well, if we do, he should at least be left-footed. But we won’t. Other areas are more desperate.

Okay, so we hop on over to the right side of midfield. Here is where Chris Eagles normally plies his trade, with Pratley or Lee sometimes filling in, and Hayden White and Chris Lester waiting in the reserves for a chance to shine which will probably never come, and possibly Robert Hall if it turns out right wing is his best position. Should we sign a right winger? No. Other areas are more desperate.

Let’s look up front for a moment. We have a surprisingly massive number of strikers on the books. David N’Gog, Marvin Sordell, Jermaine Beckford, Craig Davies, Robert Hall, Michael O’Halloran, Tom Eaves, Zach Clough and Conor Wilkinson are all contracted to the club, with only Sordell out on loan. One could argue that Hall is really a winger, but to be honest we’ve not really seen enough of him yet to pass judgement. Still – 7 or 8 strikers who could all pull on the shirt, in theory, next Saturday afternoon and go to try to stick the ball in the back of the net. Should we sign another striker? We’ve got enough really. It would be great to get rid of maybe five of them and replace them with one good one, but I don’t think we will because nobody seems to want them. Other areas are more desperate.

How about central midfield? Well, we have André Moritz, Mark Davies, Stuart Holden, Darren Pratley, Josh Vela, Ján Gregu?, Jay Spearing, Medo Kamara, Keith Andrews and Luke Woodland on the books. Of those, Moritz and Davies fulfil the same role – creative midfield play, crafting something for the strikers to latch onto with something other than their head. Davies is, of course, out until December, and Holden won’t be back until next season. Keith Andrews is fortunately out on loan, and Luke Woodland isn’t ready yet. But that still leaves us, realistically, with Moritz taking one central midfield spot when he’s fit until December when Davies should replace him leaving Moritz as cover, and Pratley, Vela, Gregu?, Spearing and Medo fighting it out for the remaining spot. Okay, so that little list has three of our “best” players so far this season in there all after a single shirt. An embarrassment of riches, perhaps?

And now we find ourselves in the area of the pitch where we are at our most vulnerable. In front of our own goalmouth. The centre of defence. The rock on which great teams of years gone by have been built. The players who have the opposition front line in their back pocket. The guys who give you confidence to charge up the field in search of a second or third goal, because you know the two lads at the back have got you covered. Or… not. Ah, yes. Matt Mills, Alex Baptiste, David Wheater, Tim Ream, Zat Knight, Cian Bolger and Oscar Threlkeld are the central defenders at the club at the present time. Of those, Baptiste finds himself having to cover for Mears’ inadequacies, Bolger and Threlkeld aren’t ready yet, and Mills, Wheater, Ream and especially Knight have been the subject of so much discussion these past few days in the wake of the 4-1 disaster at Ewood Park. Are any of the four senior central defenders at our football club capable of instilling the same confidence Bruno N’Gotty, Gerry Taggart, Florent Laville or pretty much any regular central defender from the pre-OC era did into our forward players? I’m afraid not. All four have proven themselves unable to do what needs to be done, which is keep clean sheets, or at least look like they might do every now and then. We’ve seen Dawson do the job on his own, on our own turf at least, for the latter part of last season. But he isn’t here, and he won`t be coming any time soon if the rumours about Gabriel Tamaș are correct. So what can we do? Nobody wants these central defenders, right? They’re all so bad they’re going to either play or sit in the reserves for the rest of their contracts, right? Mills 2015, Wheater 2016, Ream 2015 and Captain Zat 2014?

That’s absolutely fine. It’s not Dougie Freedman’s fault that some idiot signed Mills, Ream and Knight and gave them inexcusably long and incredibly high-wage contracts. It’s not his fault either that Wheater’s return to the first team has been so disappointing – his total absence of pace since his return suggests there’s probably some permanent damage there and he’ll probably never be the same again. But we don’t need these players taking off our hands. It would be lovely if we could, but the will just isn’t there from any manager who could afford to do it. So how do we plug the gap at the back when we have no money?

Simple. We loan out Pratley or Medo. Possibly even both. We have so many central midfielders it’s getting to the point of being ridiculous. We don’t need them all. Four is plenty; perhaps five when you have two long-term absentees amongst their number. It’s all well and good saying that we can’t loan out Pratley or Medo, or both, because we need the cover – but do we? Do we really need a saleable asset sat on the bench when we can’t afford to fill the gaping chasm in the heart of our defence? Have they really brought so much solidity that you could argue they’re worth more than a central defender, or brought such creative genius that it could only be the strikers’ fault that the goals aren’t flying in? And would you be that upset to see Vela on the bench and getting the occasional run out?

No. They’ve sat in the middle of the park, run around a bit, not stopped that much getting past them and so put the defence under more pressure, created hardly any chances and so put the strikers under more pressure, and yet people will probably even pay a loan fee for them because they`ve looked a bit impressive on the ball and their agents could make a good video.

Cash in and go defender shopping, Dougie. Please.


18 Replies to “BWFC Guest Article: What To Do About The Squad?”

  • Cracking article Rob. Didn’t DF say that he signed Baptiste as a right back as that was his best position and he played there when he was younger. I agree totally that Baptiste should be playing in the middle though, how he isn’t is beyond me. I would rather have Mears than Wheater or Knight on the pitch. Tierney Baptiste Newbie!! Mears isn’t a bad back four as compared to what we have. I would rather have a week link at right back than in the centre. I wonder who the newbie could be though?? I would be concerned about loaning Pratley or Medo out to be honest but I can’t see a better plan.

  • Well, we were all concerned with the flood of goals headed via Paul Robinson’s area of the pitch (left back) before he was finally dropped and then moved on following Alonso’s surge of form towards the end of his contract – which just so happened to coincide with the arrival of Dawson, perhaps he gained a new-found confidence to surge up the pitch? It’s very difficult to carry a poor player regardless of where they are on the pitch, but some positions are more problematic than others. Anyway. DF did indeed say that Baptiste’s best position was right-back, but one should take all such statements with a pinch of salt – anything a manager says to the media is either stupid and he shouldn’t have said it in the first place, or it’s said for a reason. And the reason isn’t usually the dissemination of the truth. Do you think DF should have come out and said, effectively, “all my players are useless and they’re all leaving the club by hook or by crook this week?” Did that contribute to the absence of concrete offers? I wish he’d just gone home and kicked his cat instead.

  • Im not a fan of Mills but hes gotta be a better option than Knight, as has Ream. As for the rest of the team, its time to give others a chance, starting with Moritz. I’d even be tempted to give Hall a chance as striker, he cant perform any worse than Beckford and that would leave the wings free for Chungy and Eagles. Things will turn round, I still believe we can finish top six.

  • Holden, Medo and Moritz are our only class players. Come to think of it, we have always had players that WE wanted to get rid of, do you realise that we have never really had 11 effective men on the field all at once for YEARS 🙁

  • Tierney baptiste ream mears for me. Ream is quick enough to get across to cover a mears cock up and baptiste is I think quick enough to cover any space left by ream. I reckon that centre back pairing may not offer the best protection aerially but on the floor we would be much more dynamic. Two cardboard cut outs would be more effective than Wheater and knight have been! Dougie won’t drop knight, but he won’t take the captains arm band off knight, that would be like admitting he had made an error of judgement and his ego is to stubborn for that. Knights faults have been glaringly obvious to most Bolton fans for seasons, he has been carried in the past by Cahill and Dawson which gave him hiding places but Wheater has been equally as bad making knights inability really stand out. Please swallow your pride Dougie and drop him or he will drag you down with him!

  • It came up for much debate earlier in the season when the knight was made captain, but what are the options? Obviously anyone would be a better choice, but if Dougie happened to grow a pair and swallow his pride, who do you think he would pick to be the captain of our team out of the currently available players?

  • Rob I would love to read a piece on my above question. I wish I could do it myself, but I bow to your and all other contributing writers superior writing skills.

  • Holden, Medo and Moritz are our only class players. Come to think of it, we have always had players that WE wanted to get rid of, do you realise that we have never really had 11 effective men on the field all at once for YEARS 🙁

  • To be fair, I do think Wheater would be better with someone of greater ability next to him (such as Dawson), and perhaps he is not yet fully fit after his injury?

  • Dan – that’s a great question. The immediately obvious answer would be Spearing, but we’ve all seen how his performances have mysteriously dropped off now he’s financially secure for the next few years. Personally, I’m a great fan of having your captain in central midfield, so it’d be Spearing, Medo or Pratley, depending on who was playing. Would I have a permanent captain? Would I hell. Why on earth would you want to have someone in there who you couldn’t drop if he was playing rubbish? Oh… errr, Dougie…

  • I suggested it moonpig as a response to robmoss. A way of using good players out of position versus bad players in position..Only as crazy as not dropping
    Knight..and aren’t our leading scorers sometimes from defence ! I wouldn’t have a permanent captain Neil they and consistently perform or are obviously leading on the field.

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