After a familiar start to the season for Wanderers, we look at a some of the less obvious reasons why we are on the back foot yet again
If you asked any Bolton fan how they would rate the beginning to the Whites` season, there would be a pretty unanimous consensus that, once again, four games in we`re already on the back foot.
On paper our season has looked ugly, anyone with a twitter account, or who listens on Wanderers Player will tell you it hasn`t been as bad as the league table suggests. Things haven’t quite clicked yet despite promising performances, so what has been holding us back?
On the face of it, its quite clear we aren’t scoring the goals we need to gain points. But there are a couple of non footballing reasons that haven’t done us any favours thus far.
The first is something that has plagued us for at least a few seasons. We can`t catch a break when it comes to injuries. We constantly have four or five players injured, always a couple with serious long term injuries, and its often players who are key in their positions. For the past half decade, our best centre midfielders in Stuart Holden and Mark Davies have spent more time in the physio room than on the pitch. There have been many instances in which this has happened, but focusing on now, the man who is on the way to earning himself legendary status, Captain Darren Prately, is out injured. Yaya Toure is a rich man`s Darren Pratley. We need Prats back soon, to protect our defence, and provide a different attacking dimension from deep.
Defensively, we`re missing Derik and David Wheater. Though our defence has been solid, Derik seems like a star player, and is a new signing we`re all itching to see. In typical fashion, he got injured in the final pre season game at The Macron. It doesn’t seem like the club are being clear on when we`ll see him in competitive action, which is a bad sign. In pre season, Derik also popped up with some assists, meaning he could have been a factor in avoiding our goal drought, had he been in the side recently.
At the other end of the pitch, Max Clayton has been missing, and since early July in pre season, Neil Lennon has been telling us he`s just a “few weeks away” from returning to action, yet we`re approaching September and nothing has changed. Clayton is a brilliant player, perhaps underrated by some fans. When he comes back, we will have two very threatening and competent wingers in Silva and Clayton, a luxury compared with last season. Clayton showed he can get himself into goalscoring positions frequently in his short stint under Neil Lennon, that was before being hit by his long term injury. Hopefully he`ll come back the same player he was beforehand, and the same athlete he was, not marred by the injury.
We`ve had to begin the season without key players across the park. Once we get some fortune with injuries, we`ll have a stronger XI, and more talent to bring from the bench – to accompany super sub Stephen Dobbie – and we can push up the table. Players like Pratley and Wheater continue to be plagued by muscle injuries – opposed to leg breaks and the like, that come from heavy tackles – some would point to training methods as the reason for this. Arsene Wenger has been criticised for years with many of his players missing season after season through injury. For Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere, their ordeals have been almost Stuart Holden like. Back to Bolton, perhaps this is something to look at, with Craig Davies suffering similarly last season. Some say the players aren’t fit enough, and so struggle with the intensity of matches. Others say that they’re pushed too hard in training and its just too much for the muscles to recover in time for matches.
I would like to think this is all nonsense, and it comes down to a bit of fortune and a manager`s ability to protect players throughout the rigorous Championship season.
The transfer window has also screwed us over, here`s how it wouldn’t have, if it ended before the first game of the season.
The Ream Transfer Saga wouldn’t have dragged on, meaning Neil Lennon would have put his spending hat on sooner. The likes of Wellington Silva and Francesco Pisano would have been signed, ready to play versus Derby or ‘Boro. The mystery striker that Neil Lennon may or may not be currently working on signing, would have signed to start the season. That would give us the depth, creativity and goalscorers we needed ready for Derby, instead of five games in.
As it is, Lennon is still having to work on his summer business, and we will have to wait until the sixth game of the season, to be ready to compete and score goals. By which time, 10% of the season will have taken place, without a completed squad. Of course, the rules are the same for everyone, and other problems cam come with a transfer window ending before day one, but it might have worked out better for us.
The upside of this situation is that our performances have still been decent. Once the squad is set, performances will continue to improve, and the goals will come in, allowing us to gain the results we deserve.
For now, we are only five points away from the Playoffs, and will go to Rovers tonight to collect an easy three points!