It’s an age old adage that “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars”. But the stars are certainly playing a wicked game of hide and seek with Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle who saw his side hit rock bottom after Sunday’s dismal defeat by Chelsea.
Chelsea coasted into a four goal lead inside half an hour at the Reebok stadium after Bolton had rolled over and sunk to their knees in front of the title contenders. And the worrying thing for the home fans was that Chelsea hadn’t even gotten out of second gear.
Bolton Wanderers now sit bottom of the league (which is hard enough to digest for their fans given how Blackburn Rovers have been performing) with 11 defeats in their last 12 games and having conceded a staggering 21 goals in just 7 games. They have had an extremely tough start to the season with games against Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea already played (and with no points on the board from any of those games), but what has worried the Bolton faithful is the manner of the defeats. Many pundits have said they expect Bolton to start their season after these games but once you’ve suffered five consecutive back-to-back defeats in such demoralising circumstances, it is really hard to pick yourself up and get going again.
The manner of the goals Bolton have conceded has been nothing short of abysmal. Sunday League defending is the only way to describe the Bolton backline this season and they have not been helped by some truly shocking errors by theit two goalkeepers, Jussi Jaaskelinen and Adam Bogdan. Bogdan replaced the injured Jaaskelinen for the Chelsea game but made two horrendous errors that gifted Chelsea their 3rd and 4th goals on Sunday afternoon and prompted the rage fuelled Bolton fans to wonder why their team was even out on the pitch in the first place.
The moment which summed up Bolton’s awful form came in the form of a 50 yard run by David Luiz when he bombed into Bolton’s half and got a shot away without being challenged at all. Questions have been asked of Bolton’s midfield as well with the news that Stuart Holden is facing another long time out on sidelines with a knee injury having rocked the club. He is without doubt the heartbeat of the side who will now be desperately hoping that Mark Davies can step up to the plate and stake his claim for a first-team place.
The trouble with Mark Davies has been that he seems to get caught in possession of the ball too often in positions that make it very vulnerable for the team. He has shown sparks of his creativity but his performances have been very erratic so far. But now with Holden out and Lee Chung-Yong (broken leg) already ruled out for the rest of the season, it is time for Mark Davies to prove to his team mates and fans that he has what it takes to keep Bolton afloat.
His midfield partner, Fabrice Muamba, is supposed to provide cover for his back four and has done everything but that. He seems to venture forward on occasion and leave a huge gaping hole in midfield which has been exploited to the maximum by the opposition. He needs to shield the back four with and bring his other midfielders into play without consolidating his position.
The other main problem with the Trotters lies up front with the departing Johan Elmander having left a huge gap to fill. David N’Gog has been brought in from Liverpool but he is not a known goal-scorer in the Premier League and it is hard to see where the goals are going to come from this term. Kevin Davies plays with a lot of heart and ably supports his team but even he is not a 15 goals-a-season striker which puts added pressure on Owen Coyle. Ivan Klasnic has shown some promise but his sending off at Anfield clouded his good start to the season. Bolton will be looking to him to chip in with a few goals.
The Trotters now have a relatively easy run of games (what wouldn’t be easy after having faced the ‘Big Five’ already?) starting with a trip to the DW Stadium to take on unpredictable Wigan Athletic. It is a must win game for Owen Coyle’s side who must now use the international break to mull things over and decide on his best team with a relegation scrap already waiting in the next six months. If Coyle fails to lift his side out of the bottom three in the next couple of months, it’s really difficult to see them staying up this season.