Opposing View: Bolton Wanderers #1
What were your hopes/fears/expectations for the season?
I'll take this question in parts. My hope is that this season serve as a transitional, grounding period for the club. The team has lacked a real coherent vision since the departure of Big Sam Allardyce five years ago.
The players should be getting on the same page, and Owen Coyle should be figuring out what sort of football club he wants to run. If that is achieved, then I think relegation is not a bad thing for the club in the long run.
My fear is basically that Bolton won't do this. The Championship is not a league in which one can flounder, and that is certainly what Bolton are doing now. While I would be supremely disappointed, and I would not be shocked by another relegation.
My expectation is probably somewhere in between those two. I certainly never expected Bolton to achieve immediate promotion, and after the start of the season that's looking more and more unlikely, but if they can create a viable platform on which to operate, I'd like to see promotion within the next two to three seasons.
Should Owen Coyle have stayed after such a dismal season last year?
I think yes, although I am in an ever dwindling minority amongst Bolton fans. Last year was awful, but I think in a lot of ways Coyle was out of his depth in the Premiership, certainly tactically. We know that he can do well in the Championship, we've seen it before, and as I said in the previous question, if he can mould the club into something he can work with, it's certainly worth giving him a shot.
How much of a hangover has their been this season following relegation?
The short answer: a very very big one.
Confidence is clearly very low amongst the players, and morale is very low amongst the fans. These two feed into each other. There are glimpses of a decent team there, but for now, the hangover is still firmly in place.
A big turnover of players this summer - who's impressed on their arrival at the Reebok?
Benik Afobe, on loan from Arsenal, certainly looks sharp although as of yet hasn't quite convinced me. Jay Spearing, also a loanee, did quite well in the one match he's played. Probably the biggest addition we made was Keith Andrews, who looks like he's going to fill Nigel Reo-Coker's important role both on and off the field.
How has Marvin Sordell done for you guys?
Last season he wasn't given much of a chance, only making three appearances after we purchased him in January.
He's been getting more game time, and deservedly so after a fairly sharp Olympics. He's gotten one goal in three league appearances so far, and I personally expect much more of him.
Who will be the key man on Saturday?
So far this season, Chris Eagles has undoubtedly been Bolton's best player (not that it's a very high accolade).
He is continually at the heart of many Bolton attacks, and his crosses are pinpoint perfect. However the key man will be whoever can control the midfield - one of Bolton's biggest problems of late. This will in all likelihood fall to Keith Andrews, who looks to be Bolton's midfield muscle this season, although it could also be Jay Spearing.
If you could offload one player - who & why?
The club did a lot of offloading in the summer, and I'm actually pretty happy with the squad right now from that perspective, but if I had to choose one player to ax it would be Andy Lonergan. That transfer was baffling in that we have a young, promising goalkeeper in Adam Bogdan, and two other keepers behind him. I fail to see how Lonergan will fit into Bolton.
If you could sign one Watford player - who & way?
Anybody, literally anybody, who can play central defender. Our current lot leaves a lot of be desired, and that certainly isn't helping Bolton's prolific goals conceded number.
How will you line-up Saturday?
Difficult to say.
Coyle has been doggedly sticking with his beloved 4-4-2, in spite of it blatantly not working tactically in the midfield, for most of the season, but last game when he switched to a 4-5-1 we ended up losing 3-1 to Hull anyway. Coyle lacks a lot of tactical nous, but at the same time Bolton is a tough nut to crack. I'd say he'll probably return to 4-4-2, perhaps giving Jay Spearing another go in the central midfield with Mark Davies. The wings, with Chris Eagles and Chung-Yong Lee, are where the real danger will come from.
I've been told time and time again that you can't predict the Championship, and I'm starting to believe it. I'm going to say 2-2 with sloppy mistakes from both sides leading to goals.
Sloppy mistakes leading to goals, something we can definitely agree on, Matilda!
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