Wanderers fans should avoid getting carried away…
Bolton 1 Brighton 0. After five wins on the bounce, the Wanderers have at last acquired momentum. The last time such a sequence was recorded was back in 2006. That turned out to be the end of the good times. From the game after, at Liverpool on New Year’s Day 2007, the club was in decline.
Dougie Freedman’s side are also undefeated in eight matches, since the reverse at Watford and sit just three points from the play off places. Promotion could happen, especially given the poor quality of this year’s Championship. So everything’s hunky dory then? Well no, it isn’t.
Of course, taking twenty points from a possible twenty-four looks impressive, but it masks the fact that Freedman hasn’t significantly improved the worst aspects of Bolton’s play. Creativity is poor, movement inadequate and there’s a lack of command in the middle of the park. The Whites are also painfully slow in the way they move the ball around. It’s dire to watch and easy to play against.
Like Sam Allardyce, Freedman prefers to defend deep, but here the similarity ends. Defences drilled by Big Sam were notoriously difficult to get behind. By contrast, the opposition these days spend so much time camped in Bolton’s penalty area, that they routinely apply for planning permission to erect permanent dwellings.
Brighton deserved to lose and that’s not a comment on their football. Any team wearing such a truly hideous strip deserves to be punished. The South coast team pitched up in an ensemble comprising black and green vertical stripes, like a mint humbug gone horribly wrong.
Even more comical was their finishing. Despite a multitude of chances created, goal keeper Andy Lonergan could have gone shopping for a mother’s day present and the home side still wouldn’t have conceded. By the latter stages, visiting fans behind the goal were demanding crash helmets.
According to the stats, Gus Poyet’s men had twenty goal attempts, six of them on target. Perhaps the term ‘on target’ needs to be redefined. Brighton couldn’t shoot for toffee. Not even for a mint humbug.
Yet it should be noted that they had more goal attempts and three times as many corners as Bolton, which casts doubts on Freedman’s post match comments.
“I felt we controlled the game out of possession.” Hmm…
All of which might be seen as an attack on Freedman. It isn’t intended to be. The Bolton boss has very definite ideas on how he wants his team to play and the patience and self-belief to see them though.
Departing from the idea that possession is everything was one explored by Sven Goran Erikkson, when in charge of the England team. Freedman, a keen student of the Italian game, where Erikkson had his best days knows that.
Yet at present, the balance isn’t right. Making the opposing team work hard when they have the ball is a valid aim. But until Bolton are better in possession that isn’t enough.
Added to which, on an individual level, the Whites are sadly lacking. How many players from the side that started against Brighton would prosper at a current top flight club?
Bolton Wanderers isn’t a Premier League club in waiting. It’s relegation fodder waiting to happen. Any promoted side needs the spine of the team in place before ascending. That foundation hasn’t been laid yet.
This season is best seen as a learning experience. The 2013-14 campaign should be the one where the Wanderers go eyeballs out to reclaim their top flight status.
– Richard McCormick