GUESSING Wanderers’ starting line-up has never been an easy task since Dougie Freedman’s arrival.
The Scot has bristled in the past at suggestions he tinkers unnecessarily with his line-up, stating in no uncertain terms that squad rotation is vital in the modern game.
His teams may be ever-changing but for the majority of the Scot’s 20 months since his arrival in Bolton his formation has differed little from the 4-2-3-1 system he employed with great effect in his previous post as manager at Crystal Palace.
All that could be about to change, however, as anyone who has monitored the club’s progress over this summer’s pre-season activity will attest.
Wanderers have played in a range of formations during pre-season, a preamble, says Freedman, to a campaign where he will finally be able to stretch the team’s tactical range.
“I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the players have a few different ideas, know how to play in a few different shapes,” he told The Bolton News.
“We’ve played with three at the back this pre-season, a tight four in midfield, two up top, one up top, and I think the players are learning to adapt between those different styles.
“There was a big difference against Port Vale when we moved from three at the back to more of a 4-2-3-1 and started to control the game, and that is what I want to be able to do this season.”
Wanderers’ new-found tactical flexibility has been brought about by a handful of summer signings.
Dorian Dervite, Dean Moxey, Kevin McNaughton, Neil Danns and Liam Feeney have given Freedman options that were not available before.
“The personnel at a football club dictates what shape you can play in, and in the first 15 to 18 months at this club, I felt I could only play one way,” he said.
“There was no balance.
“Towards the end of last season I had the players to play two up front and now I’m having a little look at how I can start the season.
“The squad is balanced up a little bit. I have got left-sided players, I’ve got hard-working midfielders, good number 10s, Liam Trotter to come back and we’re still in the market for more.”
The hunt for more attacking options goes on, however, for the Wanderers boss.
After missing out on Lukas Jutkiewicz in the summer – a striker who seemed tailor made for the manager’s preferred tactical system – the scouting department has been working overtime to find a replacement.
“Everyone is saying ‘Dougie, what’s Plan B now you haven’t got Lukas Jutkiewicz?’ But I’m out there looking,” said the Wanderers boss.
“I don’t mind saying it, I want three more attacking players.
“It’s frustrating for me and I’m sure it is for the fans but we’re trying our best on the recruitment side.”