WANDERERS have barely looked back since switching formation in January and the 3-4-1-2 blueprint looks set to stay for the foreseeable future.

There have been many benefits since the change of shape: Wing-backs Marlon Fossey and Declan John have revelled in the extra attacking responsibility, the addition of strikers Dion Charles and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson have given the team more energy and presence up front, and the three centre-halves have looked comfortable, each willing to step into midfield with the ball when needed.

One of the downsides, however, has been the need to change Dapo Afolayan’s natural game, moving him from a position on the left side of attack into a central role.

The former West Ham man had turned his adventurous runs across the face of the penalty box into an art form as he raced to 10 goals by mid-January but since moving into the middle, he has had to re-learn a position he had previously only played at non-league level in the colours of Solihull Moors.

Typically, he has thrown himself into the challenge, eager to prove he is more than just a wide man who can score goals. And Evatt believes he has the capacity to become even more dangerous in time.

“We had a good conversation today and the kid wants to learn, I have loved working with him,” he told The Bolton News.

“He was asking what he needs to do better, what he needs to do more, where we think the space is, understanding his team-mates and their strengths and weaknesses.

“Playing in that central role is more difficult because you have to see things 360 degrees and the pictures around you. The best one I can think of in recent years was Paul Scholes, who almost had wing mirrors, and that is how Dapo has to be.

“He has a really good reputation and anyone who is doing opposition analysis on us will be marking him down as one of the major threats. Accordingly, they have players tight to him and we have to find other ways.

“His might attract them, almost a sacrificial lamb, and that means space for others.

“He is a really good player and had a fantastic season.”

Afolayan’s hunger to learn is mirrored elsewhere in the Bolton squad, and Evatt is keen to give his players as many resources as possible to improve their game via team meetings at the start and end of each week at Lostock.

Whether it be deconstructing the previous performance or analysing an upcoming opponent, the manager is happy to supply as much detail as possible, leaving it to the individual player how much they choose to take on board.

“Our meetings are really detailed, in and out of possession, and we hit them with so much information,” he said. “I said today that some of the players might think ‘wow, this is so much to take in’ – but if you can’t, then filter it to your own specifics, your own position, and make sure you understand that role.

“If you can understand the wider picture then that is even better for the team to function and for the team to move forwards.

“The players understand – but if they don’t then they know they can come to me and we’ll sit down at the board and go through things, watch video, talk them through it.

“We’re trying to get to a point of honesty and accountability where players know that if they are not doing certain things then they will be held accountable.

“The main thing for me is that each player understands their role and then, eventually, can understand everyone’s role. They can virtually stand in any position on the pitch with their eyes closed and know automatically where everyone should be. That is the kind of position we want but it takes time, work and this is a new group.”

In Kieran Lee’s absence, and while new addition Kieran Sadlier continues to settle in the squad, extra responsibility has fallen on Afolayan over the last month.

Rumour that Premier League-bound Fulham are watching him with interest has come as no surprise to Evatt, but the Bolton boss remains confident that while Lee continues his recovery from an operation on his heel, that Afolayan can continue to grow as a player.

“Kieran Lee has the best understanding of that number 10 role,” he said. “Now he is a really experienced player who has played at the highest level and had an unbelievable education at Manchester United – but I think Dapo will get there. Technically, in possession, he is one of our best players, no doubt. Out of possession he has some work to do but he is willing to do it, he just needs time and education.

“Playing in the central role is new to him. It is a different shape but it is also good for his learning. We don’t want him to be a one trick pony who can only cut in from the left and shoot – he has so much more to offer than that.”