IT is a statement that might be contested by some who watched Wanderers struggle to execute a convoluted gameplan against Ipswich Town last weekend, but there is method behind the madness.

Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool manager and wartime guest player at Bolton, once said: “Football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better.”

To at least a portion of the 20,000-plus who watched at the University of Bolton Stadium last weekend, his words rang true. The Whites were adhering rigidly to a set of instructions geared towards exploiting a weakness in the opposition, the only trouble was, they were not doing it quickly enough, nor did they seem to be doing it with enough conviction to cause damage.

A vastly more experienced Ipswich side proved faster, stronger, and cannier on the day – and even though Bolton had opportunities to affect the result, even Ian Evatt had to give tactical props to Kieran McKenna and his promotion-chasing Tractor Boys on the day.

Comparisons with an Ipswich squad whose full-back, Leif Davis, cost as much as every member of Evatt’s dressing room combined may not be helpful, or even fair. And the same could be said of tonight’s opponents, Sheffield Wednesday.

But if Bolton are to retain a top six position over the course of the next nine games, giving them at least a shot of Championship football next season, then coping with what Ipswich – and others – have thrown at them could be the key factor.

Evatt had hoped to bank on youthful energy in the last few weeks as he named the three youngest starting XIs in his tenure but will have also known inexperience could be exploited. He is adamant, however, that the teens and twentysomethings that have kept Bolton in the top six for the vast majority of the season can complete the job.

“I don’t particularly like talking about money and budgets because I think you can be competitive with any level of finance, and I also believe that what we are doing is the right way to go about things, especially given this club’s history,” he said.

“But what we are doing, we are a different model to the one Ipswich are using. Sometimes we have to speak about that model because how they have brought in experienced players, who are used to playing in those big games, that comes at a cost.

“We are not there. So how do we get that experience? Well, we have to develop our own. Players like Aaron Morley at 22 – he’s one of our own, so I’ll speak about him – but he has never been involved in these types of games before in his career, and he is only going to get better in them, learning to manage what they bring.

“We might have to go through a little bit of pain while we get up to speed with that education. And if you look at our team compared to theirs on Saturday we had James Trafford, Shola Shoretire, Luke Mbete, Conor Bradley, Aaron Morley, all really young players compared to one that had vast experience. It is just a different way of doing things and I don’t think it means we can be less competitive but sometimes I think we need some perspective about the bigger picture and what we are trying to build.”

Evatt’s comments about nervousness in the stadium last weekend brought a mixed reaction from supporters, some of whom felt it had been a barb aimed in their direction, and others who backed the manager’s view that the anxiousness was counter-intuitive to the team’s performance.

Wanderers are not about to abandon building from the back, an approach which banks on its riskiness as a way to draw opponents in and create space elsewhere. But Evatt accepts that the plan must be executed better if it is to bring results.

“It is about having belief and confidence and, as I have said loads of times, the way we want to play requires bravery and confidence,” he said.

“Myself and Kieran (McKenna) had this discussion after the game and he had it a little bit too. You try to build out from the back at times at home, and the crowd can become a bit jittery, nervous, and they don’t understand the purpose of it.

“The purpose is to create overloads somewhere else on the pitch. What we are trying to do is trigger the opposition press, so they commit more bodies forwards, then we play longer into the space where we have got the overload.

“That is the theory. We are not doing it for vanity, we are doing it for a purpose, and it is important we recognise that.

“But on the back of that, when people are getting jittery it does affect people’s confidence levels. Players have to be brave to show for the ball, have the ball, trigger the opposition press, because they know once they have the ball that someone is coming fast.

“It is a really important thing and it’s an educational process for us. It is players getting used to playing football in this environment and in big games, and in the long term it will stand us in good stead, especially the ones we are developing for ourselves like Aaron Morley.”

‘Pressing’ has entered the common football lexicon in recent years and is a topic that Evatt is more than happy to discuss.

“Against the bigger teams in this league, you almost always find they are more aggressive with their press. So, for instance, Derby went man-for-man at times, especially at Pride Park, Rotherham did it to us last season, Wigan were aggressive when they played here, Morecambe adopted that tactic as well.

“We have to be better at managing that. Our rotations, our bravery, has to be better because you are playing against direct pressure. And when you do that, it is sometimes about the detail of the pass – are you playing it to the correct foot, the right weight, away from defenders – and we train this all the time.

“I can speak about this all day long because it is a really interesting part of the game, and no team is unprepared anymore. Every single team has a plan in possession, and one out of possession.

“The plan on Saturday was to press high but to allow the ball to the wider areas – either our wide centre-backs or wing-backs – and their full-backs would jump to create space down the side of the centre-backs. But to create that space you have to be very brave to trigger the press, invite bodies on to you, then to play behind.

“I think on Saturday we became nervous with our play, the crowd then became nervous as well, but there is always a method in the madness. This isn’t vanity – we don’t play sideways passes because we want to be the best possession team with the best possession stats, we are doing it to affect the opposition in some way. It might be to fatigue the opposition in some way, or perhaps to trigger presses and create space, so we can then play into it.

“All these things we think and talk about. Football is a detailed game. This isn’t about having great possession stats because you can have the best every single week and still lose games. It is having possession with a purpose.

“Sometimes it is about recycling the ball and I actually think the last few weeks we have not dominated the ball as I’d like to have done. We have become a bit transitional, and I think we need to get back to dominating the ball and tiring out opposition.

“There are so many technical aspects to the game. We lost one of our technical analysts to Ipswich in the summer and he pretty much has the blueprint to everything we do. One of their players said to him after the game ‘you were man of the match this week’. We are up against that as well.

“Sometimes we lose sight of the bigger picture. We want to compete at the top of this league – we have and we are doing that. But there are challenges that come hand-in-hand with that, and our way of doing it is completely different to Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town. We are trying to do things in a sustainable manner, develop our own assets, not buy them in ready-made. We are trying to slowly but surely educate to progress. And I think if by the end of the season we’re top six, and hopefully having won a cup, then for my opinion a miraculous season considering where we were two or three years ago.”