Do Wanderers need a midfield enforcer?

By Liam Hatton

Well, I feel we need to have a discussion about what happened last Saturday against Wigan Athletic, but in all honesty I have not even been able to bring myself to rewatch the highlights in any way, shape or form.

“It has been a painful week, it has been a long week,” Ian Evatt said to Wanderers TV. “A lot of frustration, a lot of anger, a lot of hurt.”

You can say that again - it was heavily disappointing, embarrassing and issues that plagued us last year against the better teams in the league reared their ugly head once again.

You hope it was a one-off, an anomaly if you will, but as Ian Evatt has said numerous times in the aftermath, their aim is to simply park it and move on. That is obviously needed ahead of a tough game away at Burton Albion, but the fans may need a bit more time to fully recover from that showing.

The only solace I can take right now is that there are a lot of games to be played and just as we do not make assumptions based off the three wins prior to last Saturday, it would be remiss of us to write off promotion from one heavy defeat.

I cannot take my own advice, as I tweeted in the heat of the moment that this team would not get promoted off the back of performances like that against the higher quality teams in League One. That was the emotion talking, which I keep saying I work on, but that is awfully difficult when you’re so invested as a fan.

The fact is, the team are still in a good position, they are joint top and they need a bounce-back performance at a place they have normally struggled in the past.

“We have to do a lot of the things well on Saturday that we did not do last Saturday - which is compete, win duels, win tackles, win second balls,” Evatt continued.

It sounds so simple, but it is true. For all of the possession you have, or however many times you string passes together, a soft underbelly in the middle of the park will always hold you back.

Which brings me to my next point and if Bolton need an enforcer in midfield, and by an enforcer I mean a real hard nut who will not crack easily. Someone like MJ Williams, but bigger, tougher and faster. Someone like Karl Henry, but younger and able to play most games.

Our midfield has talent, yet it is undersized. I looked at Wigan and their team is a lot bigger in terms of height, but on their day they were also just better in every department, with the midfield battle really telling.

If Evatt takes inspiration from Pep Guardiola and City regarding all of their silky build up play, they still have that guy in midfield who does the dirty work. He has it in Rodri and before that at Barcelona he had it in Sergio Busquets too.

Do we need a ‘plan B’ or whatever that means? That is a conversation for another day, but I am as sure as the fact that night follows day we need a true enforcer who can add some steel.

For now, it is on to Burton and hopefully we get back on track.

Could Wigan walloping prove to be a blessing?

By Tony Thompson

The Bolton News:

Call me over-optimistic but the fact we had our backsides spanked by our local rivals this early in the season might not be the worst thing in the world. 

Before a ball was kicked we’d already won the league by a distance in the eyes of some (probably younger) supporters. And whilst I admire the positivity you have to remember this is Bolton Wanderers and nothing has ever been easy (except for Colin Todd’s team that breezed to promotion in 1996/97 in the final season at Burnden, that was a doddle). 

Then when we went and dominated games against the might of Lincoln, Cheltenham and Fleetwood – at least in the first half – the over-excitement went into overdrive. 

Of course, this being Bolton, a heavy defeat later and an entirely different type of person comes out of the woodwork, filled with ‘I told you so’ and ‘I’ve been saying for ages that…’ 

They used to sit on a stool at the end of the bar and tell anyone silly enough to stand near them how they never really rated McGinlay, or why if he was manager, Bergsson would be the first one out of the door. They often do it for attention, and like people who try to flog you paintballing trips in the shopping centre, they are best ignored. 

The problem with aligning your view to the extremes, meaning Bolton are either the worst, or the best team in the history of the world, is that you spend a long part of the season being completely and utterly wrong. When you get proven right, and they win a game 6-0 or lose one 6-0, you cannot wait to tell everyone within earshot that you know what you are talking about and should be drafted into Gareth Southgate’s coaching team immediately. 

I am no better. Get a couple of Strongbow Dark Fruits down me and I will tell you why I should have made it as a professional and why a childhood changing schools in a military family cost me the chance of being England’s next Paul Jones. You see, I too had plans to be criminally overlooked by the international blazers in the white of Bolton.  

Getting the meltdown out of the way early doors establishes some parameters. It isn’t going to get any worse than that, surely? And it will almost certainly get better, won’t it? 

It might just give a reminder to those die-hards at either end of the scale that whilst we all love a moan and groan, will offer an opinion at the drop of a hat, we should probably let the ones who know what they are doing get on with it.