Before we get into it, you should know that yes, there will be a lot of "ifs" and "buts" in this piece.
It is now two weeks in a row and in four of the last six matches that Bolton Wanderers have failed to maintain a winning position, and in turn, dropped vital points. Now, this isn't a new problem for the Trotters by any stretch of the imagination. The problem has been going on for the whole of this season but has picked up pace since Dougie Freedman took over. Yes, that sounds bad but in one way, it's actually a good problem to have. We'll explain in a little bit.
First, the matches in question where Bolton failed to hold onto a lead and ultimately dropped points:
|Date||Game||Result||Number of points dropped|
|24 August||Nottingham Forest (H)||2-2||2|
|1 September||Hull City (A)||3-1||3|
|Leeds United (H)||2-2||2|
Wolverhampton Wanderers (A)
|10 November||Blackpool (A)||2-2||2|
|17 November||Barnsley (H)||1-1||2|
|1 December||Ipswich Town (H)||1-2||3|
|8 December||Huddersfield Town (A)||2-2||2|
Three of those matches happened under the guidance of Owen Coyle, one under Jimmy Phillips, and four under Dougie Freedman. One of the issues for the phenomenon's increase after Coyle was sacked was because Bolton really were not scoring early goals under his management this season. Due to that, Bolton could never get ahead and thus did not have the opportunity to drop points.
With Dougie Freedman in charge, Bolton are getting on the scoreboard early, as evidenced by the Blackpool, Barnsley, Blackburn, and Ipswich matches. On all four of those occasions, Bolton opened the scoring and on all four of them, it happened before the 25th minute with the goal coming in the first 10 minutes twice.
Now, let's assume that Bolton had dropped none of those points, that they would have maintained the lead. Bolton would be 19 points better off and sitting pretty at the top of the table on 45 points, one clear of Cardiff City and with a difference much better than their current -2.
What about if they had picked up half of those 21 points (we'll take the under and go with 10)? Bolton would still be in much better position with 36 points from 21 games. That point total would put us in the playoffs, a few points clear in sixth place. Bolton could also be better off than Middlesbrough and Hull City, sitting third and fourth respectively and both having picked up all three points after being in losing positions against Bolton.
Where does the blame lie, you ask? It lies with everyone.
The attacking players are not clinical enough and thus cannot give Bolton any breathing room. Only twice this season have Bolton Wanderers been two goals clear at any point against their opponents: Derby County at home and Blackburn away.
The midfielders fail to maintain possession and the opposition gets the ball back far too easily. It gets even worse when Chris Eagles leaves the field. The Trotters no longer have an outlet and they know it. The two prime examples of this are Blackburn away and Ipswich at home.
The defenders fail to keep the ball out of the back of the net. Yes, they're getting peppered by chances but the fact of the matter is that they do not do nearly enough to stop it. Bolton almost dropped three points instead of two against Huddersfield Town at the weekend thanks to Tim Ream's late missed clearance and that's just one of many examples.
Bolton have to improve everywhere.