This summer was always going to be a busy one for Dougie Freedman and Bolton Wanderers. The manager has identified a number of issues with his Trotters team and is looking to make his mark. The moves so far have largely been defensive with Marc Tierney's signing already agreed (in principal), Alex Baptiste's Bolton move likely a done deal, and young fullback Hayden White in. With the defensive overhaul in full effect, questions persist about the rest of the team.
The topic of forward options is still a much discussed one and we know that enquires have been made for at least one striker but that isn't what we're focusing on today. The question that we have to ask is about Bolton's wide options and the surprising lack of depth on the flanks for Bolton Wanderers.
The Trotters have only two natural wingers with any sort of first team experience on their books in Chris Eagles and Chung-Yong Lee. On any given day, those are the two starting wingers for Wanderers and while they may have preferred sides, their style of play sees them constantly switching wings. The pair, despite a few rough patches over the course of the last campaign, are two of the Trotters' most dynamic players and two of the likeliest to make a goal happen.
What happens if either Eagles or Chungy is injured, ill, on a poor run of form? The depth behind those two players is a bit like the Nevada desert in that there's really nothing there. The occasional tumbleweed will roll by but in truth, there's not much in it. Bolton Wanderers do not have a proven backup option. Dougie Freedman may very well go out and by another winger this summer with West Ham's Rob Hall the name being thrown around but until a move happens, we have to look at the available options.
In terms of out-and-out wingers, the only such option on Bolton's bench is young Chris Lester. The 18-year-old started the season with the U18s before becoming a regular with the U21s. Under Dougie Freedman, Lester became involved in first team affairs, regularly training with the starting squad, before making into the match day 18 himself. Chris Lester has not yet featured for Bolton Wanderers, only making the bench on a number of occasions.
Young Sanmi Odelusi has played as a wider option for the reserves and deserves a mention too. He's not an out-and-out winger but certainly exists as an option should the need arrive. Odelusi was handed his senior debut at the tail end of last season, coming on in the 82nd minute of Bolton's 3-2 loss at Charlton.
After Lester, that's it for Bolton wingers. There's nothing. Sure, Mark Davies has played out wide before, but those attempts have often been fruitless for Wanderers. On top of that, Davies still has a long way to go in recovering from his knee injury and there is a very real possibility that he will not feature for Bolton until the second half of the 2013/14 season. Among the many things we've seen with Dougie Freedman is his patience with injured players, often taking the slow route instead of rushing them back.
What about Stu Holden? There is no question that Stu's best position in any team is a central one. His ability to be the quintessential box-to-box midfielder is lauded and his quality is something that the Trotters have missed. If, for whatever reason, Stu cannot break back into the center of the park with Josh Vela, Medo Kamara, Darren Pratley, and (eventually) Mark Davies all in contention, Holden can push wide. The American has plenty of experience in that type of role, having played there for Sheffield Wednesday as well as the United States Men's National Team. All of that said, why waste arguably Bolton's best player (assuming he returns to the same quality he showed prior to the injury) out wide when he can command the game in the center?
Bolton Wanderers have two very capable wingers to play in the vast majority of matches but beyond those two, the pickings are slim at best. Any injury crisis, as Bolton are known to be quite fond of, could leave the Trotters without any real width and in trouble.