Burnley Away - Possibilities and Permutations

Stu Forster

Our man in the stands, Chris Manning, takes a look at the upcoming game against Burnley and wonders what sort of Wanderers team will we see kicking off the new season?

It doesn't seem like five minutes since the end of the 2012/13 season which left Bolton Wanderers within touching distance of the Play Offs. The disappointment of the final day 2-2 draw against local rivals Blackpool has since dissipated and a summer of relative positivity has been enjoyed by most.

Now, as we approach the opening game of the 2013/14 season against Burnley, I have taken it upon myself to have a look at the possible line-ups and formations that Dougie Freedman and Bolton Wanderers could employ. I have decided to work on the assumption that the as-yet-unannounced signing of Jermaine Beckford will be completed in time, though will disregard Andre Moritz as that one still seems to be up in the air a little.

So, over the summer we have seen the arrival of Norwich City left-back Marc Tierney, Blackpool utility defender Alex Baptiste, West Ham United winger Rob Hall and youngsters White, Wilkinson and Fraser from Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall and Hamilton respectively. I would think that Tierney and Baptiste will slot straight into the side to face Burnley, with Hall likely to be on the bench. White and Wilkinson may see some game time as the season develops, most likely in the cups, whilst Fraser will spend the season on loan back in his native Scotland in order to gain vital experience.

Last season, manager Dougie Freedman showed a tactical flexibility that was lacking amongst his predecessors in the job. Owen Coyle was a strict 4-4-2 man, and Gary Megson was just an idiot. Dougie, however, showed that he was prepared to mix and match tactical requirements as best suited both personnel and opposition. So, I have decided to prepare three different potential line-ups depending on the formation Freedman chooses to use. The three most likely candidates are 4-5-1, 4-4-2 and an attacking 4-3-3. The latter may be unlikely, but highlights the variety currently available to the manager.

4-4-2

Adam Bogdan

Alex Baptiste, Zat Knight, David Wheater, Marc Tierney

Chung-Yong Lee, Medo Kamara, Stu Holden, Chris Eagles

David Ngog, Jermaine Beckford

4-5-1 (4-4-1-1)

Adam Bogdan

Alex Baptiste, Zat Knight, David Wheater, Marc Tierney

Chung-Yong Lee, Medo, Stu Holden, Darren Pratley

Chris Eagles

David Ngog

4-3-3

Adam Bogdan

Alex Baptiste, Zat Knight, David Wheater, Marc Tierney

Chung-Yong Lee, Medo, Stuart Holden

Chris Eagles, David Ngog, Jermaine Beckford

Now obviously the above is hypothetical and depends on fitness and form in pre-season. The inclusion of Stuart Holden is also dependent on the condition in which he returns from the United States' Gold Cup campaign. The chances of him being involved in the opening game are likely to be slim because he will not have had the time spent with the squad in order to be assessed by Freedman and his staff therefore I consider his participation in that game to be unlikely however I have included him as an indicator of my own preferred line-up.

I expect Dougie to play a team similar to the 4-5-1 as suggested above, mainly due to the fact that it improves our solidity in the centre. The names may be interchangeable, but I think that the formation will be the most commonly utilised as the season progressed.

Defence wise I think we can be confident in predicting that Tierney and Baptiste will start most games when fit, along with Zat Knight. David Wheater, Matt Mills and Tim Ream will also be interchangeable, at least until a new central defender is signed. We all hope for Craig Dawson to return but personally I consider that to be unlikely.

Everything points towards an exciting season with Bolton Wanderers fans being in a much more confident mood than at the same time last year. We play our first pre-season game tonight against Rotherham United, who are managed by the blonde-highlighted and lipstick wearing crook Steve Evans - the line-up picked by the manager will go a long way into revealing his thinking ahead of the Burnley game.

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