Having to relive this game is not something Tom was not particularly eager to do but what, if anything, did we learn about Bolton in the Leeds game?
I'll try and start with one of the very few positives from the game. Tim Ream has garnered a lot of stick from Bolton fans during his time here. A lot of it underserved but some of it fairly earned from his lightweight, lacklustre performances in the centre of defence. Especially since dropping down to the more physical Championship.
After a Man of the Match performance against QPR
, he was left out of the Blackburn game but was rightfully reinstated against Leeds, somewhat surprisingly at the expense of Medo. He again put in an assured performance, helping Bolton dominate possession without actually creating anything. He also helped shield the defence and made a number of important tackles and clearances.
Despite Medo being a potentially very good footballer, he hasn't been his best this season and himself and Spearing don't seem to be clicking as a pair. So for now, one of them with Ream seems to be the best option if Freedman insists on playing his 4-2-3-1 formation.
2) That Knight substitution
The substitution of Zat Knight
just after the hour mark seemed to signal Freedman's intentions. He brought his captain off to uncomfortable applause from the Bolton fans to bring on Jermaine Beckford in a tactical reshuffling which saw Tim Ream move into centre back with Matt Mills
When I saw Beckford ready to come on, I personally would have made the same change but certainly didn't expect it to actually happen. Neither did Zat Knight, not even looking over to the touchline when the substitution was being made. He only realised when the announcer called it out and seemed to be in a state of astonishment. He seemed to take forever to leave the pitch, having a word with Jay Spearing
and handing the captain's armband to Chris Eagles
As he got closer to the touchline, he started to jog but didn't seem to acknowledge Freedman as he took his seat on the bench. I was half expecting him to head straight down the tunnel, which speaks volumes.
As comfortable as Ream seems in midfield, Freedman could well try a Ream and Mills partnership. One that has had some success in the past.
Zat Knight is not a leader. Simple as that.
Under Coyle, Knight was seemingly Vice-captain to Kevin Davies
, apart from when Nigel Reo-Coker
took over the duties. Therefore when Davies was released, the Knight captaincy was somewhat expected by the fans but certainly not welcomed.
Knight has had a particularly poor start to the season and as the weeks go on, Freedman's decision to make him captain seems increasingly worse. Freedman is not afraid of big decisions though, as shown with Kevin Davies last season and I wouldn't be too surprised to see the captaincy handed to someone else sooner rather than later.
Therein lies the problem though. After Knight went off, Chris Eagles was given the armband. Five minutes later, Eagles was taken off, handing the armband to Darren Pratley
(who almost captained the side against Tranmere Rovers, before Knight had to step in for the injured Wheater).
This shows the severe lack of leadership throughout the team and Bolton really need someone to stand up and be counted as a leader now, someone the other players can look to for inspiration and motivation to help get out of the mess we're currently in.
Rob Hall has talent. A raw talent, but talent all the same. I believe the compensation we paid West Ham for him will look like a bargain in two years time.
Hall is only 19 but has that oh so rare ability for a Bolton player, that ability to get fans on the edge of their seat. I don't think he's good enough yet to be starting games on a regular basis and think he works well as an impact sub but he was very impressive on loan at Birmingham last season and created a number of goals.
Freedman seems to talk about Jermaine Beckford's
movement in almost every interview he does these days but how the Bolton players need to find the right ball to him. I believe that Hall could be the player to provide Beckford with those chances if given chance.
Against Shrewsbury he scored one and assisted one and then against QPR, his excellent through ball to Craig Davies
almost led to a goal.
I think he could be that spark Bolton need to start moving up the table.
5) Derby game
We really need to win.