What Bolton really need to climb up the Championship table is a good run of form. The Trotters have to string some results together to rise into the promotion spots. At the moment, Wanderers are sat firmly in 18th place on ten points after eight games, well below the goal of a two point per game average. Unfortunately for Bolton Wanderers, a consistent run of positive form is unlikely but not impossible as the past speaks against Owen Coyle.
For our purposes, a "run of positive form" is defined as three matches from which Bolton Wanderers get at least seven points. That's three matches, unbeaten, with at least two wins and a draw. That really should not be too big of an ask from Bolton in the Championship. We've taken a look at all of Bolton's results from the 2010 / 2011, 2011 / 2012, and the current 2012 / 2013 seasons. Those are Owen Coyle's two full seasons in charge of Bolton Wanderers and the eight matches that have happened in the Championship thus far.
2010 / 2011
The graph represents the number of points (0, 1, or 3) that Bolton Wanderers picked up in each round of Premier League play that season. Despite the 14th place finish (thanks to five straight losses to end the season), Owen Coyle's first full year in charge was by far his best at Bolton Wanderers. The first thing you'll notice about the graph is that it is pretty erratic. There are a lot of ups and downs.
Second, you'll notice quite a few wins. Bolton picked up the full three points on 12 of 38 possible occasions leading them to a 46 point point haul. You'll also notice a lot of draws (ten to be exact) and sixteen losses. Bolton Wanderers picked up more wins and draws than losses, something pretty rare for this team.
This was the one season that Bolton managed to string some good results together and that saw them climb as high as fourth place (Not counting first couple rounds) in the Premier League table. There were three separate occasions when Bolton went on a three match unbeaten run two of which we consider a "run of positive form." Those were few and far between, though.
The important thing that season was that until the Stuart Holden injury in Round 30, there were only two occasions when Bolton lost multiple games back-to-back. When the Trotters lost, they picked it up the following week with at least a draw and on six separate occasions, took a win from the match that followed a loss.
At first glance, the Points Per Round graph for the 2011 / 2012 Premier League season is a lot like the one for the season before it but a lot, lot worse. There was a grand total of one "positive run of form" where Bolton won three games on the trot. That, however, was the only time that they could even string two wins together.
Bolton won ten games, drew six, and lost 22, a reversal of the previous year with Bolton losing six more games than combined wins and draws. Bolton went on five separate losing runs (two or more games lost in a row) and lost six straight once, five straight once, four straight once, and two straight twice.
Apart from the one time where they managed to get more than seven points from three games, the best Bolton could manage was five points from three games, which happened once. After that, it was four points from three games and that only happened twice. The Trotters "bounced back" on more occasions this time with eight wins or draws following losses but that really is only because Bolton lost so many games.
The problem with last season was that when Bolton lost, they would keep losing, as evidenced by the losing runs mentioned earlier. Bolton could not string together results and this was due to an inability to get ahead in games and to close them out.
Finally, we get to the current Championship season. The graph is relatively small simply because we're less than 20% of the way through the season. Immediately, you notice the inconsistency from Bolton. Loss, win, loss, win. Eight games in and Bolton have not been able to string anything together except for one win-draw combination in rounds two and three.
The good news is that Bolton are bouncing back from their losses, having picked up a win after each of the three so far. The Trotters have the chance to come good as soon as they start picking up one point instead of three and letting the confidence flow. There's no doubt that the defense is getting better with Zat Knight, Matt Mills, and Stephen Warnock marshaling ahead of Adam Bogdan and now it's up to the attackers to contribute their end of the deal.
Bolton are allowing less goals on the whole but are scoring less than they should be. At the moment, Bolton have allowed a total of 12 goals (eight of which came away from the Reebok) while having scored only ten (four away from home). If Bolton can start firing anywhere other than right at the goalkeeper and opposition defenders, the men in white really do have a chance to start climbing the table.
It is up to Owen Coyle to get his boys to start picking up results. If the defense continues the way it has been heading, clean sheets are close. Now it's up to the forwards. Whether a combination of Kevin Davies and David Ngog going forward is the correct choice is extremely arguable. Those goals have to come from somewhere.