Bolton Wanderers do not have a manager at the moment. The calls for Owen Coyle's dismissal, coupled with the performances on the field, left the club with little choice. However, the greatest fear of those resisting the #Coyleout brigade has come to pass. No replacement was lined up. No plan was in place. The players are being put through training very competently by the triumvirate of caretakers, but there is no indication of who the next manager will be, what style of play he will choose, or how that will affect the squad as it stands.
So that is the state of affairs as the International break ends and Bristol City come to the Reebok. Bristol City have conceded 19 goals, which is even more than Bolton (16), if you can believe it. Conversely, they have scored 18 goals, which is substantially more than Bolton (13). It is awfully safe to say there will be goals in this one.
One thing we as Bolton supporters share with Bristol City'c coaching staff is that neither of us has any idea what to expect from Bolton. Owen Coyle almost always played the same starting XI in a 4-4-2. Our best performances last season came from a 4-2-3-1. Last time Sammy Lee was managing the team, he favored a 4-3-3. Jimmy Phillips has used a variety of formations with the Bolton youth teams.
Bristol City look to have been playing a 4-5-1 recently, with the fifth midfielder often being a forward deployed in a deeper role. City supporters can correct me in the comments if I am off on this. Sam Boldock is the leading scorer with 4 goals in 8 appearances, three of them as a substitute. Beyond him, it has been mostly the midfield doing the scoring.
So let's go over what we know about Bolton. There will be a new second string goalkeeper this week, but we all know Adam Bogdan will be between the sticks.
My personal opinion is that Kevin Davies has a much larger affect on matches as an impact sub, but it is hard to envision a scenario where three caretakers drop the club captain. He will play from the start.
Jay Spearing and Keith Andrews have started every match they have been fit and eligible for, and that is unlikely to change.
Honestly, I think that is all we can predict with a fair amount of certainty. Tyrone Mears hasn't done anything wrong exactly, but he hasn't done anything right either. He's been anonymous for the most part, and it is easy to say that Joe Riley is a favorite of the men who run the academy. It's the same story on the left side with Stephen Warnock and Marcos Alonso. Samuel Ricketts could also be in the running for a start at any position in the back four. It wouldn't surprise me if any combination of Matt Mills, Tim Ream, and Zat Knight started this match in the center of defense.
The wide positions in the midfield are just as up-in-the-air as the defense. Chris Eagles was starting on the left under Coyle, but he has cooled off substantially after a good run of form. Mark Davies had been playing (nominally) on the right, but no one thought that was a good idea. Chung-Yong Lee and Martin Petrov are probably our two most talented (and fit) footballers, they could be recalled. Young Gregg Wylde could also come in from the cold under new management.
And someone will need to support Kevin Davies. Will attacking central midfielder Darren Pratley make a return to the starting XI, or will one of our young strikers get the call?
As Mark Yesilevskiy wrote on Lion of Vienna Suite earlier this week, there is a lot of excitement and hope among the supporters going into this match. For me, the announcement of the team is almost more exciting than the match itself. I can't wait to see what tactics, formation, and personnel will be used. Not to mention the effect that will have on the club going forward. It's going to be a hell of a weekend up in Lancashire!