For Bolton Wanderers, there are a lot of questions heading into Saturday's showdown with Cardiff City at the Reebok Stadium. It is the start of a new, new era as Dougie Freedman will officially lead this Bolton side onto the field for the first time. There are many questions in terms of lineups, formations, and tactics that have to be answered.
Jimmy Phillips had three games in charge of Bolton and we definitely picked up some positives from that short spell. Bolton Wanderers showed a lot of fight, Martin Petrov and Chung-Yong Lee took the opportunity to prove their worth, and Mark Davies showed that he can be effective. Yet, Jimmy's time in charge proved to be more of a stop-gap than anything else as Bolton still conceded two goals in each of those three games and only picked up four points. The team briefly moved up to 16th in the table but found themselves back down to 18th after last weekend's loss to Middlesbrough.
It's up to Dougie and newly-acquired assistant manager Lennie Lawrence to sort this problem out. Freedman said the following of Lawrence in his pre-match presser:
"Lennie will be one of the best signings Bolton Wanderers Football Club will make this season."
In terms of form, Bolton Wanderers are still, on the whole, dire. In the last ten games, Bolton have won just three times and only once in the last five, picking up five points from their last five matches. In that five match stretch, Bolton have scored nine goals but have allowed ten. If not for nothing, Bolton Wanderers are at least consistent, having allowed two goals in each of their last five matches.
Cardiff City, on the other hand, are storming it. In their last ten games, the Red Dragons (for those of you that haven't kept track, they used to be the bluebirds and changed for marketing reasons over the summer) have won eight, picking up 24 points of a possible 30. Those two losses came against Crystal Palace (with Dougie Freedman at the helm) and Nottingham Forest, who sit fourth and seventh, respectively. Cardiff are coming off a massive 4-0 win against Burnley last weekend.
On top of dealing with the pacy Craig Bellamy, the Trotters will also have to worry about the ex-player curse coming back to bite them once again. Heidar Helguson, who made seven appearances for Bolton Wanderers between 2007 and 2009 really found his stride in Queens Park Rangers colors last year. Over the summer, he moved to Cardiff and has scored four goals for them thus far this season. Cardiff's leading scorer is Peter Whittingham, with seven goals on the season.
Bolton should have no real fresh injury concerns ahead of this match with Jay Lynch, Josh Vela, Stuart Holden, and David Wheater all out with knee injuries. The biggest question will no doubt be that back line and we'll have to wait to see whether he will recall Tim Ream and Sam Ricketts or go for something completely different.
At Crystal Palace, Freedman was fond of the 4-5-1 formation. Whether he goes for two holding-type midfielders in Keith Andrews and Jay Spearing or chooses the more attacking option in Mark Davies with Spearing behind him is another point to think about. Should Freedman go for the lone striker, he has to decide whether he wants the warhorse, Kevin Davies, or the still-unproven Marvin Sordell.
Like always, this is a big, big match for Bolton Wanderers and one that Bolton desperately need points from.