Bolton Wanderers have played thirty-four matches in all competitions this season. Nigel Reo-Coker has started thirty of those matches. No one else has started more than twenty-three. Given that sizable margin, I think it is fair to say that his is the first name on the team sheet. Reo-Coker is also a fairly predictable player, in that we know exactly what he is going to provide each match.
More interesting is to look at are the players that don't play every single week. Now don't get me wrong, I am not talking about fringe players trying to establish themselves in the squad. I am referring to those players who have been in and out of the starting XI this season, but have seen a lot of time on the pitch. Owen Coyle doesn't play them every week (For whatever reason), but they will be critical in our fight for survival. Last week we looked at Ivan Klasnic, whose goals we will need at some point over the next couple months. This week; Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov.
Bulgaria may be known for many things: Beautiful mountain ranges, Black Sea resorts, Mafia-related corruption, and Olympic weight-lifting teams. Football is a relatively new addition. Dimitar Berbatov rose to prominence a few years ago, and two unrelated Petrovs, Stiliyan, and our own Martin, have also had an affect on the Premier League.
Martin Petrov has started twenty-three matches this season, all of them on the left wing. He has only scored three goals, but he has seven assists, a good sign from a winger, especially one who puts in as many crosses as Petrov does. Pair that with Klasnic's eight goals and five assists and you have a real threat going forward.
Some (Coyle included) might say that Petrov and Klasnic don't do enough defensively, that playing them every week would have Bolton leaking goals (We're leaking goals anyway if we're honest). I understand the argument, and there is an easy solution; Play Fabrice Muamba alongside Nigel Reo-Coker for 90 minutes in every match!
As for Petrov, I think he has actually played well defensively the past couple months. Funny that the improvement coincides with Samuel Ricketts return and Paul Robinson getting dropped. But the big questions is will Petrov be playing every week going forward. He did not play against Manchester City, although I think to call the formation we used last week
absurd experimental is an understatement.
My hope is that we will be playing a 4-2-3-1 formation from the start in all of our remaining fixtures. In my opinion, Petrov, along with Mark Davies and Ryo Miyaichi, should make up the attacking three midfielders. he is known best for rampaging runs down the left side leading to great crosses, as well as cutting inside and shooting from the right side. He is also very good from dead ball situations, a talent that was severely lacking against Man City.
Petrov may not play every single match between now and June (Particularly in Chung-yong Lee returns), but he should play most of them. He creates scoring chances, does enough defensively to get by, and gives us a touch of veteran leadership, which may be lacking in our best eleven, especially in the attacking personnel.