Owen Coyle was feeling expansive recently. There was an article in the Bolton News, written by Marc Iles, in which Coyle updated us on the status of several injured players.
The headline is that Chung-Yong Lee might return before the end of the season. That said, I don't believe it will make any difference in our relegation battle. Not only will Lee not have played in a year, he will be recovering from an extremely serious injury, and he will be playing in a completely different team.
Last time he put on the famous white shirt of the Wanderers he was surrounded by the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Stuart Holden, Johan Elmander, Fabrice Muamba, and Kevin Davies. Either through injury, poor form, or departure, none of those players will be on the pitch when he returns. The same is true of Mr. Holden, if he does make it back before the end of the season. He is even farther away than Chungy, and any return would involve little more than a few symbolic minutes in the last match of the season.
Our real problem is central midfield, where the recent injury to Darren Pratley has left us distressingly thin. Our only healthy central midfielders are Nigel Reo-Coker, Mark Davies, and youngsters who are yet to make their first team debuts.
The assumption amongst most pundits was that Tim Ream would move forward and play a holding-central-midfield role, leaving Zatyiah Knight to partner David Wheater in defense. I thought there was about a 95% chance that would happen against Wolves on Saturday. It's what happened when Pratley first got injured and had to come off, and Coyle had done it in previous matches. Instead, he started Ivan Klasnic alongside David Ngog and played a 4-4-2. Did it work? Kind of. We won the match by scoring three goals, but we conceded two, and Wolves easily could have scored four or five with more clinical finishing.
In fact, it is hard to see the 4-4-2 working this weekend against the likes of Fulham and Newcastle, and their in-form strike forces. Bolton most likely have to return to a 4-5-1, with the above-mentioned Tim Ream shift into midfield. Most likely. However, I have another idea, which I submit for your approval (or derision) below.
Over the last week I have watched two matches featuring our opponent this weekend, Fulham. Fulham plays a 4-2-3-1, much like we do. One of their holding midfielders was Dembele, who came to them as a striker. He actually did a fine job. Manchester United also play a former winger, Ryan Giggs, in a deep midfield role. Not to mention, the man we have missed the most this season, Stuart Holden, was a winger when we first signed him. All of this got me thinking. Tuncay Sanli. He is very good on the ball, an intelligent player, and while not a greta defender, certainly willing to work hard and cover a lot of ground.
So here's my idea. What if Bolton paired the craft of Tuncay with the steel of Nigel Reo-Coker in front of the back four. It would give us more creativity, better link up play, and give Mark Davies more freedom to come forward in attack. I figure it is worth a try. After all, we got three points against Wolves, but we all know the 4-4-2 is not the way to go long-term. What do you think readers?