It's not anywhere near a secret that Bolton Wanderers' defense last season was awful. In fact, if you put your soapbox on top of a roof and shout from it, people will tell you "duh and/or hello!" If you were the opposition last season and you wanted to stroll through the Bolton defense, it was pretty much easier done than said. It was babytown frolics.
Now, four games into the preseason, we've seen our new-look central defender pairing. we've seen the backup option, and we've seen the worst-case scenario. Bolton Wanderers have added depth at the centerback position in the signing of Matt Mills and re-signing of Zatyiah Knight but you know what? It's not enough.
In their last preseason friendly against Crewe Alexandra, Bolton started the match with a back four (from right back to left) of Tyrone Mears, Zat Knight, Sam Ricketts, and Marcos Alonso. With Tim Ream and new boy Matt Mills sitting out through injury, the Trotters were forced to play what is very much a second-string defensive setup. Then, it got worse.
Midway through the first half, Zat Knight was forced to leave the match through a groin injury (this actually led to Crewe's goal). With Knight gone, Bolton shifted Alonso into the center and brought Joe Riley onto the left. If the prospect of that happening in a match isn't scary, I don't know what is. While it all sounds dire, dim, and gloomy, fear not! Bolton Wanderers have some hope!
With one central defender already signed in this one, Owen Coyle will be reluctant to spend money on another. David Wheater should be back in the side around Christmas time. Bolton also have some youth waiting in the wings in Adam Blakeman (who has spent a decent amount of time with the first team) and highly-rated Andy Kellett (who has not spent any time with the first team). It certainly isn't the best option but it's something.
Bolton Wanderers aren't dead yet, however. Tim Ream still has a lot of room to grow while Matt Mills has plenty of experience at the Championship level. Zat Knight was a Premiership defender for over 10 years and should still be able to do a job. The Wanderers have a lot of work ahead of them this year. Here's hoping the defense keeps up.