After eleven glorious years in the Premier League, the Championship awaits. We all know this. What we don't know, is how our "Premier League Quality" players will perform. This is especially true of the forwards we have on the books. Some of them are young and still improving, some of them are old and in decline. We don't really have anything in the middle when it comes to strikers.
First things first, what (or who) do we consider a striker? For me, it is someone who plays the forward position exclusively, regardless of the formation. Chris Eagles might get pushed forward if we have injuries or play a diamond midfield. Martin Petrov is usually high up the pitch and best suited for the left side of a front three. But this is situational. Both of those players are midfielders. In my opinion, Bolton Wanderers currently have four recognized strikers on the books.
Michael O'Halloran is twenty-one years old. That's not really a youngster anymore. He couldn't even get into the starting XI for League One club Sheffield United this past spring. In fact, he has never scored a professional goal at senior level. I don't see him playing a significant role in Wanderers' future.
Marvin Sordell was just selected for the Great Britain Olympic squad. It's a great honor for him, but does it help us? He will miss training camp, and probably get a late start on the season. I hope it doesn't prevent Coyle including him in the squad upon his return. He is only a month younger than O'Halloran, yet is much more accomplished at senior level. He appeared in 46 games for Watford two seasons ago and scored 15 goals. Last season he appeared in 29 games, scoring 10 goals. He made only three appearances for Bolton, but really looked a threat. Provided he gets the time on the pitch, Sordell should get Bolton 15-20 goals this coming season. I don't know if he would do that in the top flight, but he is a proven Championship goalscorer.
David Ngog certainly has pedigree. He made 25 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain as a teenager. He signed with Liverpool as a 19-year-old. He ended up making 94 appearances for the club, scoring 19 goals but never establishing himself as a regular in the first eleven. In his 39 matches for Bolton last season he only managed four goals. He will probably never be a prolific goalscorer, but I don't think there is any doubt he is good enough for the top flight. He might just be the type of player who doesn't score a lot against top competition, but tears apart the second tier. I can easily see twenty goals for Ngog.
Last, Kevin Davies. Team captain. Super Kev. He has been an average (at best) striker in the Premier League for most of the past ten years. Last season, despite a few late goals, he was well below that. He ended up with eight goals in thirty-seven matches, which is just about typical for him, but without all of the other things he did that made him a serviceable striker in the past. Will the more physical style of play in the Championship turn back the clock? Can the 35-year-old enjoy a bit of a renaissance in the lower league? I doubt it. He is just not that good a finisher. And the game has changed. Defenders are bigger, stronger, and faster. Put it this way. SKD probably has some role to play. 46 league matches is a brutal schedule, and some rotation is going to be needed, not to mention injuries and suspensions, but if Davies has more than 10 starts, it is very unlikely we will be promoted.
My conclusion on our strikeforce. In need of some reinforcements. I think Coyle wants to play 4-4-2, and I think Sordell and Ngog will start most weeks. I also think they will be very impressive. But we need more depth. And probably more experience. We all know the defending needs to improve (drastically!) if we are to be promoted, but the goals have to come from somewhere.