These two clubs are level on points, and Bolton are slightly higher in the table due to goal difference, but does that really matter? We are six matches into a forty-six match season. We have forty matches to go. That is two more than are played in an entire Premier League season. It is beyond even a marathon, it is an Ultra-Marathon, the equivalent of those crazy people who run 100 miles in a day through Death Valley. The point is, relax, there is a lot of football to be played.
There are some long term trends that can seem a bit alarming, but relax. Some of these negative trends can actually be reversed this weekend. Keep reading to see what those trends are...
First, the poor form away from the Reebok. So far this season, we have played three matches away from home, and we have lost three matches away from home. Late last season we drew our last two away matches, at Stoke City and Sunderland. Before that we won at Aston Villa. Bolton's overall record away from home was actually better than the home record. Six away wins, compared to four at home, 20 away points, compared to 16 at home. I am not at all worried about way form, I think it will sort itself out fairly soon.
Second, where are the goals going to come from? We have scored 8 goals in six league games. That's on the lower end of the spectrum, but to be fair, we haven't played any of the really poor defensive sides yet. Sheffield Wednesday have allowed 14 goals, tied with Peterborough United for worst in the league. We will score tomorrow, and I think we will score more than one.
Third, our defending has been dreadful. I can't really argue with this. We have allowed 10 goals in six league games. That is actually an improvement on last season, but it is still very poor. To me, the problem is organization more than personnel. We have the players. The back four is fairly settled at this point, though I am not sure what Stephen Warnock's arrival will mean for that. If Coyle gets the shape right and the players execute, the defending should get better.
In closing, I am going to revert to something I have been saying for a long time. This team needs to play a 4-2-3-1 formation. The players are more comfortable that way, obviously, and the back four needs the extra cover. This is especially true away from home. If I were picking the team tomorrow, this is what it would look like:
Adam Bogdan in goal.
Samuel Ricketts, Zat Knight, Matt Mills, and Marcos Alonso at the back.
Keith Andrews and Tim Ream in the holding midfield roles.
Martin Petrov, Mark Davies, and Chris Eagles as the attacking three.
David Ngog up top.
Feel free to tear me to shreds in the comments section. That said, if this team and formation, or something close to it shows up in Sheffield Saturday, I can see Bolton taking all three points. If Owen Coyle throws out one of these recklessly attacking 4-4-2 formations we see in away matches from time to time, I can see us getting shellacked. More likely is something in the middle, a 4-4-2 with a fairly defensive midfield. That, in my opinion, is what makes a draw the likely result. A draw with a lot of goals. I am predicting 3-3, a real thriller with terrible defending more notable than creative brilliance.