Mercurial: an adjective describing a person being subject to sudden or unpredictable changes. That is the best way to describe Chris Eagles' 2012/13 season for Bolton Wanderers. The winger started the season under Owen Coyle like a whole row of houses on fire, scoring or assisting just about every single one of the Trotters' goals in the first portion of the year. Then, Owen Coyle was let go and (largely) with it went Chris Eagles' form.
With six goals and four assists in the season's first 11 games to his name, Eagles really looked like he would be the key for Bolton Wanderers as they aimed to get back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Following Dougie Freedman's arrival, the winger's goals dried up and it became increasingly clear that there was a growing crisis of confidence.
Following a spell on the sidelines in March, Eagles reemerged as the dominant force that helped drive Bolton Wanderers to (narrowly missing) a play-off place. Eagles would play a key part in the season's final eight matches, scoring four goals in the stretch, including three goals in the final three games. With those goals, Chris Eagles finished the season as Bolton's top scorer with 12 league goals on the season.
Make no mistake though. Those goals came as a result of Chris Eagles taking shots, and a whole lot of them at that. At the end of the year, Chris Eagles totaled 142 attempts from 47 appearances in all competitions for an average of 3.02 shots per game. A goal would come with every 11.833 shots, on average. Of those 142 attempts, Eagles managed 70 on target, just under 50%. For the sake of comparison, David Ngog scored eight goals from 51 shots, 26 of which where on target. That is 50.9% shot accuracy and one goal every 6.375 shots taken. The accuracy from Ngog is on par with Eagles but he puts a much higher percentage of his shots away.
The interesting thing with Eagles is the shift in his form and the amount of shots that he takes. We covered the subject of Bolton's striking options back in January, prior to the February - April form streak and how Eagles related to that. As Dennis wrote then:
Bolton create a fair amount of chances, and take a lot of shots. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them end up off-target. A big part of this is Chris Eagles. He has seven goals, which is nice for a winger, but none of them have come recently, and the former Manchester United youngster has taken a staggering 108 shots, with only 58 of them finishing on-target. After Eagles, the second most prolific shot-taker on the Trotters is Kevin Davies, with 32. That's right, Chris Eagles has taken 76 more shots than any of his teammates. Eagles has also racked up 12 assists, although with all those shots we may need MI6 to find out when he found the time to pass the ball.
Doing the math, Eagles racked up 108 shots between 18 August 2012 and 25 January 25, 2013 which means that from the end of January to the beginning of May, he took only 34 shots: a third of the season's first half production. In the second half of the season, 12 of Eagles' 34 shots were on target. Comparing ratios, that is 49% in the first half of the season to 36% in the second half. As for goals, Eagles scored five goals from 34 shots in the second half of the season (one goal every 6.8 shots taken) compared to seven goals from 108 shots in the first half (one goal every 15.4 shots taken).
That is where Dougie Freedman's influence comes in. Under Dougie, Chris Eagles stopped taking as many shots and arguably wasting the opportunities presented to him. This is a testament to the discipline that the manager instilled in the squad. It was something that we had seen in the defense as the season progressed, as the back four became stronger, more confident, and played well together.
Under Freedman, Eagles has found himself playing left, right, and center in the midfield. Eagles' role has become much more of a free-flowing one, helping to lead Bolton's attack. In the latter stages of the season, the mercurial winger really seemed to buckle down and with the confidence flowing behind him, he looked back to his best. With a full pre-season under Dougie Freedman helping push both Chris Eagles and the team forward, there is no reason why they cannot kick on and battle for a Premier League place.