The summer transfer window has been open for just three days. Bolton Wanderers were busy right from the off, having officially signed five players so far with a sixth heavily favored to be added soon. In addition to that, a few first-team players have left (or are leaving), forcing fans to take another look at the squad as a whole. We're going to go through position-by-position and discuss who (we think should) start and the depth behind them in a 4-4-2.
First choice - Adam Bogdan
Depth - Andy Lonergan, Jay Lynch
The goalkeeper position is one of the most hotly-contested ones among Bolton Wanderers fans. For the last two seasons, Adam Bogdan has been the clear favorite as starter with Andy Lonergan, who was brought in last summer, giving him a run for his money. Bogdan is still young, especially for a goalkeeper, and has shown that he is a very good shot stopper. A number of his performances over the last two seasons have forced the fans to lose confidence in Bogdan's decision making (and ability to catch the ball). Despite that, it seems that Dougie Freedman has put his faith in Bogdan, leveraging Lonergan's talents as competition for the Hungarian as well as a very good back-up when need be.
First choice - Alex Baptiste
Depth - Tyrone Mears, Joe Riley, Hayden White
New signing Alex Baptiste was brought in to be Dougie Freedman's first-choice right back and there's really no two ways about it. Sam Ricketts is (most likely) on his way to Wolves, hurting Bolton's depth, especially given the injury issues that Tyrone Mears and Joe Riley had last season. Mears spent much of the season's second half on the sidelines with a reported "blood infection" while Joe Riley missed most of the year with a broken foot. Mears was the first choice in the position last season and, despite putting in excellent, no frills performances, he never caught on with a large portion of the fanbase (possibly due to his Burnley background).
First choice(s) - David Wheater & Zat Knight
Depth - Matt Mills, Tim Ream
For much of last season, the center back position was one with lots of question marks for Owen Coyle, Jimmy Phillips, and Dougie Freedman. Zat Knight was a constant in the position but the spot for his partner was occupied by four different players in Tim Ream, Matt Mills, Sam Ricketts, and Craig Dawson. It was Dawson's inclusion that solidified the defense and helped Bolton make their promotion push, albeit a little too late. David Wheater spent the whole of the season injured, a couple of cameo performances notwithstanding. Wheater was a constant in the 2011/12 season and arguably would have continued in that role had he not injured his knee at the end of that season.
First choice - Marc Tierney
Depth - Andy Kellett
Dougie Freedman doesn't have much choice in this position with new signing Marc Tierney, from Norwich City, his only natural left back in the squad. 19-year-old Andy Kellett, who signed a professional contract with the club last year, plays the position for the U21s but does not yet have a senior appearance to his name. Last season, the spot was Marcos Alonso's after he won it from fill-in Sam Ricketts. The young Spanish defender moved to Fiorentina on a (near) free this summer, leaving Dougie without depth. Freedman will likely look to bring in backup at this position later in the transfer window.
First choice - Chung-Yong Lee
Depth - Rob Hall, Chris Lester, Stu Holden, Sanmi Odelusi
On his day, Chung-Yong Lee is one of the best players in the Bolton squad, as he proved in the 2010/11 season. Unfortunately, he missed almost the whole of the 2011/12 season with a broken leg with the winger slowly finding his feet last season. Near the end of the campaign, Chungy was showing the class that endeared him to fans but it wasn't as consistent as many would like. With the 2013/14 season just on the horizon, it is up to Dougie Freedman to get Lee fully back up to speed this pre-season and off to a flying start when the campaign kicks off. Depth behind Chungy is short with only new signing Rob Hall really fitting the bill. Chris Eagles provides extra versatility with his ability to play across the front midfield three. In the past, both Owen Coyle and Dougie Freedman had pushed central midfielders or forwards out wide but with ill effect. The role is one that Stu Holden has played for country and for Sheffield Wednesday but it certainly isn't his best.
First choice - Medo Kamara & Stu Holden
Depth - Mark Davies, Keith Andrews, Josh Vela, Darren Pratley, Jan Gregus
Bolton Wanderers are spoiled for choice in the center of the park. Jay Spearing had one of those central midfield spots essentially all to himself last season with Darren Pratley, Mark Davies, Keith Andrews, and Josh Vela all playing large parts over various portions of the season. With Jay Spearing now gone (and probably not coming back to Bolton), Medo Kamara is the first choice defensive midfielder. The midfielder, who signed a permanent deal last January, established himself in the side with his take-no-prisoners attitude and willingness to get forward, ultimately showing that the spot was his in the wake of Spearing's injury. This is an area that we have heavily covered on numerous occasions.
It's the other central midfield spot that has fans asking questions. Before Stu Holden's injury in March of 2011, there were plenty of people and pundits making the argument that he was one of the Premier League's best central midfielders. It's been a long road back for Stu, one full of stops and starts but now one that looks to be moving in the right direction at pace. Stu will be handed a real test in the coming weeks as he features in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and it is that international competition that can thrust him straight into the season and Bolton's starting XI. What Holden provides is the ability to get forward and provide a killer ball into the box and then immediately getting back to help on defense.
First choice - Chris Eagles
Depth - Rob Hall, Stu Holden, Sanmi Odelusi
Wanderers are very light on the wings. Chris Eagles (hopefully the one we saw at the start and end of the season) will almost certainly start on the wing opposite Chung-Yong Lee. Apart from new signing Rob Hall, there really isn't another player in Bolton's ranks that can naturally fit the role. For Bolton, the current depth on the wing lies in the versatility of the players. During games, you will constantly see Chungy and Eagles switching sides fluidly. Either one of those players can play on the wings, as can Rob Hall. As mentioned earlier, Holden also has the ability to play wide.
First Choice - David Ngog, Jermaine Beckford (assuming the deal goes through)
Depth - Marvin Sordell, Craig Davies, Tom Eaves, Zach Clough, Conor Wilkinson
Bolton certainly are not hurting for numbers up front. Instead, what the Trotters lack is an experienced finisher. That is what Dougie Freedman hopes Jermaine Beckford will bring. Like Tierney and Baptiste, Beckford is expected to slot into the starting lineup right away. If that is to be the case, the question is who will partner up with him?
Exit talk has surrounded David Ngog lately but should he stay, we believe that he will be the man up front. What Ngog provides is hold-up play with the occasional goal, though he arguably should be scoring a lot more. On numerous occasions last season, it was David Ngog's strength that set up an opportunity for either him or his striking partner, and on 13 (eight goals, five assists) separate occasions, led directly to a goal. If Ngog can become more convincing with his efforts both in accuracy and power under Dougie Freedman, Bolton's strike force should be reckoned with. Unfortunately for Ngog, he'll likely miss the season's first few games with a dislocated shoulder that forced him out at the end of the season. Prior to that injury, Ngog scored twice in his last three games.