If you are interested in defense, then take a look at Part 1 of our Starting XI prediction. If you are interested in goals (and who isn't), then you are in the right place.
All of your favorite Lion of Vienna Suite writers (and even those who aren't your favorite) have named their starting XI for the season. We're not saying we know better than Dougie Freedman, we're just saying we have an idea or two.
First things first. Apparently, Bolton have reached agreement with Charlton Athletic on a loan deal for Marvin Sordell. Three LoVS writers, including myself, predicted that Sordell would be Bolton's starting forward. Once we know the terms of the loan deal, we can make a new prediction. If it's a one-month loan (which wouldn't make a lot of sense, admittedly), then Sordell may return and walk into the starting XI. If it's a full season loan, then we obviously have to re-assess.
Now, let's get started. We left off yesterday in the center of the midfield. Every writer on this site believes that Medo Kamara will shield the back four as our primary holding midfielder. But he won't be alone in the engine room. Bolton's impressive depth in the midfield has taken a hit with this week's injury news, but there is still a lot of talent to choose from.
How this talent will be organized is just as important as who will be on the pitch. I expect, especially with Holden out, that Dougie Freedman will play a 4-4-2 more often than not. My colleagues disagree with me, for the most part. Chris Manning predicts a modified 4-4-1-1, with Chris Eagles functioning as a de facto second striker. Anna Nuzzolese would like to see a 4-2-3-1, with David Ngog dropping deep in a traditional "number 10 role." Freedman implied that this could be an option during the Fan Forum this week.
Mark Yesilevskiy, Liam O'Meara, and Elliot Turnbull want to go back to the reliable 4-5-1 that had been Bolton's calling card for so many (successful) years. I remember it well, yelling "It's a 4-3-3 when we go forward!" at complaining commentators.
Everyone but Anna expects Darren Pratley to start. This is because Anna likes goals. Her starting XI would feature Rob Hall and Chris Eagles on the wings, Ngog in between them, and Marvin Sordell spearheading the attack. Jermaine Beckford or Craig Davies would replace Sordell now, but it is still a very attack-minded front five. Anna is also a fan of Keith Andrews. She is not the only member of our staff that picked him to start, but she is the only one who picked him over Pratley.
As I mentioned above, Mark, Elliot, and Liam all went for a three-man midfield. This is not surprising, our central defenders need all the help they can get. Andrews, Medo, and Pratley have worked well together in limited time on the pitch. Pratley and Medo both cover a lot of ground, so it is not a completely defensive setup. Although I suspect Andrews will rarely cross the halfway line.
Great minds apparently think alike, as all three of the aforementioned gentlemen would have Chung-Yong Lee and Chris Eagles starting on either wing. They differ on who will lead the line though. Elliot thought Sordell would start. Mark picked Ngog, and Liam picked Beckford. You could look at this two ways; Either we have three great forwards to choose from, or we have no standout forwards at all.
Chris and I tried to split the difference between the boy's conservative 4-5-1 and Anna's aggressive 4-2-3-1. Chris would like to see Ngog lead the line, with Chris Eagles tucked in just behind him in a free role. Eagles has done this before, with varying degrees of success. Chris Manning also expects Pratley to play in the middle of the park, deeper than Eagles but ahead of Medo. Dazza Prazza filled this role quite well in the final months of last season. Mr. Manning has also decided that Rob Hall is the real deal, and should start opposite Lee. I admire the way he has squeezed all three of our wing players into his starting XI.
That leaves me. I originally planned to endorse a 4-4-2 formation, with Medo and Pratley in the middle, Lee and Eagles on the wings, Sordell and Ngog up top. But I am having a change of heart. I'm not crazy about Craig Davies or Beckford partnering David Ngog. That said, I don't think Andrews is good enough either. So I am choosing to use a caveat. If Josh Vela is fit, he should join Medo and Pratley in a 4-2-3-1 formation. If Vela is not fit, then I agree with Chris Manning. Let's shoehorn our three dangerous wingers onto the field together, and hope for the best.
There you have it folks, our picks to start. Fill in yours below. We'll all have a good laugh come May.