The 2013/14 Championship season has barely begun yet just three matches in, many Bolton Wanderers fans are beginning to panic about their team's promotion chances. After three matches, Bolton Wanderers have earned just two points which is one less than they had at the same stage last year. A win against Queens Park Rangers at the weekend will better the previous season's pace at the same point by one point. All is not yet lost, of course, but there are some worrying trends beginning to emerge.
It is no secret that there was a massive gulf in class between Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium and Bolton Wanderers away over the course of the 2012/13 season. The club's record reflected that with the Trotters winning 14, drawing 6, and losing 3 at home last season. They won just 4, drew 8, and lost 11 on the road. There wasn't a major difference in goals scored at home versus on the road at 37 to 32. The difference was in goals conceded with a major rise from 20 against at the Reebok to 41 against away from home.
With that said, one of the major complaints from the fans was the sheer lack of goals scored by Bolton players last season. Last season, Wanderers scored three goals or more on only five occasions. They won on all but one of those occasions with the outlier being the flukey 5-4 away loss at Peterborough United. Of those five games, two came away from home and one was a win.
Just three matches into the current season, we're starting to see similar trends emerge. In those three outings, Bolton Wanderers have conceded six goals with four of them coming away from home. No one expects the Trotters to be better on the road than they are at home, the fans expect them to be better on the road than they are now.
Away from the Reebok, Bolton have been down on possession this season, maintaining an average of 43% compared to the 50% they saw in the 1-1 draw with Reading at the Reebok. Additionally, Wanderers have taken a total of 21 shots in their two away matches, compared to 18 in one home match, hitting the target much less frequently. Early days, of course.
There are ways to explain the difference in numbers in what is a tiny sample size. The beating that Bolton took at the City Ground against Nottingham Forest skewed the numbers in a negative direction and there is no doubt that the ship's course can be corrected. The worry is that if it is not corrected, the Trotters are on a crash course with failure. Also, in the Forest match, Bolton were missing any semblance of an attacking midfielder and suffered for it. Going forward, there was no connection between the midfield and the forwards, leading to the strikers being caught alone on an island and rendered, for all intents and purposes, ineffective. On top of that, the lack of Chris eagles, who has missed the last two matches through injury, has taken away any sort of attacking bite that Bolton may have had.
Bolton need help at the front and at the back. The striker corps has yet to get off the mark in any way, shape, or form with both of Bolton's goals in the opening matches coming from Darren Pratley. Perhaps the 4-5-1 is too conservative but with the state of the defense, the thought of an open 4-4-2 isn't exactly confidence inspiring.