Bolton Wanderers have picked up no wins from their first three matches of the season, drawing two and losing one. In those three games, they have managed a measly two goals, both of which came from Darren Pratley. The central midfielder is undergoing a personal revolution and has arguably been the Trotters' best player of the season's opening. There were signs of this Darren Pratley back in the Premier League but only now are they actually coming to fruition. While that is certainly a positive to the season's opening, perhaps the biggest surprise is just how overwhelmingly poor Bolton's strikers have been.
With Marvin Sordell out on loan at Charlton for the whole season (unless Bolton choose to exercise the recall clause), Dougie Freedman has only three proven strike options to choose from in hopes of firing Bolton ahead. Those three strikers are Jermaine Beckford, Craig Davies, and David Ngog. Those three strikers are massively underperforming and it's clear both subjectively and objectively.
It is possible to look at David Ngog as a minor player in the scenario simply due to where he is being played on the field. Unlike in seasons past, Ngog is not lined up as an out-and-out striker. Instead, in his two outings, the former Liverpool man is playing in the "number 10" role, just behind the forward-most player. His aim is to create opportunities, not finish them and as such, David Ngog is not and will not be shooting as much as a striker should or would.
Jermaine Beckford, arguably still settling into his new team, has not yet come close to impressing. The fans, just about from the off, have constantly bemoaned Beckford's very heavy first touch cancels out his ability to make very good runs into space and ruins almost every chance that he has afforded Bolton. On top of that, we have not seen Jermaine Beckford really put any venomous efforts on goal yet.
Then there's Craig Davies. Dougie Freedman's first permanent acquisition last season is not the quickest or more skillful of striker but the benefit to playing him is his ability to shoot from anywhere. We saw this in the season's opening match when Davies came on against Burnley and almost immediately tried with a rasping drive from distance that forced a diving save from the goalkeeper to keep it out of the top corner. Against Nottingham Forest, we saw none of that Craig Davies and Wanderers went without a goal.
The statistics do not bode well either. In 368 combined minutes, the three strikers have taken a grand total of eight shots. To put that into perspective, Darren Pratley has taken 12 on his own in 223 minutes. Of those eight shots between the strikers, four have been on target with David Ngog carrying half of that figure. As mentioned earlier, none of those four shots on target have resulted in a goal for Bolton Wanderers.
There are possible explanations for this phenomenon. Against Nottingham Forest, Wanderers missed what are possibly the team's two greatest catalysts on the attack in David Ngog and Chris Eagles. With 12 goals last season and the provider for Darren Pratley's goal against Burnley, Eagles is the offense's biggest spark. David Ngog can bring other players into the match using his strength on the ball and provides essential hold-up play and a newfound love of marauding midfield runs to create opportunities.
Both players have missed out in recent weeks through injury but should be back for the upcoming clash with Queens Park Rangers. Speaking to the Bolton News about that, Freedman sounded hopeful:
"We were very unfortunate to be missing David Ngog and Chris Eagles through illness and injury. Hopefully, Chris will be back training with us in the week and David has had a bit of an illness, but should be back."
Bolton will be without Darren Pratley at the weekend, who misses out through suspension as a result of his red card against Forest. This opens the door for Ngog to return to an advanced midfield role with a strong tandem of Jay Spearing and Medo Kamara behind him. Whether this means goals for Bolton Wanderers remains to be seen.