On Saturday, Bolton Wanderers left the Reebok Stadium empty-handed following a 0-1 loss against Queens Park Rangers in a match that they could and should have taken something out of. The defense was improved from the loss at Nottingham Forest the previous week barring the one major breakdown that led to the match's only goal. Allowing one goal is something that we have come to expect from Bolton long ago but the complete lack of any firepower in the attacking end is something we have not.
It is not a coincidence that Bolton's admittedly meager (thus far anyway) attacking bite in the final third has seemingly disappeared following Chris Eagles' injury absence. The winger has been missing since being forced to leave Wanderers' season-opening match against Burnley after hurting his ankle. It was Chris Eagles that set up Bolton's goal in that game, intelligently cutting the ball back to a wide open Darren Pratley in the center of the area.
In Eagles, Bolton have an attacking option that can play on either flank as well as in the center in addition to being a threat on set pieces. His 12 goals in the 2012/13 season led Bolton Wanderers and their chances of play-off contention would have been nonexistent without him. On top of that, Eagles assisted an additional 12 goals last season, meaning that he scored or created 24 of Bolton's 69 goals for on the season. In other words, the winger was directly involved in 35% of the times that Bolton hit the back of the net.
There is no question that Chris Eagles is one of Bolton's greatest attacking threats (if not the biggest) and thus far this season, he has been sorely missed in Wanderers' ranks. Two points with just two goals in four games absolutely screams that. The Trotters would do extremely well to have him back and all indications are that his return is imminent, after having been held out against Queens Park Rangers.
With that said, Chris Eagles is not the answer for the Trotters in the sense that they should not be relying solely on him. Teams have their talismans but that is a dangerous game to play thanks to injury and form, both of which led to Bolton suffering on numerous occasions. Eagles is only one man and because of that, it is easy for the opposition to put extra emphasis on the one man and, in turn, cancel him out.
Yes, Eagles would add a lot to Bolton's otherwise limp attacking "threat" but to rely on him is irresponsible. The team, specifically the forwards, need to step up their efforts. In four matches, the three forwards (David Ngog, Craig Davies, and Jermaine Beckford) have managed to put a combined total of just five shots on target, scoring none of them. It was painfully evident that the finishing must get better against Queens Park Rangers when Beckford and Davies both spurned glorious chances in one-on-one situations with the opposing goalkeeper.
It's early days yet but that excuse will not last much longer. If Bolton are going to fight for promotion this season, production has to come from everywhere, not just Chris Eagles.