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Season Preview: James

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New contributor James O'Loughlin has his say.

Matthew Lewis

On Saturday Bolton Wanderers will begin their third consecutive Championship campaign, after finishing the previous two seasons on a high can they turn their end of season form into a strong start?

How does the squad look?

Overall the squad looks to be high on quantity with plenty of depth in defence and central midfield. However, we do appear to be short on quality with a serious lack of creativity and a regular goal scorer. Dorian Dervite, Kevin McNaughton and Dean Moxey give the defence plenty of Championship know how and have been recruited at little expense. The centre of midfield looks solid enough with the additions of Liam Trotter and Neil Danns. Liam Feeney will provide width in the attack.

The failure to make Lukas Jutkiewicz's loan move permanent means Bolton have a shortage of striker options going into the new season. It isn't just the goals of Jutkiewicz that Bolton will miss, it is also his work rate and ability to retain possession as a lone striker, a role that Jermaine Beckford simply isn't suited to. With only Beckford, the hard working Craig Davies, and a handful of untried youngsters, Bolton fans will be hoping the manager can bring in at least one new striker sooner rather than later.

Key signing:

From the signings made so far Kevin McNaughton will be the regular right back and should provide continuity to what has been a problem position for Bolton over the past few seasons. His loan spell last season coincided with an upturn in form and his experience of promotion out of the Championship with Cardiff City could be important.

Ideal signing:

A striker in the Jutkiewicz mould. Chris Wood and Glenn Murray are two that have been mentioned and either would suit Freedman's preferred 4-2-3-1 system. Whether their clubs would be willing to let them leave remains to be seen. Luciano Becchio may see his chances of football limited at Norwich City and is another who could play as a lone striker and has Championship experience.

Starting line up:

As we know, Dougie Freedman likes to pack the midfield and often sets out very cautiously, especially away from home. I'd expect that to continue at Watford on Saturday with a line up very similar to the one that started in the friendly against Vitesse at the weekend.

Looking ahead, I think it is difficult to call the strongest eleven as the manager will rotate his players and use different formations depending on the opposition. However, I would like to see Bolton use two strikers and attack teams more often, particularly at home.

Will Freedman last the season:

Yes. Freedman seems to have the support of the chairman and survived the worst ever start to a season last time out, so it would have to be a disastrous run of results for him to be sacked. He has now shifted the big earners from the Premier League and has assembled his squad with his players. That said, should Bolton get off to another poor start even the most patient of fans may be tested.

Final position:

13th. Bolton should be organised and difficult to break down this season. Scoring goals is a worry, and if a regular  goal-scorer can be found the playoffs may not be out of reach.

COYWM