We find ourselves in familiar territory; another slow start to the season, but why? Every single year we have been in this league, under three different managers, we have started badly. Each have had their own distinct styles, pre-seasons and tactics. There has only really been one constant in these last few years; the ever dwindling (and now non-existent) transfer pot.
Gone the days where a club could maintain its Championship status with free transfers and loans. The reality of the Championship now is that you have to spend money to stand still. Loans now command big fees making it harder to cover the gaps. Free transfers are fought over by so many clubs you can no longer grantee you’ll secure players of sufficient quality.
That brings me to Bolton Wanderers. Under Lennon we haven’t spent a penny on buying a player. He has had to exclusively use the two aforementioned ways of obtaining talent. He’s actually done this better than most. Players like Derik Osede, Wellington Silva & Prince bring undoubted quality but he has not had enough money replace all the talent we've lost in the one and a bit seasons. For example this summer we were able to revamp the defence but had sod all else to get strikers or wingers in. As a result we had to use what we had (like Feeney) or take players no one else would (like Heskey).
This in my opinion is why we are playing well but losing. The team has the right tactics and the right man management but not the quality. We’ve held our own in pretty much most games this year because Lennon has got his tactics right, the players want to play for him and they’re still confident. They just don’t have the quality to do any more than try hard. The reality being some of our player’s best performances don’t cut it in the Championship.
Gary Madine for example would be considered a squad player in most other Championship teams but is first choice for us. Our second choice striker is a 37 year old who has 0 goals in his last 24 games. Neil Danns is similar to Madine in that I’m sure a handful of Championship clubs wouldn't mind him in the squad as a backup; for us though he is un-droppable. Stephen Dobbie is a good player but had dropped down to League One the previous year and probably would have again but for us. Liam Feeney is another player who consistently starts despite poor performances. Undoubtedly he is useful as an impact sub off the bench, but has proven that is his limit in this league.
All these players try hard and have good individual qualities but is it any wonder we are struggling when they are depended on as first and second choices?
This is why all this sacking talk is foolish. Apart from the ‘new manager bounce’ all new managers get, they’d eventually find the same problems as Lennon. Problems with the squad but no money to fix them. Despite this, he is culpable for some of the problems faced. He continues to plays Danns despite having Jay Spearing and Josh Vela on the bench; both players are much better than Danns in different aspects. Feeney is continually picked with form no baring on his selection. He makes substitutions far too late on in the game and when he eventually does he makes the wrong choices (Bringing on Heskey over Clayton when we needed a goal for example).
All this said, I still think he is a very good manager; certainly the best we could afford by a massive, massive margin.Fingers crossed we can use the loan market to cover the cracks for another year.