In the aftermath of our heavy 5-1 defeat at the hands of the league leaders Wolves, the trending topic for Bolton fans appears to question Phil Parkinson’s future at the club.
Rightly or wrongly? Let’s examine the damage and the split of responsibility and fault for the hiding handed to us.
The first port of call is the performance of the team and the potential influencing factors. The gaffer, clearly a fan of consistency, fielded the same ten of eleven which faced Reading, Preston, Norwich and Sunderland, the only exception being the suspension of Mark Beevers for the Reading game. Prior to that, the injury to Andrew Taylor which lead to the introduction of Antonee Robinson to the side was the only other change to the team since the beginning of October.
You could therefore argue that team selection has massively influenced what seems to be a very similar run of results up until this Saturday which you would presume is a sign of tiredness and a general gulf in class between the two teams.
Despite this being a massive contributing factor to our success last season, the difference in quality of football and individual players is huge meaning that fielding unchanged sides necessarily helps when you're looking for improvement, not consistency.
Given that, as spectators, if we can see these issues, why can't Parky you ask, well he probably can, but daren't change the team which had kept us unbeaten in seven. Now this run has been ended, you can expect to see changes I’d presume ahead of our home game against Barnsley on Saturday.
We all know that a manager knows his squad better than anyone else does and will not be blind to the fatigue and need for change given that Wolves have put an end to Parkinson’s ability to prolong his belief in not changing a winning formula, or in our case, a drawing formula.
What if he keeps the same change for Saturday is what I presume you're all wondering now, well, I’ll be as baffled as you are. To leave the side unchanged would be ignorant and I refuse to believe that Parky is oblivious to the need for change now, but should he leave it as it is, he’ll be letting himself in to a grey area in which the Bolton faithful don't tend to take kindly to.
We’ve all seen it happen several times in the past when our previous managers lose the fans backing and I’m sure he’ll lose the players backing if results don't improve and aren't given the chance to be rested and rotated, as they can probably see at this point that it’s time for change too.
This brings me on to my next point, which is what needs to be done going forward. The players who have been brought in to specifically exploit their strengths in their respective positions, i.e Buckley and Le Fondre, and should they be left to rot on the bench, they'll lose faith in the manager and look to move away from the club.
Inevitably, this will only be seen as a waste of money from a fans perspective and a frustrating one knowing that other management would give these players who have proven to be the difference in previous games, their chances and turn our season around.
Change therefore, seems to be Parkinson’s best chance of retaining the fans backing and the loyalty of his squad.
Those of you who cannot see beyond Parkinson’s resistance to change his team as of yet, are deluded, to put it nicely. You cannot blame him for keeping the same team whilst we remained unbeaten and given that the team who brought that to an end are running away with it, the result couldn't be prevented by any manager or any change in team, because ultimately, we don't have the quality in our squad that they do.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that we don’t have any quality in our squad, but I don’t think any of us are blind to the fact that we were never going to take anything from Molineux meaning Parkinson can be let off the hook.
As far as I am concerned, as long as Parky turns to those players who he has at his disposal and haven't yet been given their chance to break into the starting eleven permanently, we should start to see improvement and will therefore see Parky re-gain our faith.
What if there is no improvement even with change? Then you do have to look at the management and his style of football. Of course, it depends to what extent change is made, player swaps are not enough. The reason why the other 7 of the 18 aren't being used is because they do not fit into our current system, therefore, for the changes to be effective, the system has to change too. The most obvious answer seems to be resorting back to a diamond midfield, or a 4-4-1-1 to accommodate the wingers which couldn't be utilised properly in a narrow system.
Either way, wholesale changes should be enough, if it’s not, then we can re-address the situation whenever these changes are made, ideally, next Saturday. Leaving it any later would be testing the patience of fans and players as I mentioned earlier, especially now that we’re propping up the table again after results didn’t go our way and our goal difference is shot at.
As it stands then, I think you have to give Parky the benefit of the doubt and given the chance to turn things round and see the light which we all see and presumably, he sees too. If things do not change and results don't improve, then come back to me next weekend when you can expect a follow up to this article, change or no change.
Let us know if you agree in the comments and what you think Parky needs to do to save his job and save our season.