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Are Bolton Getting the Best Out Of Josh Vela?

He is the subject of great interest, but is he proving his worth to the team?

Preston North End v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship
Vela in action against Preston
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In recent weeks it has been widely reported that Wanderers midfield starlet (and coincidently today’s Birthday Boy), Josh Vela, has been scouted by many clubs who could easily offer him a great deal more money than Bolton and maybe even a start in the Premier League. Vela is undoubtedly one of our key players and last season finally found his best position in the Number 10 role. Our recent upturn in form has coincided with his return to the team. However, in recent matches I have felt that Josh hasn’t been performing to his best and this was highlighted last weekend when he missed a golden chance against Notts Forest that ultimately cost us the game. It was a chance that Vela would have gobbled up with ease in League One and while I am not suggesting for a second that is his level, perhaps he is not the best player to be playing behind the striker for Bolton right now.

Recent talk about a possible move to bring back Zach Clough, however unfounded the reports may be, have fuelled talk of maybe taking the cash the likes of Derby and Brighton could offer for Vela. While I have no desire to see Josh leave, it is hard to argue that Clough isn’t better suited to the role Vela is currently playing. Clough has proved that he can score goals at Championship level, something we are yet to see from Vela. While Clough’s return may be a pipe dream, the fact that fans are beginning to view this scenario so favourably makes me think that its not just me who thinks Josh is underperforming.

He was Wanderer’s joint top scorer last season, with 10 goals and playing all 46 matches in the league. Had our defensive record not been so incredible, making it hard to look past either David Wheater or Mark Beevers for the Player of the Year, Vela would have been a good shout. It was a genuine shock to see him finish chances so regularly and with such aplomb given he had only ever scored 2 goals for Bolton in his whole time at the club. While one must consider the fact that he played a substantial number of games at Right-Back for a while, it still came as a surprise to see this side of his game. This season he has not had as many chances as he did in League One, something that isn’t surprising given the quality difference between the leagues, but the chances he has had haven’t been the most difficult to take, yet he has still managed to miss them. This begs the question, as I mentioned above, whether he may be better replaced with someone who could take said chances.

It has been well documented on this site that we cannot understand why Parky has no faith in Adam Le Fondre and maybe he could be the one to take Vela’s place in the Number 10 role. He would certainly have scored at Forest and since he returned to the Macron he has added excellent work-rate to his game which suits the position perfectly. The support Vela has provided to lone striker, Gary Madine, has been hugely helpful but maybe ALF could do that and more.

If this were to happen then one need ask what to do with Vela as it would be a waste to have him sat on the bench given his obvious talent. The difficulty is that the two other midfield slots are currently occupied by Wanderer’s in-form duo, Karl Henry and Darren Pratley. The pair seem to have established a very prosperous partnership and it would be very difficult to drop either of them without possibly ruining the current system. However, it is more than likely that Vela, given his taste for a strong tackle and non-stop running could fill the holding role perfectly. In addition, Vela’s attacking instincts wouldn’t necessarily be hindered given the fact Henry especially would be content to sit in for him. We have seen of late how Darren Pratley has had the shackles on his attacking ability cast off due to trusting Henry to cover for him when going forward. If it works for Pratley it could work for Vela.

Saturday’s game against Burton may well force Parky’s hand to make this change as Wanderer’s skipper Pratley could well be missing through injury. If this is the case, hopefully ALF gets the starting nod ahead of Adam Armstrong, although a more central role could well suit the Newcastle loanee better the Left-Wing. Regardless, it would be a shame to see Josh’s talents go to waste, especially at this time when we need him firing on all cylinders. If we are to lose him, lets at least get the best out of him first.