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Bolton Injury Crisis: 3-5-2 To The Rescue?

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Let's talk about football for a change

Northampton Town v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One
Should Phil Parkinson be considering a change of formation in the face of Wanderers' recent injury blows?
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Last weekend's 1-1 draw wasn't only a dreadful game to watch, it also saw Bolton Wanderers lose both of their first choice full-backs. This got me thinking that, with Dean Moxey our only 'option' at left-back and no fit right-back, this could be an opportunity for Phil Parkinson to switch things up.

With this in mind, given our lack of numbers and the fact that we haven't won since New Year's Day, I think it's time to change to get the best out of our key players. I'm therefore going to argue the possibly controversial case for Bolton switching to three at the back.

Defensive options

We know full well that Mark Beevers and David Wheater have been probably the best defensive partnership in League One. Indeed, we've had the best defence in the league generally until the last few weeks.

Last season we also learnt that Derik Osede cannot play at right-back, so surely it makes sense that we should drop him into a back three alongside them. Derik could be deployed as the middle of the three centre-backs in the David Luiz role, if you will, giving him freedom to step out of defence to support the midfield, supported by the more solid defensive capabilities of Beevers and Wheater.

We also have Tom Thorpe, who could potentially step into that roaming centre-back role, and the long-forgotten Dorian Dervite, who could provide competition and support for the three centre-backs.

Midfield options

Jay Spearing was excellent at MK Dons and remains the first name on the teamsheet for me, alongside Beevers. His defensive capabilities would assist the defence, and potentially be able to help out protecting the wings - which is where I'd see the biggest threat to us in this formation.

He could be joined in central midfield by Josh Vela, who remains an option in the middle of the park despite his impressive performances in a more advanced position so far this season. He also excelled at right-back for spells of last season, so gives us an option of protecting the wings when teams counter-attack against us. This leaves the option for another player to fill the attacking midfield role.

In terms of other midfield options there's the versatile Thorpe and youngster Alex Perry, who impressed on his debut in the FA Cup against Grimsby Town earlier this season.

Attacking midfield options

The two wide men that Parky seems intent on sticking with would need to have some form of defensive awareness in this formation, given the fact that we leave ourselves vulnerable to any side that plays wingers and/or 4-4-2.

Debutant Filipe Morais showed promise on Saturday despite clearly not being match fit, both in providing support to Dean Moxey and looking to get good balls in to Madine, so for me he'd be the best option for the left flank. The right side is a bit more tricky, but I think we should look back to James Henry, who after all is actually a winger and is capable of helping out defensively.

Other than that I feel our wing options are limited, as Chris Long certainly didn't look like a wide player despite possessing pace, and Viv Solomon-Otabor looked well short of match fitness and didn't really give me the impression that he can actually play football.

I feel this formation would give Max Clayton the freedom to play off the strikers, which is his best position. He's looked unconvincing on the left-wing, despite a late equaliser against Coventry, and was particularly quiet in the half hour in that role against MK Dons at the weekend. He's one of our more technically gifted players now that Zach Clough has moved on, so I think we need to get him into the team in a position that suits him.

Vela is of course a candidate for the role in behind the strikers, and may be a better option than Clayton away from home given he's more likely to help out the midfield defensively.

Striker options

If we're going to push for promotion this season then it's clear we have to start scoring more goals, and the main man for that is new signing Le Fondre. He's our only true recognised goalscorer so that means we need to play to his strengths by playing two strikers.

I think that would also help Madine, who has his haters but whose overall play has been good for much of the season despite a clear lack of goals - he's scored in just two of his last 24 matches. Madine would benefit from having another striker alongside him, one that is able to get in behind the defence, latch onto his knockdowns and win the second balls.

At MK Dons on Saturday, Madine was looking more isolated than ever. Vela, who was supposed to be his closest support, was increasingly pulled back into midfield and none of the four wingers we tried through the game ever really threatened to give the big striker either support or delivery.

But I think Le Fondre would change all that, and give us new, more threatening options up front. The same would also go for Long, whose pace would stretch opposition defences and would actually look to get in behind them.

So with that in mind, here is my proposed Bolton lineup in a brand spanking new 3-5-2 formation.

What do you think? Could we do a Chelsea and go to three at the back? Let us know in the Comments section below.