This is what I picked out as the main talking points from our game against The Blues on Tuesday night.
Was dropping Adam Le Fondre the right thing to do?
Parky started the game with a slightly different combination of little and large on Tuesday, Adam Armstrong took his place in the starting line up to offer us something slightly different to the usual strike partnership. Armstrong's pace, touch and movement off the ball definitely made us more of a threat going forward for the off, yet still struggled to make the impact required to put the ball in the net. With too many aimless hoofs still being sent up to the front two, more often than not, its the smaller of the two on the end of it who has absolutely no chance of winning a header against these massive centre halves in the Championship. It seemed to have been coming that Le Fondre would be dropped having struggled to make much of an impact bar his penalty against Leeds, however, I wouldn't have changed it so soon, and particularly with no plan B, and the backup strikers being very similar players to plan A. Le Fondre was brought on with about fifteen minutes to go and his fresh legs certainly helped and very nearly helped us nick all three points with Wanderers completely on top right up until the final whistle. For me, Le Fondre still remains the best option with Armstrong as an impact sub, although I would like to see what sort of damage Madine and Wilbraham could cause together, particularly with Wilbraham's agility and pace, despite his size.
Is Darren Pratley the weak link?
In short, yes. The captain, of all people, seemed to be the one letting the side down on Tuesday evening. Some excellent performances, especially Josh Cullen's were somewhat dampened by the other lost-looking member of the Wanderers midfield. Considering how well Cullen played, it was a real shame that he received minimal support from Pratley and was forced to rely on using Jem Karacan and only one side of the field meaning finding a way through was immediately made harder as our options became limited by the issue in midfield. I object that a captain should be handed a place in the starting XI simply for his contribution as club captain should the team performance or result be affected by such a major issue. I'd immediately opt to drop him if it was up to me, but with a lengthy injury to Josh Vela and very little available back up in the centre of midfield, we may find ourselves stuck with Pratley unless Parky changes the system whereby we can do without him, lets hope for the latter.
Should we be worried that we haven't won?
Again, in short, no. The opening three league games have each been part of an incredibly tough start to life for Wanderers back in the Championship. The Leeds loss put us in our place, expected, the Millwall one, by the sounds of it was a good point, and as was Tuesday. In one of the best Bolton games I've been to in a while, we were on top for the majority of the second half and unlucky not to knick it really, however, it perhaps wouldn't have been deserved as the draw was by far and away, the fairest result. Derby at home on Saturday won't be easy either, and I know a lot of people think the Millwall game was winnable when, in reality, we were lucky to get a point. Something that bolstered my faith a little was Harry Redknapp's genuine concern for the game to finish. a manger who, isn't daft, doesn't talk rubbish in interviews and is as honest as they come, put us in the same bracket as his desperation for a game to end at Old Trafford 1,000 Fergie minutes in to stoppage time. This filled me with confidence as he obviously acknowledged the chaos we can create when we want to going forward which suggests we do have the ability to finish off teams and be alright this season. All of which is really promising so don't lose faith just yet, there's still another 43 games to go, our time will come, don't worry lads and lasses.
Still in need of system/formation change?
Big time. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, 4-4-2 is the way forward. This whole 3-5-2, 5-2-3, 5-3-2, whatever it is, needs to be binned. With the midfield now in a flat line without Josh Vela in the 10 role and the wing backs restricted in their allowance in getting forward, there needs to be out and out wingers and each wing, a back four with two actual full backs and two strikers. Andrew Taylor, I like, but he's not a winger, he's a left back, so play him left back, Filipe Morais is a winger, so he should be on the wing, makes sense no? We have a habit of being caught out at the back down the wings because we have no full backs are too far forward and we then can't break because we have no wingers, it doesn't work. Don't get me wrong, I have faith in Parky, but I strongly believe that we'd be better off with two full backs, two wingers, two central midfielders and two centre forwards. Will Buckley is missing out because of this and its a real shame because he's already shown lots of promise on the left and could definitely be slotted in there with the removal of Pratley in the process. Other changes for me would include Mark Little at RB rather than Dervite as a third centre half, Taylor LB, Morais RM and Le Fondre re-instated along side Gary Madine, which, I believe, no-one else understands that we've got him, strange.
The blessing of Reece Burke
For me, this is by far and away, the best bit of business Parky has done for us. Bringing both Josh Cullen and Reece Burke over from West Ham have proved to both be brilliant additions to the team. Cullen reminds me of Mark Davies which excites me quite a bit, but I won't get too carried away and Burke, well Burke is something else. His first few games of the club instills images of a Mark Beevers debut and Rob Holding in his prime for us into my head. The lad's composure, the timing of his challenges, his ability to knock the ball around without feeling the urge to hoof it every five seconds, his confidence to go forward with the ball and join the attack has suddenly made me feel considerably more confident about our defensive record this season. Some have said Wheater's injury has been a blessing in disguise, I wouldn't go that far, but he certainly has a challenge on his hands now to win his place back from the young Hammer once fit. It'll be interesting to see how that one pans out, hopefully it'll involve a loan contract extension somewhere along the line, if we're lucky.
Can you think of anything else to add from Tuesday night's game against the Blues, let us know in the comments below if there's anything else notable that you think deserves a mention.