Fortunately for me, being on holiday meant that I missed the Derby debacle. But one look at the post match reports and the fan reaction on social media, then all I see is a continuation of a now familiar theme from the first three league games. That is when you don't have the quality players needed, 3-5-2 should be avoided.
It's overly defensive with eight of your ten outfield players operating through the middle of the park. We have fullbacks such as Darby and Andrews or wingers such as Morais and Buckley all unable to play a wing back role that is critical for a 3-5-2 formation to work. This is compounded by the fact that our only wing back, Little, isn't a first team pick.
3-5-2 does give more protection to our goalies Howard and Alnwick, who lets be honest, aren't your first choices for a Championship side. It also allows two strikers and offers solidity with three in midfield. But if you don't have wing backs then you're seemingly on a hiding to nothing. The game stagnates, better quality opposition cause our lesser defenders to hoof aimlessly up to strikers, it's not nice to watch, but worst of all, it leaves the team open to ambush down the wings.
So what's the answer?
For me a back four seems the obvious start and then build from there. So what formation? Well there's 4-1-4-1 or indeed 4-2-3-1. In the past Parky has preferred the more defensive 4-2-3-1. The advantages of these systems is that they allow a traditional back four. Say Darby, Wheats, Beevers and Taylor. All round pegs in round holes. Something that isn't the case with 3-5-2. You can have Burke and or Derik in front playing as defensive midfielders. Both players are familiar with this role. You can have traditional wingers such as Morais and Buckley playing a traditional winger role. Imagine that! You also still have three in the middle, thus preventing that common Bolton malady of being overrun when there are just two. Vela is a big miss of course as he is an ideal attacking midfielder. However, I think Cullen can play this role and even Ameobi, when fit that is. The problem of course is that it leaves room for just one striker and a holding striker at that. Can Madine carry this off at Championship level? He couldn't last time round although he seems a better player now.
Then we have 4-4-2. You still have your fullbacks and wingers playing as full backs and wingers. You also can have a strike combo up front, with ALF and Madine no doubt being first pick. This formation most likely carries the most attacking threat. However, as many many games have shown since the Holden/Muamba partnership was broken, Bolton just get swamped in midfield, the defence gets caught on the break and we concede goals. Lots of goals. Could a Karacan/Cullen midfield work or indeed a Burke/Cullen midfield though? Surely it's worth a try?
The point being is that anything, anything at all, is better than watching the agony of a team dying a death of a thousand cuts playing 3-5-2.
So that's that sorted then. We just need Parky to see the light and the jobs a goodun.
Then you start thinking. Parky is no fool. He plays different systems when he can. Our promotion campaign showed that. He's known for being meticulous in his planning with a coaching team supporting him who all know their onions. He sees these players almost daily on the training pitch. He's had a summer to experiment. He's got a squad that's been put together without a single pound being spent in transfer payments. A good manager can pull a freebie rabbit or three or even four out the magic hat, as big Sam showed. Thing is, don't you think that asking for 23 rabbits with no money to spend is an ask too far?
It may well be that Parky simply isn't up to managing at this level. Good for the lower leagues but the Championship being a step too far. Us fans could be right after all. Then I got thinking some more.
Remember all those development squad players over the last three or four seasons, who had good first team games, showed promise and were doing continually well in the reserve games? Who we clamoured for the manger to play more in our failing first teams. Kellet, Thomas and Woolery to name but a few. Then how we whinged from the roof tops when they were released at season end. Well where are they now? Succeeding in the Prem and Championship as we expected. Nope of course not, bar none they are all at a lower, in many case much lower, level of football. Be honest with yourselves when I ask, did we hype up these young players to be better than they actually are? Does history show that in fact the management team knew what they were talking about and we fans were the ones living in cloud cuckoo land?
I ask this question because it raises a frightening parallel for us Bolton fanatics. Are we also similarly overhyping this seasons squad? Are we expecting them to achieve the impossible, particularly as they overachieved last season? Is a change in formation all that is required to get us winning games? Can a team of freebies be expected to succeed against teams costing millions?
Or is Parky playing 3-5-2 because he knows that this squad can't survive playing in the Championship any other way? You've all seen that the Macron pitch lines have been narrowed giving less space on the wings. Does that tell a story we don't want to hear?