Some interesting post match statistics were rolled out after Boltons latest Macron humiliation. Firstly, they showed that Boro were as possessive with the football as Germans are with sun beds. Boro were reported to have had a massive 66% possession. They also managed 14 shots at goal compared to Boltons 9. At an away game as well. You look at both fan opinions and fan player votes and straight away it seems as if Madine was the only one who turned up.
But it doesn't stop there. As the old crooner Tom Jones rightly says, it's not unusual. Similar stats were seen at Hull, with their 61% possession and 4 goals from just 7 shots.
The post match injury account is a worry as well. Darby, Wheater, Derik, Morais and Madine all picked up knocks against Boro, with Madine being the only one certain to recover in time for tonight's Sheff Utd game. Five players injured in one game.
Out of an already small squad of 23, Darby, Derik, Taylor, Vela, Morais and Ameobi are all unlikely to be fit for Tuesday. Both Wheater and Buckley are admittedly lesser doubts, but if they don't make it, it will mean that we won't have enough first teamers to fill the subs bench. We've only played 6 games! What's it going to be like in early January after the Christmas fixtures?
Whilst post match reports and fan comments for the Boro game all rightly point to the gulf in class, of which £50m buys a lot, a perceived lack of fitness and inability to hold on to the ball feature strongly. The view being that whilst we have a team of triers, they just don't seem to be fit enough, not matching Boro in possession, speed, first to the ball etc etc.
But is the case? Could it be that Parky and his staff, after a long preseason, have failed to get the players, literally, up to speed? A fair point it seems until you remember how well conditioned Parky got the squad prior to the start of the League One season. So why should this preseason be different?
Possession is a problem though. Something that we all saw last season as well. Boltons tactics were often about adsorbing the pressure and then hitting the opposition on the break. It worked well many times but when we were really under the cosh, we seemed to resort to hoof ball, lose the ball easily and make the problem worse. This season, against far better teams, in my opinion, we just don't have the quality to play this way. Bolton remind me very much of how England perform in whatever finals. The passion and effort is there but we just can't get hold of the ball and when we do, we give it away. What it boiled down to with England was simply a lack of quality. We couldn't match the other team and ran ourselves into the ground because of it. I reckon Bolton are the same in the Championship. I don't think fitness is the problem, a few of the youngsters need to build up their strength maybe, but not fitness.
This could also explain the injuries. Players have to give that impossible 110% effort, just trying to compete against better teams. Pushing your body beyond its limits mean that injuries are more likely to happen. Some injuries such as Velas are just plain bad luck but there has to be a reason for the others. There are too many injuries occurring for it to be a coincidence or just bad luck.
So what's the good news and what can Parky do? The first one is rather obvious, as we just have to accept that we can't currently compete with the quality teams at this level, but so long as we make sure we do better than the other lesser teams, we have a chance.
As for Parky, well, he's an ambitious man who no doubt relishes the challenge of succeeding at this level. He will know that it's cock on the block time for him and he needs to find both a system that works and players who can play it. Having said that, it seems incredibly unfair that Parky has to do this with both arms tied behind his back. But that's embargoes for you and I'm afraid life ain't fair.
Anyhow, a MASSIVE game at home tonight needing Bolton to show the steel to blunt the Blades. We need those 3 points. As ever, I'm predicting a Bolton win. 2-0 to the whites. COYWM.