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Five Things: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Birmingham City

Wanderers continue their promotion push against winless City. 

West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Well, well, well. Four games down and Bolton are unbeaten and joint top of the league. Have we slipped into an alternate universe? Maybe, but lets not think about it too much.

Solid as a rock

West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

After Phil Parkinson’s first season in charge of Bolton Wanderers we all thought that defensive solidarity was a given. It wasn’t to be the case in a rollercoaster first season back in the second tier. But, so far this year Parky seems to have rediscovered that formula with two shut outs and only three goals conceded.

There were a couple of close shaves against Birmingham City, but Bolton held firm with every player mucking in. From Ben Alnwick’s wonder save to Josh Magennis’ block after Alnwick conspired to drop the ball Wanderers always had it covered, and long may it continue.

Not only does the back four deserve credit we also have a midfield due in front of the back four keeping teams out. A combination of Gary O’Neil, Luke Murphy and Jason Lowe have created a firm base for the likes of Craig Noone and Will Buckley to build off.

Long may it continue.

Being in the top six

I was thinking about this the other day. Yes we are only four games in, etc. But, I think we have only been in the top six of the Championship for one game week since we dropped out of the Premier League in 2012 before this season. That is one week in four seasons, two of which where we were favourates to obtained automatic promotion before a ball was kicked. The time in question was when Wanderers through away that berth on the last day of the 2012-13 season with Leicester City sneaking in.

We have now sat in the top six for the opening four weeks. I do not care how much of the season is left, I am loving it.

Targeting survival

Stoke City v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League
Scenes we want to consign to the past
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In the last four season starting with last year teams needed 42, 52, 41 and 42 points to stay up. One season is a clear outlier there. If we say that 45 points will be enough for survival this year, then Bolton are almost a quarter of the way there while being less than an eighth of the way through the season.

Anything can happen in football as we saw many times last season alone. But, that is a great start to a season where the serious aim remains consolidating in this league. Anything more than that, such as our inevitable promotion, is a bonus.

Super Josh Magennis

West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Magennis’ three goals in his opening four games probably means he has the best goal to price tag ratio of any striker we have paid a fee for in my time supporting the club, and all that from a man Charlton Athletic fans assured us was terrible in front of goal.

The disappointment though was that I do not remember a single flick on finding a Bolton player against City. There are two explanations for this, either Magennis is not a very good target man or no Bolton player is getting into the right areas when the ball is launched forward. Neither is ideal, but one is clearly solvable. I think that the latter is at least a major contributing factor and needs addressing. In theory the likes of Yanic Wildschut and Erhun Oztumer should relish the opportunity to feed off flick ons.

Keeping the ball on the deck

Manchester City v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League
Bolton cannot have had many better passers of the ball
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

When Bolton wanted too they could keep hold of the ball. Yes there was little in the way of penetration and we struggled to get the ball to the right players, but we clearly have the ingredients to make it work.

Nothing quite underlined this change in emphasis more than David Wheater bringing the ball forward before nearly latching onto the ball on the edge of the City box. Mark Beevers’ insistence on isolating himself a smacking the ball 50 yards away from any Bolton player continues to frustrate, and just underlines that Bolton need to find a way to utilise a better way.

On the occasions Otzumer got the ball into feet he was able to show his talent. The more we can keep it on the ground and play through him, the more exciting we should hopefully become.