Bolton Wanderers were so dominant in this match the only disappointment really is that Scunthorpe United were not put to the sword. With that in mind, an almost perfect first half display was let down by only the one shot on target.
Onto the five things then.
Moving the Opposition Around
I have said this a few times this season but I think we saw more evidence of the Ian Evatt blueprint taking shape in this game. At the beginning of the first half it did feel like Bolton were pulling their opponents around the pitch in a way I have certainly not noticed before. Though I am an ignorant oaf who is normally at least one cider in, so that may just be me.
Back to the point. Shifting the opposition around to tire them and create space is a major characteristic of successful possession based football teams. The evidence that Bolton do this is perhaps seen in the sheer number of late goals scored this season.
Today the gaps did not really get exploited apart from for Antoni Sarcevic’s brilliant goal to seal the points. On another day though, this will I am sure bear fruit.
Regaining Possession Quickly
This is another factor which gets talked about a lot by the likes of Pep Guardiola. It is all about winning the ball back as quickly as possible. I recall something about Manchester City typically committing a foul within around 10 seconds of losing the ball as their haste to regain possession, and stop the opposition doing anything, kicked in.
At the beginning of the first half, and probably for the rest of it, Bolton were ruthlessly efficient at regaining the ball. This will again create spaces and tire the opposition. Before long it will lead directly to goals, if executed as well going forward.
Dapo Running Free
I have no issue in theory with Oladapo Afolayan playing a free role. Having someone popping up in unexpected places should keep the opposition on their toes. What does though confuse me is that Dapo is being played on the left and then given a free role.
Maybe I am naive or plain wrong, but to me it feels like the player with a free role should be in the centre of the park, seeking out space across the pitch. This, to me, would create a more balanced attacking system.
Strength in Depth
I know this has been covered a lot recently but it really struck me in this game when Sarcevic came on and dominated the closing stages. We were without Kieran Lee for this match but still had a series of outstanding options for central midfield roles.
At the start of the season it quickly became apparent we were severely light on options, at least for holding players, but now we are spoilt for choice. Andrew Tutte will feel rightly hard done by to be out of the picture and Brendon Comley must be crying out for a chance alongside the likes of MJ Williams and Lee which will likely never come.
Provided Shaun Miller stays fit, and with the return of Ryan Delaney and Harry Brockbank, we will well stocked in every position. When was the last time we thought that?
A Happier Eoin Doyle
During the last couple of matches I have watched I have felt sorry for Doyle. The service has simply not been good enough for him to have any real clear cut chances.
On Tuesday night though Doyle had a bit more joy with a couple of good balls into the box. They did not quite land for him on this occasion but it is positive that the ball is getting closer to the main man up top more regularly.
Doyle took his total for the season to 12, which is the most a Bolton player has scored in a season for a long time, if memory serves. With an improvement in service, my pre-season prediction of 20+ still looks good.