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LOV Bolton Wanderers predictions 22/23: Matt

Matt attempts to predict how Bolton will fare this season

Bolton Wanderers v Accrington Stanley - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mick Walker - CameraSport via Getty Images

It’s that time of year again, folks. Once again another football season is right around the corner and as we do every year, all the writers here at LOV are going to try and predict how the season will go for Bolton.

Next up is Matt:

Best Signing

I can’t remember the last time Bolton Wanderers were in a stable enough position to warrant such a quiet summer. As much as I miss the buzz of new signings, this is the best place to be. In reality, I don’t actually think any of our 4 new signings improves the starting 11 of last year which isn’t as negative as it sounds. We did the bulk of our ‘summer’ business in January and that will hopefully pay dividends by having a settled squad. The signings this summer have added strength in depth, the lack of which last season begat long slumps which ultimately lost us ground. Most importantly we’ve made sure we haven’t gone backwards, signing back James Trafford and a suitable replacement for Marlon Fossey was a must*.

Overall I have to say that I think Conor Bradley will ultimately turn out to be the best signing of the summer. There is scarcely a more important position in this system than the wingbacks, getting this right after losing Fossey was a must. All signs in pre-season look more than promising. He’s good with the ball at his feet, can pick a man out and has all the physical attributes for the role. He’s already struck up a decent understanding with the attackers and I can see a decent return of assists and goals for the wide man this year. There are still questions about his ability to defend against the League’s top attackers but I’d wager that he’ll improve at a lightening pace over the course of the season.

* I can’t help but notice Fossey is still available. The comments made by Ian Evatt on The Wanderer podcast seemed to allude to issues with him signing for other clubs which you’d have to imagine might have something to do with his long injury record. If he’s still available at the end of the summer I’d snap your hand off for him on loan again. It’s the one area of the pitch without a dedicated back up and without real competition.

Top scorer

I don’t think I can remember a time that we were so stacked up top. Dion Charles seems to be the permanent fixture with all others trying to get the second spot. The mix of Charles and Dapo feels like it has the potential to be special. I can’t see any defence coping with the movement and pressure those 2 bring. I genuinely believe if those 2 hit top form as a strike force they’d catapult us in to a title race, so great is the potential goal threat. Even though I can see Dion starting more, I think this might be Dapo’s year again. The lad is so consistent and lethal wherever he is on the pitch. 17 for Dapo this year to make him top scorer.

Key Player

One player has been exciting more than any other since the end of last season, Kyle Dempsey. We signed him carrying an injury and the man said himself that he was frustrated that he couldn’t give us what he knew he could. With those performances fresh in our minds it’s easy to forget just how talented this guy is. His performances at Fleetwood and Gillingham were brilliant and I get the feeling that we’ll get that Dempsey playing for us this year.

Pre-season was only solidifying these thoughts. He came back in great shape and was putting in performances way above the levels we saw him at last year. He’s going to have a struggle getting in to the starting 11 however. MJ Williams, Aaron Morley and Kieran Lee appear to be Evatt’s favoured trio but I can see Dempsey forcing his way in and keeping that spot at some point early on. Fingers crossed the unfortunate incident hasn’t derailed his preparations because it has the potential to be a big season for him.

Predict the first six games

Ipswich (a) 2-2 draw

Wycombe (h) 1-1 draw

Port Vale (a) 2-0 win

Morecambe (h) 2-0 win

Sheffield Wednesday (h) 1-1

Plymouth (a) 1-1 draw

Final position

As I said earlier, I don’t think the first 11 has improved over summer. There has been some brilliant business done by our competitors over the summer and that for one makes me far less confident than I was in June. There are a few wildcards in that pack like Derby, who might run away with the division given the quality of the signings or flop, given the thrown together nature of the team.

It’s worth remembering however that this squad had a season (post January) that would be consistent with automatic promotion. Is that possible this year? A lot would need to be fixed for that. We still seem to struggle when teams park the bus, when playing inperfect surfaces and have a penchant for switching off at the back.

On the balance of things I’m pretty certain we’ll be apart of the pack vying for play-offs but I have my doubts that we’ll be making a serious go for the autos. I think 6th is a fair guess with the caveat that if Dion and Dapo click as they have the potential to do, we could be looking a lot higher.

Any other business prediction

Luke Hutchinson and Max Conway to be consistently making the bench come the end of the season.