Whilst almost one half of the league looks to make impressions in Europe, Bolton are amongst the majority spending the week reflecting on last Saturdays result.
For the Wanderers it was a 0-0 draw at home to Europa League finalists Fulham. But nevertheless, many positives were taken despite the lack of goals. Although maybe not the force they were last season due to the departure of manager Roy Hodgson, Owen Coyle certainly didn’t underestimate what the Cottagers and their new boss Mark Hughes would offer on the field. The home side matched Fulham’s high level of energy, and were made to battle for their first point of the new campaign. Despite Stuart Holden hitting the post late on, and Kevin Davies also coming close, the result was more a testament to their defensive side. Both Fulham and Bolton have benefited from holding onto their key assets in defence, with both Brede Hangeland and Gary Cahill marshalling their backlines. Last Saturdays draw gave Bolton their fourth clean sheet in a row-including the tail end of pre-season-and Coyle seemed pleased with his sides effort at the back: “We
Another plus point that came out of the game was a gutsy performance from an unlikely source. Swedish frontman Johan Elmander has done little to prove his worth following an £8.2m move to the Reebok in 2008. Lack of desire as well as a poor goal record led to the Swede being dropped by former boss Gary Megson last year before featuring only as a substitute following Coyle’s appointment. But after creating a number of problems for the highly rated Hangeland over the weekend, Coyle has backed his striker to finally come good: “Johan Elmander was terrific in the game and what we need is for him to be consistent with that level of performance. I’m sure that if he continues that level, then the goals will go in for him, it’s as simple as that. I think that he was one of the positives.” The choice to field Elmander alongside target-man Kevin Davis alone was enough for fans to see the faith the Scot has with the clubs record signing. But with Coyle looking to turn up the heat going forward, and with two more playmakers arriving over summer in Robbie Blake and Martin Petrov respectively, does Elmander have it in him to carry the burden? It was clear that Megson’s negative comments last year did nothing to boost the strikers form, and the Swede will get a boost from hearing what his boss had to say following the Fulham game. But actions speak louder than words, and the goals will soon have to come.
Bolton are predominantly known for being a defensively minded side, and have even been branded with the infamous ‘anti-football’ tag in the past. But their style and tactics have changed since the arrival of Coyle in December last year, switching the emphasis on attacking rather than holding back. There are still many fans however that believe it could go wrong, and would rather ditch the attractive football to grind out the results. Commenting on the upcoming fixture against West Ham on Saturday, Coyle’s choice of words won’t be received well by the minority: “On Saturday we’ll go down and try to be pleasing on the eye, and obviously try and win the game.” With Lee Chung-Yong, Stuart Holden and Martin Petrov playing so far forward, Bolton’s midfield look fairly lightweight in comparison to the hammers central players Scott Parker and Mark Noble. The pairing are known for their aggressive approach, and although Fulham looked pleased with their away point, the same won’t be said for Avram Grants side as they look to erase last week’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.
Recent history does favour the whites after they ran out 2-1 winners at Upton Park last season, but nothing will come easy. Coyle will need to be prepared to play out yet another fast tempo encounter as well as looking to find the best way through a West Ham defence that has been leaking goals of late.