Despite this, 2010 has been an undoubted success for the club and for Bolton manager Owen Coyle, in the second of a two part article, we'll look at how the attacking players at Bolton Wanderers have faired over the last twelve months.
One of the main things Owen Coyle has managed to revolutionize since arriving at the Reebok Stadium is the ability to get the ball down and play football in the opposition half.
Whilst a long punt up field is still an effective weapon for the Whites, too now a carefully weighted pass through the middle, or a jinking run down the wing, is a much used tool to break down the opposition.
When Martin Petrov came in at the start of the season, most fans probably envisioned an end to Taylor’s time in a Wanderers shirt. It is with great credit to the former Pompey man that going into 2011, he is still a member of the first XI.
Taylor has had a struggle for goals this season, finally bagging his first against West Brom last week, and you could see what that goal meant to him. His performances, on the whole, still leave room for improvement, but his desire and passion give him the nod over Petrov and leave him with plenty of unfinished business at the Reebok.
GRADE: C+ Taylor will always have a battle on his hands to stay in the first team, but the signs are definitely promising for a more rewarding 2011.
The ‘coup of the transfer window’, or so most fans believed. When Coyle managed to secure the signing of the much targeted Petrov, Bolton fans could not believe their luck, a technically gifted international, surely more superior to any other member of the squad. But Petrov has always had two demons, injuries and a bad attitude. The first, he has managed to keep at bay quite well, but his attitude, especially his petulant tirade after being substituted against Blackburn Rovers, did not impress anyone. Maybe the expectations were raised higher than they should have been, after all, Petrov has been without regular first team action for a number of years, but the general consensus is that Martin Petrov came to Bolton to be ‘the big fish in the small pond’, and now he finds himself a ‘medium fish in a medium sized pond’, and so far, his reaction to that has not been good enough.
That said, he still can provide a moment of magic, his performance against Manchester United was sublime, as was his goal against Blackpool, one of the more overlooked contenders for goal of the season.
GRADE: D+ Petrov will need to buck his ideas up quickly if he wants to forge out a Premier League career with Bolton Wanderers. Taylor will not relinquish the left side of midfield so easily, and Petrov will have to be patient, and take his chances when he gets them.
Star man. Top of the classroom. etc. Stuart Holden has been without doubt one of the best signings Bolton Wanderers have made for some time. It’s crazy to think the American almost signed for Burnley, and only joined Bolton Wanderers because of the timing of Owen Coyle’s sudden switch.
The compensation Bolton paid for Coyle’s services looks even more paltry, when you consider we essentially got Holden thrown into the deal.
Holden, who was recently named The Guardian’s player of the first half of the season, is a bundle of energy in the midfield, a superb engine, a superb tackler (top tackler in the Premier League according to OPTA stats) the creative force behind Owen Coyle’s ‘change’ in the brand of football at Bolton and now the midfielder has started to add goals to his game including one of the highest quality against Blackburn Rovers.
GRADE: A+ The sky is the limit for Holden. If he keeps up this magnificent level of consistency he is a shoo-in for BWFC Player of the Year.
Another consistent campaign thus far for the combative central midfielder. Fab has perhaps been outshined by his central midfield partner, but that does not take anything away from how far he has come in the last 12 months. The partnership he has formed with Holden is vital in the Whites amazing progress up the table, both work hard for the team and can interchange between attack and defensive duties.
GRADE: B Muamba can only be happy with his performances this season. The technical side of his game still has plenty of room for improvement, but his consistency should be enough to see him fight off stiff competition from the bench.
When Owen Coyle joined the club, one of the common phrases used was that ‘Mark Davies was Coyle’s type of player’, and whilst it’s becoming a bit of a cliché, it holds some validity. Robbie Blake called Davies one of the most technically gifted players he has ever shared a pitch with. Fantastic running with the ball, and an eye for a pass, Mark Davies would probably walk into most Premier League teams. It speaks volumes about the strength of our midfield that Davies has failed to make himself a regular.
GRADE: C His game still has areas to improve, and trying to get past the consistent Muamba and Holden will be no easy feat, but with a small squad, there is probably still room for Davies to make his mark (no pun intended) in a Bolton Wanderers shirt.
Chung Yong Lee
Away on Asia Cup duty, it may only now become apparent just how much we miss the South Korean international. Having already racked up six assists and two goals, Lee is one of the most underrated members of the BWFC squad. Still going strong, two years without a rest, is an incredible feat for any player, but for one still so new to the Premier League it is even more impressive. Games keep coming thick and fast though, and Owen Coyle must be careful not to burn out the tricky winger.
GRADE: B After a slow start to the season, Lee picked up where he left off last season, Coyle must have everything crossed that Lee is home from the Asia Cup as quickly as possible and without injury.
Captain Kev discovered a new talent last year, and has put it to good use this season. Having never taken a penalty in his career up until last season’s home game against Wigan, Davies has put away 100% of his four penalties this term, putting him on an impressive mid-season total of six goals. Whilst Davies is never going to beat four men and stick one in the top corner, he has continued to do what he does best, holding up play and more importantly bringing the best out of Johan Elmander who has finally learnt how to play off the numerous chances Davies creates.
GRADE: B- The captain has led from the front as usual, and will continue to play an important role as the club looks to get back into Europe.
Were the awards for most improved player handed out today, Elmander would win at a canter but whether the Swede will still be around next May is of much debate. Elmander’s turn around in form seems to have fit hand in hand with Coyle’s arrival at Bolton, and the faith the manager put in him is finally being repaid. Whilst his form can still be erratic, Elmander is managing to do what he has been criticised for during his Bolton tenure, find a goal from nowhere. His goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers is one of the best individual goals you’ll see this season and is just a glimpse of the technical ability Johan has in his locker.
GRADE: A- Bolton fans would probably feel much more comfortable if the Swede would put pen to paper, but despite his stalling, it cannot be denied that his goals have been a major influence in the Wanderers rise up the league.
Maybe the only person in Bolton not feeling the good vibrations of Elmander’s sudden goal spurt is Ivan Klasnic. A popular player, and lethal finisher, Klasnic was the main beneficiary of the Swedish forward’s hapless strike rate but now finds himself stuck to the bench, and with very little to show from the minutes he has played. Despite this, Klasnic has managed to secure Bolton four points this season with late goals, his goal against Everton was slightly soured by an even later Jermaine Beckford equaliser, but his last minute winner against Stoke...and even last-er minute sending off...certainly grabbed Ivan the headlines.
GRADE: C- With Davies and Elmander in such form, Klasnic will struggle to make his way back into the first team, his job must be to make each minute he gets count. He has the potential to be one of the best ‘impact subs’ in the Premier League, his ability to find space in the box and grab a goal out of nothing are almost second to none.
With Wigan just around the corner, Bolton fans will be itching to get back to winning ways and with the January transfer window officially open, it's time to see what silly season will throw up.