Are Bolton over-performing this season?

by Ben McAleer

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

A 5-1 victory over newly promoted Newcastle United on Saturday afternoon has seen a re-vitalised Bolton Wanderers soar up the Premier League table to 5th place, level on points with Tottenham Hotspur and six points behind league leaders Chelsea. But, are Bolton over-performing after fourteen games into the 2010/11 season?

Before I cast any judgement on the matter at hand, let us look at the performances of Bolton since Sam Allardyce left the club. Allardyce guided The Trotters to the Premiership in 2001 following a 3rd place finish in the old Division One and a play-off victory over Preston North End in the final. Yet, life back in the Premiership began as an uphill struggle for Bolton at the time as they narrowly survived relegation finishing 16th and 17th in 2002 and 2003 respectively. From 2004, however, Allardyce managed to secure a top eight finish, the highest in Bolton’s history, following this feat up with a 6th place finish in 2005 earning The Trotters qualification into the, then, UEFA Cup. Two more consecutive top ten finishes followed 2005 as Allardyce announced he was departing the club after an eight year association with Bolton.

With a, seemingly, capable squad available at Sammy Lee’s (Allardyce’s number two and replacement) disposal, everything started to go downhill again for The Trotters. With only one win in eleven games, Lee was replaced by former WBA, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City manager Gary Megson. Yet, despite Megson managing to strengthen depth of the squad following the sale of Nicholas Anelka, he was never a fan favourite with the Bolton faithful and his reign as manager lasted a little over two years.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside knew he had to appease the fans with a manager capable of obtaining Allardyce-esc results for the club and set his heart on hiring former Bolton striker Owen Coyle as manager in January. Guiding The Trotters to 13th in the second half of the 2009/10 season has proven to be a stepping stone for Bolton as they continue to excel this season. This brings us to the aftermath of round fourteen of fixtures with them sitting pretty in 5th place. Coyle has got his team playing lovely football at the moment with a re-invigorated Johan Elmander, Bolton’s record signing, re-discovering the form that warranted an £8.2million move leading the line with recent England call-up Kevin Davies. Gary Cahill and Zat Knight have both forged a successful partnership in defence with the ever reliable Jussi Jaaskelainen behind them in goal coupled with a solid midfielder consisting of Fabrice Muamba, Matthew Taylor and Chung-Yong Lee.

With the players Coyle has in his possession, in my opinion they aren’t over-performing at all this season. They club have been in this spot before during the latter Allardyce years so know what it takes to remain in the position. My only question mark as to whether they can remain in the position is the level of debt the club are in. Gartside, unfortunately, admitted that the club would listen to offers for stand out performers Gary Cahill and Johan Elmander in order to balance the books.

Yet, with this looming over the head of Coyle and the squad, Bolton continue to excel this season turning The Reebok into a place no teams want to visit (Liverpool remain the only team to have picked up three points from there this season) propelling Bolton up the table whilst managing to pick up necessary points away from home to aid their Premiership form and without the distraction of Europe hovering over their heads, I can see no reason as to why Bolton can’t remain in the top half of the table come May (should they keep their star players of course!).

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  • Mystical Mike

    Absolutely not, Coyle has got them playing decent football, as well as being very hard to beat. He is getting the best of his players, he deserves massive credit for what he has done.

    Only defeats all season, and that was to arsenal and Liverpool.

  • Ben McAleer

    My sentiments exactly Mike. He is getting the best out of his players and making Bolton a team that clubs massively struggle against

  • jordan

    youv forgot about the star man stuart holden

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