3810: Bolton Need Anelka To Be The M
by : Hugh Larkin
Its been a tremendous start to the season for Bolton Wanderers and the Lancashire side are holding on to a place in top four after a quarter of the season has gone. Their chances of staying in that position though are likely to depend on one of their players who hasn’t really contributed as yet.
Bolton have become a dependable part of the Premiership furniture; in the past three campaigns they have finished 8th, 6th and 8th again. They are a solid outfit who give everyone a tough game but they need a bit extra to if they are ever going to land a Champions League berth. The extra is meant to come from Nicholas Anelka.
Over the past three campaigns the Trotters have had terrific service from their midfield players- the likes of Gary Speed, Kevin Nolan and Stelios Giannakopulos have contributed hugely to their goal tally, which is crucial in the modern game. Much of this has been based on workaholic strikers like Kevin Davies and Henrik Perdersen who pull defences about to make space for others.
However, the price to be paid has been a relatively low haul from the front men. No Bolton player has managed double figures in the league over the past three seasons, though Sam Allardyce has been rewarded with nine goal campaigns from the likes of Kevin Nolan, Youri Djorkaeff and Stelios.
Though it does leave Bolton a little low on goals, the team do still pick up the points because of a sound defensive effort- which begins at the front- and quality goalkeeping from Jussi Jaaskelainen. However, scoring just 49 goals in 38 games (their total for the past two years) will probably always leave them just short of the top four.
Anelka has the potential to deliver 15-20 goals in a Premiership season. Last year the manager took a punt on Mexican Jared Borghetti, who has a terrific international scoring record but he couldn’t really come to terms with the Premiership. Now Sam Allardyce has turned to a proven performer but one whose motivation is always under scrutiny.
In a sense Bolton have no choice. Under normal circumstances a player with the quality of Anelka would be way out of the price range of a medium-sized club but because of the baggage the ex-Arsenal man has accumulated during his career, it has been possible to bring him on board.
Without a forward of the Frenchman’s quality, Bolton are unlikely to be able to make a sustained challenge to the ‘Big Four’. If he strikes some kind of form, the team are going to carry far more menace and pace up front; his speed and finishing can compliment the muscular, hard running Davies and the mercurial efforts of El Hadj Diouf to set Premiership defences a real problem.
The game against Newcastle was an example of what can happen if things go well. Diouf got the goals but Anelka created his first with a piece of fine vision and the second came from a typical piece of Davies battling. The negative side was that Anelka had been largely anonymous until he set up Diouf.
Bolton’s new striker has yet to hit the target for his new club. This may just be down to getting used to his new club, although he made some of his usual tactless comments on his arrival from Turkey. The club certainly need him to settle quickly because without a major contribution Bolton will probably fill one of the UEFA cup slots again but miss out on the big prize.
As so often in his career, everyone connected to his club are waiting to find out whether Nicholas Anelka can find the spark that makes him a very dangerous striker indeed. If he does, then Bolton might well stay where they are.
25 October 2006