Hard Winter Ahead For Bolton
It's just over two years since Gary Megson took over at Bolton. In the first season he kept them up by single point from an unpromising position and in year two they avoided the drop by a solid seven points, to finish thirteenth.
Thirteenth looks distinctly unlikely this season. The derby defeat to Sam Allardyce's Blackburn Rovers pitched Megson's side into the bottom three with just 11 points from 12 games. The signs are that the Trotters will be dicing with the drop until May.
In Megson's tenure at The Reebok just over a point a game has been the return. Since October 2007 Bolton have won just 26 of 92 games, though some of the are cup matches.
Delivering just over a point a game is enough to keep a team in the Premiership but the margins are always going to be fine. Bolton's problem this year will be goals- at the moment no one in the squad has more than three League strikes.
In 2008/09 Kevin Davies managed a respectable eleven and Matt Taylor weighed in with ten from midfield. There's no guarantee that either player will be able to match that tally for this campaign.
Not scoring many has been a Bolton trait for several seasons but leaking goals hasn't. Twenty-six goals conceded at this stage of the season is a distinct worry. Eleven have gone past the keeper in the past three League matches and that followed another 4-0 n the Carling Cup.
Bolton's success in the Premiership has been based on being a hard to beat outfit. Their attacking resources aren't strong enough to cope with a defence that is letting in 2 or 3 per game. The Trotters back line has conceded two or more in their last seven matches.
When he arrived at Bolton many fans were less than happy to see Megson, who had a reputation for being even more pragmatic that Sam Allardyce. A few good performances changed matters to the point when he was ironically termed the 'Ginger Mourinho'.
It may be that it's time to bring back some of that pragmatism and go back to some purely grinding football. The manager selected Johan Elmander aganst Blackburn but the Swedish forward has been consistently aeverage since his big money arrival from Toulouse.
Reverting to a 4-5-1 with Kevn Davies putting himself about and midfielders trying to support should protect the back four and produce some clean sheets. It won't be pretty but Bolton need to revert to basics and if they are ugly to watch, few fans will complain if the points go on the board.
Given their resources there is no guarantee that another manager would do better with this squad. The club over-achieved under Sam Allardyce and a spot just above the relegation zone is Bolton's more natural status. Gary Megson can keep them up again but it needs a back to basics approach, at least in the short-term.