The 3-4-1-2 formation Ian Evatt is determined to make a success at the UniBol will require options, different blends of physicality, experience and pace depending on the opponent.
On Saturday, the head coach added a bit more heft to the trio by bringing in Reiss Greenidge for George Taft, who had played 90 minutes in Tuesday night’s EFL Trophy defeat to Crewe.
Greenidge joined Alex Baptiste and Ricardo Santos in the back three against Forest Green but was substituted 20 minutes before the end as Evatt switched to a flat four and pushed three up front in an effort to get something from the game.
Ryan Delaney and Harry Brockbank have also featured in the cup competitions as centre-halves, while Adam Senior and the injured Liam Edwards are yet to feature.
In total, there are eight centre-half options currently in the squad, so it was with a degree of surprise that fans learned Yoan Zouma is also on trial, with a view to earning a contract.
Had that revelation been made earlier in the summer, it would have caused less of a stir. Though Zouma had elements of rawness about his game which were exploited in League One, those who have worked with him say he has the base elements to make a good player at this level.
Efforts to secure him to a new contract in May and June amounted to nothing, and it was claimed within the club at the time that Zouma was looking to earn a deal elsewhere in Europe.
Wanderers went down their own recruitment route, signing Greenidge, Taft, Santos and Baptiste before the start of the season.
After a tough start to the season, Evatt has limited space to play with under new regulations on squad size – not to mention the ubiquitous transfer embargo, which also requires all new additions to be sanctioned by the EFL.
A loan deal for Senior at Ashton United stalled earlier this month and Edwards seems no closer to a first team return.
Brockbank’s situation also seems finely poised as despite putting in a decent display against Crewe in his first senior outing for several months, there are still question marks over exactly where he fits in Evatt’s formation.
Any deal for Zouma would count towards the salary cap and, at 22, he would also take up a place in the 23-man quota – which could dislodge Brockbank further from the first team picture.
Last season proved eventful for Zouma, who had been signed on a two-year deal from Angers in the summer of 2018 and consigned to the development squad while the club was still playing in the Championship.
His break came on the opening day of 2019/20 at Wycombe, where he drew praise for handling Adebayo Akinfenwa, after which he remained in the team until Keith Hill’s first league game in charge at Rotherham United seven games later.
From there, his grip on a first team place was inconsistent. A penalty conceded in the last minute against Sunderland, soon after coming on to the pitch as a substitute, was branded “naïve” and “stupid” by the former Bolton boss.
But while some of the home truths Hill came out with often felt a little near the knuckle where Zouma was concerned, their relationship was a good one, and he was given ample time in the team up to a 5-1 hammering at Lincoln City in January.
At that stage, Hill felt some of the younger players in the squad were flagging, mentally, and with the loan arrival of Brandon Fleming and Kean Bryan, plus the availability of Jack Hobbs, he was able to rotate for what was left of the campaign.
Zouma finished up with 23 appearances in all competitions – bettered only by Dennis Politic (30) of all the players who featured for the ‘Junior Whites’ at the start of last season.
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