Wanderers look set for a busy January window as they look to get their League One season going again – but which positions are most in need of strengthening?
We look at each area of Ian Evatt’s side and examine the current options, who is due back by the New Year, and how urgent reinforcements are needed.
GOALKEEPER – Joel Dixon seems to have won the battle to be first choice keeper. Less demonstrative, and arguably influential than Matt Gilks, the former Barrow man has nevertheless become an important cog in the wheel as Evatt’s side try to play possession football from the back, taking to a sweeper-keeper role quite well.
Gilks has taken a step back and succession planning must be on Wanderers’ mind. But with other areas of the team more desperate to improve, it is likely any replacements will wait for next summer.
RIGHT BACK – Has turned into a cursed position for Bolton this season with Gethin Jones, Harry Brockbank and Lloyd Isgrove all falling foul to injuries in the last couple of months.
The loss of Jones to a fracture leg has been bigger than anyone, including Evatt, could have expected and though he has been able to find auxiliary options – including left-back Liam Gordon – the lack of cover could be a concern, even with youngster Adam Senior back in the camp.
CENTRE-BACK – Given a fit and available squad, Wanderers are relatively well-stocked at centre-back with captain Ricardo Santos a near-automatic choice alongside one of Alex Baptiste, Will Aimson and George Johnston.
It seems unlikely at this stage that Evatt will need to bring in another central defender, although like Gilkes, there will be an eye on who can come in to eventually replace Baptiste.
LEFT-BACK – A discussion continues to rumble among supporters about Declan John’s form and whether Liam Gordon has the experience to contest the Welshman, but with both options fit and available there seems little chance that Wanderers will look to bring in another left sided defender for the time being.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD – MJ Williams has thankfully returned to the fold after a dislocated shoulder and Andy Tutte’s return is not too far away – but Wanderers need the option to play two deeper lying midfield ‘pivots’ so competition in this position remains quite thin on the ground after Brandon Comley left the building. No other player in the Bolton squad has Williams’ physicality in the middle of the park, so can Evatt find someone with the muscle, matched with the technical skill needed to play in such a key role?
ATTACKING MIDFIELD – With Josh Sheehan out for the season and Antoni Sarcevic gone to Stockport, there is a pressing need to find a starting midfielder who can add some energy and dynamism to the team.
George Thomason has been pushed ahead of schedule and Kieran Lee asked to play more minutes than he ordinarily would, so this could be the first area that Evatt has to address when the window opens.
AFC Wimbledon’s Anthony Hartigan has already been discussed as a potential option but Wanderers have also put their feelers out for loan players from category one clubs, who would also be able to factor into their quota for the Papa John’s Trophy.
ATTACK (LEFT) – Dapo Afolayan has held the position down effectively for the season so far with no serious rival and, provided he stays fit, that seems unlikely to change.
Nathan Delfouneso has been drafted in for the cup competitions and, recently, for later cameos off the bench but looks desperately short on confidence.
Bringing in another attacking player who could play across the front positions could be on Evatt’s mind, even if Afolayan’s place appears secure.
ATTACK (RIGHT) – Wanderers want to extend Xav Amaechi’s loan from Hamburg, and all signs point to that happening in January. The former Arsenal man is still feeling his way back to full form and fitness but should eventually challenge Elias Kachunga on the right side of Evatt’s front three.
Kachunga’s versatility has been a blessing for Wanderers during their injury problems, even though his form has been inconsistent. Lloyd Isgrove’s eventual return should mean they are well-stocked but don’t be surprised if a loan option comes in.
CENTRAL STRIKER – The position which stirs up most debate among Bolton fans, bar none.
Eoin Doyle has held down the number nine role for the last 18 months and though his work-rate has remained first class in League One, his goal return can be legitimately questioned.
Amadou Bakayoko was brought in as an alternative but his struggles to stay fit must have prompted Evatt into considering an alternative.
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