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The Elmander effect

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Over the past month or so, I’ve got used to seeing Bolton play some decent football. Enjoyable football, so much so that it didn’t feel like a chore going to the Reebok. The watershed moment was the abysmal match against Stoke, where we were outplayed by Stoke. It’s worth re-reading the last bit of that sentence. Since then, at home against Spurs and Everton, the team look energetic, creative, and the players look like they’re enjoying playing for the club. The main difference for me has been the lack of Johan Elmander, who returned to the team yesterday against Chelsea.

Instead of playing with freedom of expression, Megson opted for a defensive line-up lacking in width to try and nullify Chelsea’s midfield. The problem with that is that you rely on your striker(s) to hold the ball up and when there are chances, to get the ball on target. Elmander did neither throughout the match, I’ve lost patience with the Swede, and I can’t defend him anymore. He’s worse than Bobby Zamora. Fact. To demonstrate this point, I’ll compare his 90 minutes to Ivan “2 kidneys” Klasnic’s cameo last week against Everton, thanks to Guardian Chalkboards.

klasnic vs everton

Klasnic had three shots. All were on target and from different distances and places on the pitch. What more could you ask from your striker? Now, Elmander vs Chelsea from yesterday:

elmander vs chelsea

Elmander had three shots in 90 minutes. In better positions than Klasnic, and he still couldn’t manage to get them on target. I wouldn’t mind, but the two shots were within minutes of each other. This just isn’t good enough for a Premier League striker.

We didn’t lose 4-0 because of Elmander, we lost because the team was ultra defensive, which worked for 45 minutes until Samuel was sent off. We came out of our shell a little more in the second half, and Gardner running with the ball definitely made a difference. But we still insisted on playing long balls and crosses from just inside the half-way line, which were useless, as Elmander is truly abysmal in the air. Look at the number of successful crosses vs Everton (without Elmander):

successful crosses vs everton 

And vs Chelsea (with Elmander):

successful crosses vs chelsea

True, this will be due to the fact Chelsea have a better defence than Everton. But Heitinga isn’t a pushover, and neither is Yobo. But look at the number of unsuccessful crosses vs Chelsea:

unsuccessful crosses vs chelsea

Elmander is so useless in the air, it defies logic as to why we tried to cross into the box almost one every five minutes. Look at the number of unsuccessful crosses vs Everton:

unsuccessful crosses vs everton

Against Everton, in total, we made 18 crosses, winning 39% of them. Against Chelsea in total, we made a total of 23 crosses, winning just 9% of them. Why, when Elmander is in the team, do we make more crosses into the box when we know how useless he is? I have no idea why we are more predisposed to hit crap crosses in the box when he plays, but we do. It doesn’t work, and he needs to go.


Written by bjobbo

November 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Gary Megson’s six-week turnaround

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Further to my previous post, I think we’ve made some real progress over the past month/six weeks.

Sat January 17 – Bolton 0 – 1 Manchester Utd

Megson brings on Seb Puygrenier for his first appearance with less than 10 minutes left, making three centre backs. Disaster as O’Brien and Puygrenier get mixed up – Berbatov scores. Megson hasn’t tried the three centre-backs trick since.

Wed January 28 – Blackburn 2 – 2 Bolton

We give away a two goal advantage. But a point away is still a point in a relegation scrap.

Sat January 31 – Bolton 3 – 2 Spurs

Bolton give away another two goal lead – but win. A big improvement from three days before. The win showed great spirit even though it looked like a repeat from three days earlier.

Sat February 7 – Everton 3 – 0 Bolton

Ahem. A blip. Well don’t you have bad days? (This is where my improvement timeline falls down a bit).

Sat February 21 – Bolton 2 – 1 West Ham

Another two-nil lead – but this time, we hold on. The crowd are behind the team, and we survive. Some good play and a relatively solid defensive performance.

Sun March 1 – Bolton 1 – 0 Newcastle

Megson switched the team around at half time, showing that his substitutions are improving (see Manchester Utd game above). And just to show the improvement – that was our first clean sheet since November 8 against Hull.

What do you think of the six week course then?

The Megson Debate – part 1

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Credit: Sky Sports

Credit: Sky Sports

I’m writing this a short time after the Newcastle game, which was for the most part a crap match to watch. We won, and played relatively badly – a good knack to have, and I believe for the most part it’s down to Megson.

When I first heard the rumour that Megson could be our manager after Sammy Lee, I texted my dad. He responded by saying “Are you having a laugh?”. When I texted him saying that he is our new manager, he didn’t respond.

Now though, his view has changed and so has mine. Manny Road asked the question should he be awarded a new contract, and without hesitation my answer is yes.

The main reason is that I see that Megson is learning from his mistakes and shortcomings – not something that Big Sam could do. When we were 0-0 against Manchester United, Sebastien Puygrenier on for his first appearance. It was a terrible decision – O’Brien and Seb got into a mix up, and Berbatov scored in the last minute. Too many cooks spoil the broth and all that. Since then, when we’ve been in a similar situation to that, he hasn’t brought another centre-back on. A big improvement.

Today, when Mark Davies was wasted on the right, he took Muamba off at half-time and brought Gardner on. We desperately needed pace.  Within two minutes of the restart, M Davies had taken control of a few balls in midfield, and we were 1-0 ahead. I like his more reactive style rather than Big Sam’s “If it doesn’t work first time, keep knocking”.  This is seen in the type of football we play when the mood takes us. An example today was the Elmander chance (he should have got a hat-trick today). Excellent passing down the right (I know I contradicted myself in the previous paragraph but this was a rare moment) with Steinsson bombing down the wing which he’s done all too rarely over the last few months.

I remember many, many times under Big Sam’s era when Nicky Hunt would start crossing balls into Davies from the half-way line. It was horrible, uninventive and ineffective. But would Sam change it? Never. It would be 90 minutes of crap long balls. Effective, but horrible to watch. I’ve been really impressed with some of our play this season, and it’s rare that I’ve seen Steinsson/Cahill/O’Brien belt the ball at Davies’ head with no-one around him.

Megson isn’t perfect though, and I’ll give some of my criticisms in another post…this one’s getting a bit long.

Written by bjobbo

March 1, 2009 at 9:08 pm