Excuse me, sir. Umm, Pardon me. Well, uh, OOYYY!!! - Paul Thomas
Dougie likes to make the changes from match to match, which is really the polar opposite of previous Bolton managers. The question is, does it benefit the players, benefit the club, and help us win more games in the long term?
Owen Coyle held a firm belief that you don't change a winning team. Of course, he also held a firm belief that you don't change a losing team. Gary Megson was not all that different. Both men were horribly stubborn when it came to tactics as well as team selection. Unless there was an injury or suspension to consider, they had their starting XI, come hell or high water. Dougie Freedman, from all evidence thus far, is nothing like this.
First, a mea culpa. I am a huge fan of squad rotation. Anyone who has read my blog entries knows this. I believe that a club, a manager, and its players should be flexible and versatile in how they play. I believe that the tactics and personnel should be adjusted each match to suit the opponent and exploit strengths as well as weaknesses.
All of the best managers do this, even when they are at big clubs and are supposed to "impose their will" upon other teams.
The best example of this so far from Dougie is the striker situation. Let's look at his seven matches in charge.
Game 1: In Freedman's first match, a 2-1 win over Cardiff City, Kevin Davies started and played 63 minutes. David Ngog came on for him and was the Man of the Match. Ngog won a penalty, scored two goals (One was wrongly disallowed), and got sent off for two yellow cards.
Game 2: Ngog was suspended for a midweek 0-0 draw with Leicester City. Davies started and played the entire match. Benik Afobe came on for the final ten minutes.
Game 3: Ngog started and basically played the whole match in a 2-2 draw with Blackpool. Davies came on for him in the 88th minute.
Game 4: Davies and Ngog both started a 1-1 draw with Barnsley. Davies got the goal, Ngog got very little service and came off in the 69th minute when Bolton changed formations.
Game 5: Ngog and Afobe started against Brighton & Hove Albion. Afobe played on the wing for most of the match and came off at the 60 minute mark for Davies. Ngog played all 90 (plus) minutes and scored a very late equalizer.
Game 6: Davies started and played all 90 minutes against Blackburn. Davies scored a goal in the second minute and played well overall.
Game 7: Kevin Davies started a 2-1 loss to Ipswich Town. He was replaced by Benik Afobe after 70 ineffective minutes. David Ngog also started and played the entire match in a more withdrawn role.
So, Kevin Davies has five starts and two sub appearances under Freedman. He also scored two goals and won the club's player of the month award. David Ngog has four starts and one sub appearance. He has also scored two goals. Benik Afobe has one start, two sub appearances, and no goals.
No matter what you think about Afobe (and many think Marvin Sordell should be receiving Benik's pitch time), I think this policy has worked well. Both Ngog and Davies have stayed sharp while getting enough rest to keep them from flagging late in matches or getting injured.
Overall, the rotation of the strikers appears to be at least a moderate success.