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Crystal Palace made the long but fruitful trip from London to Lancashire, taking home all three points and leaving Owen Coyle loads of pressure and speculation about his employment status.
Distance. Levity. Perspective. Patience. Logic. Reason. All of these words have been used on this very blog in defense of Owen Coyle. We have been very dismissive of knee-jerk reactions and #coyleout movements on Twitter. But it is getting difficult.
Crystal Palace put in a decent enough performance today. Wilfried Zaha played well in stretches, although he was given a fair amount of space. The keeper was never really troubled. The few times Bolton put a shot on target it was straight at him. Coyle still insists on starting Kevin Davies every match. The only thing Kevin Davies still has going for him is his "aerial prowess," yet Palace won every ball put into the box.
Bolton had a good spell at the start of the second half, but Palace were always a huge threat on the counter. There was just never any point today, from when the starting XI was announced onward, when it felt like Bolton were going to take three points. Zaha was bundled over in the box by Zat Knight towards the end of Bolton's decent period in the second half. You could argue the penalty was soft, and maybe it was, but you can't argue that the Crystal palace goal wasn't coming. And you certainly can't argue that Zaha wasn't going to be involved. He didn't end up putting the penalty away, that task fell to Glenn Murray, but there was never any question that was going to be the result.
Back in July I wrote an analysis of Bolton's midfield. There were many statements in that article that people disputed, but here is one that no one disputed: One Could make the case that Bolton's five best players are midfielders. Stuart Holden was included in that, but he is not yet fit. Jay Spearing has taken over that role, so the statement stands.
Our five best players are midfielders. One of them, Mark Davies, has been extremely poor this season, at least partially because he is playing out of position on the right. Another, Chris Eagles, had his worst game of the campaign today. To be fair, he has been known his whole career for a lack of consistency, so no one should be too surprised.
The other two of our five best players, Martin Petrov and Chung-Yong Lee, started on the bench. This is inexcusable. Those two are not only the most talented players at Bolton, but two of the most talented players in this whole division. So it was not surprising that Bolton had no width today. None. This lack of a threat wide allowed Crystal palace to attack us on the wing with impunity, because there was no reason for their wide players to worry about tracking back. They basically had no defensive responsibility.
When two of a club's five best players start a match on the bench, and that club gets dominated at the position that those two players play, this is a serious tactical failure. We know Owen Coyle is not a tactical genius. This blog, as well as several others, have pleaded with Phil Gartside to bring in an experienced number 2 coach to help Coyle with this area of the game, but to no avail.
Bolton lost today because the manager put us in a position to lose. The players didn't play great, that is true. But given the personnel and formation, given Crystal Palace's strengths and Bolton Wanderers' weaknesses, the players were not put in a position to play great.
The primary job of a manager is to put his players in a position to succeed. Owen Coyle has consistently failed in this regard. Another home match, this one against Leeds United, is coming up in a few days. It is time for a reaction. It is time for big changes in personnel as well as tactics.
Lion of Vienna Suite have not yet written an Owen Coyle Must be Fired piece. But if the club do not improve, and relatively quickly, it is going to appear in the assignment queue.