With both Stu Holden and Josh Vela finally making their returns to the team and Mark Davies not far off, it seems that Bolton Wanderers are no longer lacking central midfielders. However, with Martin Petrov officially no longer a member of Bolton Wanderers, it seems that what the Trotters are missing now is width. With six central midfielders capable of slotting into the starting lineup and just two wingers, Bolton could very well move away from hugging the touch lines.
When the latest wave injuries decides to get fit, Bolton's midfield ranks will be made up of Chris Eagles, Chung-Yong Lee, Mark Davies, Stu Holden, Darren Pratley, Josh Vela, Keith Andrews, and Jay Spearing. At first glance, that's a lot of bodies in the center and could make for some interesting combinations in the middle of the park.
The seemingly obvious choice with this corps is to go with Dougie Freedman's favored 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation. Assuming that Stu Holden hasn't lost too many steps in his time out or is able to regain what made him so special, he should be an automatic starter. As should Chung-Yong Lee and Chris Eagles given that they're Bolton's only real wide options. Benik Afobe and Mark Davies can both play on the right but neither of them should as the latter is dreadful there and the former is dreadful everywhere.
With Holden dead center, Eagles on the left, and Chungy on the right, although those last two have played fairly interchangeably this season, there are two spots left in midfield. Keith Andrews and Jay Spearing have made up a solid backbone for Bolton and should continue to do so.
What about if Bolton need a bit more firepower, like, two-up-front firepower? Given that Bolton can barely defend with four at the back, leaving three in front of the goalkeeper in order to maintain a five-man midfield is a veritable suicide mission for the Trotters. This would lead to the oh-so-standard 4-4-2 formation where Bolton have (shocker alert) struggled in the past.
Again, Holden should absolutely be starting but what about those other three spots? First off, the flat midfield. You could once again go for width with Chungy and Eagles. That leaves the question of who to pair Holden with and the manager is spoiled for choice. If you wanted a little more attacking edge, the answer is most likely Mark Davies. For a defensive boost, Jay Spearing is your go-to. Finally, for a middle-of-the-road approach, Keith Andrews is the man. If any of them get hurt, Darren Pratley and Josh Vela are your back-up options.
If width isn't an option or not an avenue the team wants to continue exploring, the option moves to a narrower midfield diamond. In this case, you may see Chris Eagles as the forward-most midfielder with Mark Davies kicked out right, Stu Holden slightly left, and Jay Spearing holding. In that position, Stu will be able to do his box-to-box thing without being weighed down to any one portion of the field.
Obviously, Bolton have a lot of options here and some of the club's personnel are extremely versatile in the positions that they play. One such example is Chris Eagles, who can play all across the midfield in attacking roles. Keith Andrews is another such example as he can play up and down the spine. Dougie Freedman will want to make use of this more in the future even though we're seeing the beginnings of it now.
One thing is certain though: Bolton Wanderers are about to receive an influx of (hopefully) healthy talent that could well and truly prove to be like new signings.