The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Bolton Wanderers
In the 13th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I shall be taking a look at Bolton Wanderers, a club which has finished just about where everyone expected them to, well clear of the relegation zones, yet nowhere near European football.
To be fair, credit must be given to them for finishing above the likes of Sunderland and Newcastle, clubs that are run on much higher budgets.
The solid, uncompromising style of Megson and his charges, also mean that every visitor to the Reebok Stadium is not given an easy ride.
However, if they are to ensure that they stay well clear of relegation next season, signings are definitely going to be needed, and here's three they can consider.
This is a crucial area to strengthen. Bolton might look well-stocked here, despite Kevin Nolan's departure.
They have Gavin McCann, Fabrice Muamba, Mark Davies, Tamir Cohen, Joey O'Brien and Chris Basham on their books, which means six players for three central midfield spots.
On close examination, however, none of the six players are attacking midfielders. They are more "graft" than "craft", and that explains why Bolton seem to lack the necessary flair to turn draws into wins.
Bolton fans will remember the good ol' days when a certain Jay Jay Okocha lit up the Premier League with his tricks, flicks and free-kicks. Strangely for a player bursting at the seams with flair, a good long throw was also part of his arsenal.
Back then, Bolton were always in the top half of the table. That was due not only to their defensive solidity, but also because they had a player capable of turning a match on its head in Okocha.
As such, having already achieved their initial aim of stability after appointing Megson, I feel the top priority in the summer is to sign a flair player who can light up a game with moments of brilliance.
These players don't come cheap, and those willing to come to Bolton are probably in short supply in Europe.
Therefore, my first recommendation for this position is a player who plies his trade in Egypt for Al-Ahly.
That man is none other than the Egyptian Zinedine Zidane, Mohamed Abou Trika.
Playing in the hole behind the strikers, Abou Trika is a tricky player who uses his vision to set chances up for his team-mates. He also times his runs into the box to perfection, popping up with crucial goals for both club and country.
He boasts an approximate one goal in three games for either club or country, and has big-match experience as well, having won the African Cup of Nations twice, and the FIFA Club World Cup once.
In my opinion, he has all the attributes necessary to be a hit in the Premier League, and even though he is 31 this year, noone would think it if they watched him play.
If Megson finds it tough to sign him due to interest from other clubs, then he could perhaps set his sights on bringing Aaron Ramsey in on loan from Arsenal from next season.
Ramsey has found first-team opportunities for Arsenal limited, and perhaps a loan move to another Premier League side would be beneficial for all parties involved.
Bolton will get a player who creates opportunities for others with his silky passing skills and occasional driving runs, and being schooled the Arsenal way, there is no doubt that he will help Bolton to retain the ball in the final third, an area where they often lack inspiration and guile to prise open the opposition's defence.
For the longest time, Kevin Davies has been used as a right-winger by his managers at Bolton. While it is obviously not his favoured position, Davies has been a model professional, and has never moaned about being played there.
This season, however, should prompt his boss, Gary Megson to rethink the wisdom of leaving Davies out on the right. Davies has shown this season that there is more to his game than just winning headers and leaving defenders with bloodied noses.
He proved to his doubters that he can actually score goals, as he scored twelve this season, which is a good tally considering he doesn't operate as an out-and-out striker.
Johan Elmander, who was deployed as the lone striker for many games, finished the season with a measly five goals, not a good return at all, for someone who cost 11 million pounds.
As such, Kevin Davies should be given a chance in his favoured position next season, but for that to happen, Bolton have to sign a right-winger.
My top recommendation for Bolton is David Odonkor.
Once one of the brightest prospects in world football, the German winger has been affected by injuries for the past couple of years.
However, he remains a good player, and his pace is quite frightening. If Megson can get him to perform to the best of his abilities, then Bolton have themselves a fantastic player.
With Real Betis getting relegated to the second division in Spain, Odonkor may well jump at the opportunity to play in the English Premier League.
If the deal doesn't go through, Bolton could sign Gary O'Neil from Middlesbrough.
A hardworking player, with decent technique, O'Neil would fit in with the rest of the Bolton squad, who scrap for each other and generally put up a good fight every week, no matter who the opposition is.
He possesses a good cross as well, which is important, as that will play to Bolton's strength in the air.
With Middlesbrough down in the Championship, Bolton could nip in and steal O'Neil for a reasonable price, as they will be forced to sell their prized assets in a bid to keep afloat financially.
Bolton have had a fair few strikers over the past couple of seasons, but none has really convinced. This remains one of their problems, scoring goals, and if they had someone who could regularly knock in as many goals as Anelka once did for them, they would definitely be higher up the table.
Also, the current strikers are all big and strong, but not very good on the ball. The exception to the rule is Ricardo Vaz Te, but he's the sort of striker who needs ten chances to even get the ball anywhere near the goal. His record reads 6 goals in 72 appearances, which is a measly tally, even for any other outfield position.
As such, I think Bolton have to invest in a good striker with pace and skill to bring them back to the top half of the English Premier League, and I think their best option is to pull out all the stops in an attempt to get Ricardo Oliveira.
Having just been relegated with Real Betis, Bolton can possibly get him if they are willing to break the bank, and go on a charm offensive.
Skilful and explosive, Ricardo Oliveira is like a poor man's Robinho, and would certainly enhance Bolton's firepower.
If Oliveira proves a step too far for them, then Bolton could perhaps set their sights considerably lower on Kevin Doyle.
Doyle is much less skilful and also not as quick as Oliveira, but he is certainly a much more realistic target for a club like Bolton, and they would not have to break the bank to finance a move for him.
Stuck with Reading in the Championship, and having lost his long-time manager Steve Coppell, Doyle would probably welcome a move back to the Premier League, and I think he would fit in well with the rest of the team.
So there you have it, those are my recommendations for Bolton to sign in the summer. If they can pull off a few of the signings here, they will become a better, and perhaps, just perhaps, a more entertaining team. Neutrals like me can only hope the latter part comes true.
This article and more can also be found at thetipsters, a website set up by my friend Roland and I.
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