Another weekend, another three points were awarded to Fulham as they strolled past Nottingham Forest. Now every supporter knows that the hardest is yet to come for this football club that has overcome so much. It was over two and a half months ago that Fulham looked like they could be facing relegation after constantly getting outplayed by the Championship’s elite. Now, they sit fifth in the league and hope to maintain their good form.
Aston Villa, Bristol City, Wolverhampton, Derby County, Sheffield United and Preston North End await Fulham, but now is not the time to dwell on that right now. Instead, let’s embrace the present and most importantly, respect the opposition in front of us in Bolton.
After all, the Wanderers have won three of their previous five games and have collected 10 points during that span. That tally has been enough to prop them out of the relegation spots and into 20th in the league. Now with all that being said, Bolton have only outscored their opponents 4-3 and have faced an expected goals deficit of 5.7 to 9 during that span.
To top it all off, their best-attacking player Gary Madine left for Cardiff City during the January transfer window. At 27 goals, only Birmingham City and Burton Albion have scored fewer all campaign. With Madine’s 10 goals and five assists removed from the starting XI, it’s quite difficult to see how they’ll recover from such a devastating loss.
Still, Bolton has been proven to be a tough team to unlock and their back four will be so crucial in protecting their own goal from the first minute onto the 90th. Take if from Fulham’s previous fixture with them how hard it was to score against them. Fulham must stay persistent and mentally sharp in order for them to come away with all three points once again.
On that note, here are the three players to look out for in today’s fixture at the Macron Stadium.
With Madine gone, somebody in this football club has to score all the goals. Once Bolton gets back on their feet and becomes successful again, it will be more talented players that can come in and do that job. Until they will have to settle for the 25-year old Ameobi. While Ameobi was the goal scorer in the previous fixture against Fulham this season, his season-long tally of four is not one to write home about, especially for an attacking player at the peak of his prime hoping for bigger and better things in the future. But that’s where Ameobi is as that his career high for any season.
Sadly, this is easily his best season and it is a bit of a struggle to see him in anything better than a lower tier Championship player at this stage of his career. Ameobi has developed into a fantastic dribbler at this level and he has the work rate to be a part of a strong pressing midfield when counted upon. However, everything else about his game is considered mediocre at best. Simply put, a career 19.5% of his shots going on target is not going to cut it at all. Along with that, his passing ability will have to skyrocket for him to become a long-term solution as an attacking midfielder to build around.
Next up, we have a 24-year old that has been with Bolton since he was nine years old. Vela has really turned himself into a solid midfielder with him mostly playing in the center of an attacking three. However, that is not the position that he started in his footballing career. When he broke out onto the senior team in 2014/15, Vela was actually playing right back before then-manager Neil Lennon decided to have him playing in the center of midfield. Over time, he has gradually improved on the attacking side of football while still maintaining his well-rounded passing ability from previous campaigns. With Madine gone, one of Bolton’s many keys to long-term success will be down to whether Vela becomes their answer to Tom Cairney. With him at such a young age, the possibility is still there.
For Bolton being such a back line that plays so close to their own goal, you genuinely wonder if there is any mobility over there to bring defense into attack. Enter Robinson, who is on loan from Everton. The 20-year old has had a solid first full season in professional football with his all-around defensive game and passing. Only Mark Beevers has more interceptions for Bolton than Robinson’s 36 and only Craig Noone and Vela have been more dependable in accurate crossing percentage (26.7%). Along with that, Robinson’s 33 successful dribbles is quite a total and is only bettered by Ameobi’s 71 among Bolton teammates. Whether this leads to future Everton appearance is anyone’s guess but his options are open with one more year left on the contract for his parent club. If anything, this season has been a solid marker for Robinson and he has proven that he has what it takes to play in the second tier of English football.