As I'm sure most of you know, SBNation does not have a Bolton Wanderers blog right now. So, to do a Know Your Opponent piece for Bolton, I have to go outside of the company. Luckily for me, a couple of my good friends write the Bolton blog at The Offside. Last time Tottenham played Bolton, we talked to Matilda Hankinson. This time, it's Mark Yesilevskiy's turn.
Kevin McCauley: I feel like Bolton Wanderers are kind of off on "Bolton Island" right now, with all of the teams above them being better than them and all of the teams below them being worse than them. Fair?
Mark Yesilevskiy: I agree with that statement except for Sunderland. The Black Cats in sixth place just feels wrong. Other than that, I'd say that Bolton's place in the table is pretty much deserved. We're better than those below us without much doubt even though form in the last few games may not show it. Chelsea and Liverpool have done Bolton in both home and away this season even though the games (except Chelsea at the Reebok) were very close affairs.
KM: Stuart Holden's received some incredibly lavish praise this season. While I'm a fan, I'm not sure he's quite as good as advertised. You going to slob on his knob, like corn on the cob?
MY: I would be honored to slob on his knob. I've been saying it all season: Holden has been quietly brilliant. He isn't on a scoring or assisting rampage but he's doing everything else correctly. Great runs and distribution as well as great tackling to get the ball away from opponents. His discipline record is so very nearly spotless too, just one yellow card on the season. It's very easy to see how important he is to this squad just by looking at the matches where he was out with a thigh injury, the midfield is in total disarray without him.
KM: How big off a loss was Lee Chung-Yong when he went to the Asian Cup?
MY: Look no further than the form of this team without Chungy. His first game away was the 1-0 loss to Chelsea. Without him, including that match, the Wanderers won one match in seven and that was York City. Went three straight games without a goal too. Lee Chung-Yong provides much needed width and creativity and there is no one else in the squad that can compensate for that.
KM: It seems like Bolton has stayed healthy better than most teams this year. Has that had as big of an impact on the team's success as...anything else?
You say that we stayed pretty healthy but if you look at the Chelsea away match, we had six on the bench. For the Liverpool and Wigan home games, we only had 4 on the bench. Depth has been an issue this season and up until the mid-week game against Wolves, we've struggled. The signing of David Wheater has brought in another centerback where there really wasn't one to cover for Zat Knight or Gary Cahill. The return of Lee Chung-Yong has bolstered the midfield and I've already mentioned how Bolton hurt without him and Stuart. Finally, Daniel Sturridge adds another attacking option for when Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander are slumping (like now).
KM: Johan Elmander's contract is expiring at the end of the season and he wasn't sold in the January transfer window. Do you expect him to re-sign or leave on a Bosman?
I think this depends on his form. If he keeps playing as poorly as he has done over the last few weeks, he re-signs because there won't be too many teams interested in a striker that can't score. We have a word for that in English: useless. I wish that we had sold him in January and had something to show for him but that would've been difficult as Sturridge didn't sign until late on deadline day. If teams are still showing interest and depending on where Bolton end up in the table, he could very easily walk away.
KM: How much money is Gary Cahill really worth, anyway?
Definitely not £20 million. Cahill is a very good centerback plus he's English and young at only 25 years old. This transfer window has shown us how inflated the asking price for English players can be but I'd rate Gary at £10-15 million. If a team were to give Bolton £20-25 million, I gladly would have accepted that.
KM: Does Bolton have an "unsung hero" you want to tell the fine people about?
We can talk about the two big centerbacks that are Knight and Cahill, the midfield generals in Lee and Holden, or the leadership of Super Kevin Davies up front but I truly think that Owen Coyle deserves the most praise. He's using largely the same team that Gary Megson almost sent us down to the Championship twice with but Coyle has managed them brilliantly. The signing of Stuart Holden has turned out well to say the least and Owen's coaching of Elmander is a big reason why the Swede started the season like a house on fire.
KM: Predict Bolton's lineup for this weekend's game
Based on the Wolves performance, I'll go with: Jaaskelainen ; Ricketts, Knight, Cahill, Robinson ; Sturridge, Holden, Muamba, Lee ; Elmander, Davies
KM: And give me a score prediction
This scoring duck has to break sometime and Elmander needs to put balls into the back of the net again. I'm predicting Tottenham 1-2 Bolton even though the pessimist in me says I'm wrong.