We always enjoy having a chat with our SB Nation colleagues, and this week is no different. Matilda, the managing editor of the Bolton Wanderers blog The Lion of Vienna Suite answered a few questions for us ahead of Saturday's game.
RBM - Dougie Freedman has been installed as the Bolton Wanderers manager after Owen Coyle was sacked in October. Was this a popular move? How have the fans responded to Freedman?
LVS - It certainly was a popular move in that it was past time for Coyle to go. He had long proven that he did not have the tactical nous to deal with the fluid situation at Bolton; he could get one iteration of the team right, but was unable to adapt at all. When Bolton descended to the Championship, it became even more clear that he was not suited to the job at all
In light of this, Bolton fans were pretty ready for a change. While Freedman's welcome was perhaps lukewarm at first (at least from me), he quickly demonstrated that he was serious, tactically competent, and generally just about as different as you could get from Coyle. There are, of course, still naysayers, but in general it has been a popular appointment.
RBM - The Trotters are enduring a rough phase, and are in sixteenth place (out of twenty-four) in the Championship. Where has it all gone wrong?
LVS - It's a cliche, but Bolton are in transition. The Trotters have been without a cohesive vision arguably since Sam Allardyce left nearly 6 years ago, coasting along mostly on individual talent. However, in recent times the money, and therefore the talent, has dried up a bit, and combined with a terrible run of injuries last season, relegation was hardly surprising.
Freedman's job is to turn that around, and it is a slow process. the first order of business was to shore up the defense and calm down the midfield, which he has more or less done. Scoring goals comes next, and we have yet to see if Dougie can come through on that front.
RBM - The League Championship poses a different challenge for players, with shorter breaks between games. How have Bolton been coping with the increasing demands on player fitness and squad rotation?
LVS - The easy answer to this question is that it's unclear what Bolton's best starting team is, which has lent itself to a natural rotation, especially as Freedman is still getting used to the squad. As I said, Bolton is in transition and this has led to quite a few combinations on the pitch.
A consequence of the increase of games that I actually hadn't considered until earlier this week is that it takes injured players that much longer to make a recovery, as managers are wary of playing them in too many games. This has been the case for Chung-Yong Lee and probably will be the case for Stuart Holden as well.
RBM - Speaking of squads, have Bolton picked up anyone during this transfer window? Who have they been linked with? Anyone leaving?
LVS - Freedman has picked up one player, adding Craig Davies to the Trotter's growing list of Davies'. This latest Davies is a striker who has gotten impressive tallies at lower league side Chesterfield. The signing on the horizon is Craig Dawson, a central defender who is currently surplus at West Bromwich Albion.
As for exits, the Reebok has already said goodbye to one fairly big player, as Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov has gone to Espanyol. I was quite sad to see Petrov go, he was a quality player, but in terms of the wage bill it made sense. It probably won't be a major window for Bolton though, the club does not have much money. Consolidation is the name of the game, and hopefully the club will be in a stronger position come summer.
RBM - Bolton still have quite a few Premier League level players in the squad. Who have have been the top performers this season?
LVS - As it turns out, the best players this season are the ones who failed to really make their mark in the Premiership, be it because they've matured into their potential, or more cynically just "found their level". Although his form has dipped a bit of late, Chris Eagles has had an outstanding season. Although mainly on the wings, he has proved to be a handful all over midfield with an incisive pass and a deadly shot. Another player to come into his own was Mark Davies, although he is unfortunately injured right now.
RBM- Finally, a score prediction for Saturday? Will the Wanderers claim another Premier League scalp? What are you expecting from the two sides?
LVS - I reckon it will definitely be a tight match, so taking advantage of any scoring opportunities will be extremely important. I'm an optimist, so I'm going to say that Bolton will just edge it 2-1, but it won't be an entirely deserved victory.