Over the last couple of weeks, Ian Evatt has been strongly linked with taking the managerial reins at Bolton Wanderers and now that deal is finally complete, he can look ahead star life at the UNIBOL with the main objective to guide the Trotters back to League One.
Evatt has been lauded for implementing a style of play in his short managerial career that has been compared to Barcelona, but can he do it with his new team?
After a fairly inconsistent start to the season at Barrow last campaign, which saw Evatt’s side pick up just seven points from their opening nine games, he changed from the 4-1-4-1 formation that clearly wasn't effective. The former Blackpool defender switched it up to a 3-4-1-2 for Barrow’s game against Aldershot, which saw them pick up all three points. This formation meant that both wide midfielders needed to act as wing backs and off the ball and the two strikers needed to take turns to drift wide on the ball.
Another perk of the 3-4-1-2 formation is the use of the central attacking midfielder. This central link allows the attacking midfielder to gain possession off the ball before distributing wide to the wingers and joining in the attacks. Alternatively, they could opt to distribute to the two strikers on a counter attack, without actually having to worry about defensive duties with cover coming in the shape of the four behind him.
How effective was this for Barrow last season?
Last campaign, The Bluebirds lost just nine of their 38 games in the National League before it’s suspension, with just two of the nine defeats coming when Evatt had implemented the aforementioned 3-4-1-2 set up. Along with this, Barrow scored a whopping 47 league goals while using this formation, including a 7-0 demolition of Ebbsfleet United at Holker Street. On top of this they conceded just 19 goals.
Barrow notched up an impressive win rate of 65.38% when playing 3-4-1-2 in the league last season and went on a run of eight consecutive wins from the first use of the system, only losing at Torquay when reverting back to 4-4-2. After this defeat, Evatt returned to his system that had served him so well and the Cumbrians went on a trailblazing 15 games unbeaten run.
Can he recreate this system at Bolton?
It’s fair to say, Evatt will need to be given the chance to assess the returning squad, with many of Bolton’s academy graduates such as Ronan Darcy, Dennis Politic and Sonny Graham. The squad at Evatt’s disposal could be boosted if they keep hold of last season’s captain, Jason Lowe, who has played the role of mentor for a lot of the younger players who were dropped in at the deep end in League One. Lowe seemed to be the glue that held the side together during their difficult situation at the start of the season and could slot in well in midfield.
Dennis Politic could be a candidate for one of the wide men slots should Evatt persevere with his favoured system, while versatile midfielder Ronan Darcy - who came on leaps and bounds before the shutdown - could slot into the one behind the strikers.
Another academy graduate that could be a key part of an Evatt back three, is Adam Senior. The youngster has only made two senior appearances at the start of the campaign when it was all hands on deck, but looked like a promising talent for the future. If partnered with the right defenders, Senior could learn from the experience at a lower level of football and allow him to possibly become a predominant part of the defence.
Evatt could work his magic on the forwards front. Keith Hill signed Muhammadu Faal from non-league Enfield Town, and other than an appearance away at Rochdale where he was played out of position, he hasn’t had a chance. The six foot five centre forward could be moulded into an attacking threat under Evatt, particularly with wide players getting crosses in the penalty area, and could be a weapon in the Trotters’ Arsenal.
There will need to be some other recruitment if Evatt’s plan is to work, given the majority of the current squad are out of contract in the near future. Although Evatt cannot dip into any old faces who are currently at Barrow for the next two years, loans and free agents will be the route for the new Bolton boss. The facilities on offer and the promotion goals for the season should be more than enough to attract talent to the UNIBOL once again.
Watch our #ManagersAtHome with Ian Evatt below…