Is consensus running out for Bolton and Coyle?

It was the chorus of boos that resonated around the Reebok, once after Stiliyan Petrov drove home for 2-0 five minutes before half time and at the final whistle when that deficit was only halved by Bolton in the remaining fifty minutes, that gave a greater indication than any stat of how far Owen Coyle’s stock has fallen. Gone has any sense of optimism taken from last year where a solid 14th place finish was supplemented by an FA Cup semi-final appearance, the promise borne out of their first full season under Coyle has evaporated to be replaced by the gloom and mutiny that is usually accompanied by the resonating boos.

Villa had not scored for three games, no won away from Villa Park in six previous attempts, but yet the way in which they over-ran Bolton in the first 45 minutes was a damning assessment of the void of any positivity that is now emanating from the Reebok Stadium. It could have been more than just the two at the break, Petrov and Darren Bent wasting good chances before Marc Albrighton converted a cross from Gabriel Agbonlahor, then a second, Petrov’s deflected effort from the edge of the area, provided the cushion their superiority deserved. Agbonlahor and Charles N’Zgobia, the penny looking to have finally dropped for the Frenchman after disciplinary problems with Alex McCleish, looked dangerous throughout, Bolton’s defence failing to live with their pace and movement as Villa looked a ten-fold improvement on the toothless outfit that surrendered to Manchester United last Saturday evening.

However, against Bolton, it is becoming not an inherently difficult task to look impressive against them and the supporters are beginning to wake up to the harsh realisation that this is a side good enough to go down. The 20,825 fans that witnessed this defeat was their second lowest attendance at the Reebok this season, seven home defeats from eight becoming sufficient enough reason for elements of the support to stay away, while 12 defeats from 15 is a satisfactory excuse for the angry response that was prompted on separate occasions by the stands on Saturday. It is now 36 goals conceded from 15 matches, the worst record in the Premier League, and it is such wretched form, compounded by Wigan’s win at West Bromwich, that has them rock bottom of the table stranded by a gap of four points.

It is that stat that provides the most transient of explanations into Bolton’s dreadful fortunes and it is the name of Gary Cahill, rather fortuitous to be on the team sheet for the game with his former club Villa after the rescinding of his red card against Spurs last week, that catches the eye most significantly. It was Arsene Wenger’s pursuit of the centre-half in the summer that yielded a £12 million valuation from Owen Coyle and Wenger’s refusal to stretch to that figure is beginning to look inspired when it is considered his role in the league’s worst defence. His progression into the England set-up has inevitably swelled his valuation beyond the un-cooperative, yet his rather insipid performance in Montenegro should not be ignored. Is he still a universally sought after centre-half? The rumoured pursuits of Chelsea, Tottenham and even AC Milan suggest he still is, but at what point does the realisation hit that he is not worth his billing?

The same paradox exists with Coyle, when exactly does the consensus that the Irishman is an equipped manager, from his reputation built with his Burnley promotion and the steadying impact he had on a free-falling Bolton upon his initial appointment, begin to run out? The reaction to the whimpering defeat that came on Saturday shows now that patience is beginning to wear thin with the supporters but Chairman Phil Gartside, one of the more rationally loyal employers in the Premier League, has immediately been outspoken in his faith in Coyle, suggesting that the faith of his employers is not going to waver anytime soon.

The apologists may make a case that Coyle is shorn of two vital talents in Stuart Holden and Lee Choung-Yong due to long term injuries, absences that would be of detriment to the form of any side, plus Coyle does not have the influence of the past loan signings of Jack Wilshere, Vladmir Weiss or that of eight goals in eleven games in Dan Sturridge. It would have been a strong argument too, based on the second half of the Villa game where, obviously on the back of a slamming from Coyle, they emerged to show more effort but only had a scrappy Ivan Klasnic goal to show for it, his seventh league goal of the season, but otherwise goals have been hard to come by, only Chris Eagles and Kevin Davies have netted over a single goal in eighteen games. A stuttering attack complimented by a gaping defence is often recipe the utmost of disasters and it is being experienced here.

Any enjoyment garnered from the 4-0 opening day procession at QPR has been completely obliterated by a subsequent run of eight defeats, including 5-0 and 5-1 home defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, while the victory at Wigan and a 5-0 crushing of Stoke have provided the anomaly to a hideous run that has also included home defeats to Everton, Sunderland and Norwich. Gareth Bale and co. leeched upon a distinctly limp performance at White Hart Lane last week to put another three goals past Coyle’s side and the relegation trapdoor is becoming a realistic horizon for a team that has been established in the Premier League for a decade. Games with Fulham, Blackburn and Wolves now follow in December and Coyle would have pin-pointed these as fixtures where points can be realistically be accumulated, but if the slump continues then huge disaster will be on the agenda, after all, Gary Megson was fired for only winning four from eighteen league games, Coyle has three from fifteen. It will be certainly interesting to see how long Gartside is willing to stick to his word.

Adam Gray @MonkeyLunch21

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