In a Tifo podcast entitled Barrowcelona, Ian Evatt suggested his style of play and his intent was based on and influenced by playing under Ian Holloway at Blackpool.
That Blackpool team was, bluntly, fun. A gung-ho, let’s see who scores more approach that led them to the Premier League where they continued that style only to be relegated by losing 4-2 away to the champions Manchester United, after leading 2-1, in a fitting tribute to their season.
However, the gung-ho approach is not something I’d suggest we expect at Bolton.
Although Evatt’s passing style of play and insistence on the constant movement of the ball has an emphasis on attack; the stats would suggests there is more to the former centre-half’s tactics than is perceived via the entertaining soundbites and clips.
Last season, Barrow had the most clean sheets in the National League (15). You could argue that the reason for this would be that averaging 59% possession every week means it is a rarity you concede a chance let alone a goal and that would be a fair argument.
Having said that, only Maidenhead and Yeovil collected more than Barrow’s 77 yellow cards last season. This would suggest that defensive efficiency is not just a by-product of attacking dominance.
That defensive efficiency would be linked to the famous 6-second rule. Evatt cites this implementation as influenced by Guardiola. Winning the ball back within 6 seconds or foul. The second half of that rule tends to be an unspoken bit of the rule; or even something that is denied.
There are more elements of sophistication to the style of play and details we might see at Bolton next season as opposed to the Holloway ‘brand’.
We could also see a minor adaptation to the fledgling philosophy of Evatt. Barrow conceded 39 goals last season. Of those 39, only 18 were not from a header, a set-piece or the penalty spot. The heights of the 3 most used defenders in Barrow’s back 3 were 6ft 3, 6ft and 6ft.
It is possibly a coincidence that Bolton have signed two defenders over 6ft 5 and one who is 6ft 4 to accompany another centre back who is also 6ft 5. However, I think it could be an attempt to find a solution to a reoccurring problem from last season for the manager.
Ian Evatt has the flexibility and innovations of an impressive young coach combined with the assertiveness and motivation of an authoritative leading figure. He describes himself as a “modern day coach with old school values”.
His drive, ability and personality makes objective success feel like an inevitably and just a bit of collateral on the search for subjective perfection.