Ian Evatt admits that Bolton Wanderers will have to tweak how they play against Sheffield Wednesday and for the rest of the season as long as they are without influential captain Ricardo Almeida Santos.
The Wanderers skipper is due to be out of tomorrow’s clash versus the Owls and could potentially for the rest of the season owing to a hamstring problem which forced him off at half-time of the midweek draw against Portsmouth.
Santos has been hugely influential at Bolton since arriving in the summer of 2020 and will be a huge miss if he is ruled out for the remainder of the campaign.
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The defender is a big part of the way Wanderers approach attacks owing to his strength and pace meaning that one on one duels at the back are almost always won by the captain.
Evatt believes any side outside of the top flight would miss a defend like Santos and the qualities he brings and the Bolton boss admits that the way Wanderers play might have to be tweaked owing to them not being able to take the same gambles with attacks as they would know that Santos would be playing.
And he pointed to the growing quality fellow defender George Johnston has been showing this season, in what his first full campaign in men’s football.
Evatt said: “There is nobody that would speak more highly of Rico than me. Any team outside of the Premier League would miss Rico in my opinion. He is a fantastic young man and a fantastic player.
“We are going to have to tweak things now because – our control positions, our lock-out – especially when we are attacking, we cannot afford just to leave someone one-v-one and half the pitch anymore without Rico being there.
“We will have to probably be a bit smarter with our decision-making, when to move forwards and who we keep back. It is nothing too serious, it is just a regulation hamstring (injury). But there are only four weeks left of the season and we don’t really need to be taking any risks with him.
“I think George has been a huge positive. People forget he is a really, really young player. He has not played a lot of football – this is his first full season in men’s football.
“I think the way he has progressed through the season has been really good. He has had dips, but young players do – they all do – and we have to respect that. In particular, I have been over the moon since we moved to the back three, and in the last two games he has been outstanding so credit to him.”
Evatt rotated his side in central midfield for the draw against Portsmouth, as Kyle Dempsey came into the team for MJ Williams.
The Bolton boss insists that it was down purely to have a look at different combinations in his team as the season approaches its climax – and more tweaks are expected between now and the climax of the campaign.
“Each game provides different challenges and we have to look at the right player for the right occasion – they all have different strengths. Then it is down to picking the right ones for the right games”, I explained.
“We went with Aaron (Morley) and Kyle on Tuesday. MJ has not necessarily done anything wrong, it is just about rotating and having a look at different things – what works and what does not.
“We have got that luxury now and we will be doing that for the remainder of the season – tweaking things and seeing how we get on.”