Bolton Wanderers ace Dapo Afolayan has been set the goal of trying to take tips from Manchester United legend Paul Scholes in a bid to improve his game especially in a central role.
Afolayan is Bolton’s top scorer this season with 13 strikes in all competitions and has been one of key threats for Wanderers throughout the campaign.
Having started the season predominantly on the left flank of the attack, a formation change in January has seen Afolayan deployed either in the number 10 role or in a strike partnership.
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It is still learning that role and the strengths and weaknesses of his team-mates when playing that position.
Evatt highlighted the best in his opinion in a central role as United legend Paul Scholes, who scored 155 goals in 718 appearances for the Old Trafford club before retiring for good in 2013.
The Bolton boss loves working with Afolayan and how the former West Ham United youngster wants to learn and improve himself, as Evatt revealed discussions of what the attacker needs to improve upon.
Evatt has highlighted the example of Scholes in a central area as a lead Afolayan ought to follow and the way the former England midfielder was able to have a complete picture of the game around him and that with opposition teams marking him out as a major threat, it could lead to space being created for other players to make the difference.
In the Bolton boss’ view, Kieran Lee is the best player in the number 10 role he has at his disposal, but Evatt is in no doubt that Afolayan will eventually reach that standard.
Evatt said: “We had a good conversation today and the kid wants to learn, I have loved working with him.
“He was asking what he needs to do better, what he needs to do more, where we think the space is, understanding his team-mates and their strengths and weaknesses.
“Playing in that central role is more difficult because you have to see things 360 degrees and the pictures around you. The best one I can think of in recent years was Paul Scholes, who almost had wing mirrors, and that is how Dapo has to be.
“He has a really good reputation and anyone who is doing opposition analysis on us will be marking him down as one of the major threats. Accordingly, they have players tight to him and we have to find other ways.
“His might attract them, almost a sacrificial lamb, and that means space for others.
“He is a really good player and had a fantastic season.
“Kieran Lee has the best understanding of that number 10 role. Now he is a really experienced player who has played at the highest level and had an unbelievable education at Manchester United – but I think Dapo will get there.
“Technically, in possession, he is one of our best players, no doubt. Out of possession he has some work to do but he is willing to do it, he just needs time and education.
“Playing in the central role is new to him. It is a different shape but it is also good for his learning. We don’t want him to be a one trick pony who can only cut in from the left and shoot – he has so much more to offer than that.”
The Wanderers boss holds detailed meetings with his players as he bids to drill down the details into them of what is required from every position on the pitch.
With a relatively new group of players at the club in light of the overhaul done in the January transfer window, Evatt admits that process can take time to implement but they will get there and that eventually, every player knows their individual and collective responsibilities, as well as those of their team-mates.
Evatt said: “Our meetings are really detailed, in and out of possession, and we hit them with so much information. I said today that some of the players might think ‘wow, this is so much to take in’ – but if you can’t, then filter it to your own specifics, your own position, and make sure you understand that role.
“If you can understand the wider picture then that is even better for the team to function and for the team to move forwards.
“The players understand – but if they don’t then they know they can come to me and we’ll sit down at the board and go through things, watch video, talk them through it.
“We’re trying to get to a point of honesty and accountability where players know that if they are not doing certain things then they will be held accountable.
“The main thing for me is that each player understands their role and then, eventually, can understand everyone’s role.
“They can virtually stand in any position on the pitch with their eyes closed and know automatically where everyone should be. That is the kind of position we want but it takes time, work and this is a new group.”
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