AMSTERDAM — Since it became known that Arsenal unsuccessfully tabled two offers for him back in 2010, there has been a terse debate over Tim Ream's ability to make it in the Premier League. With a move to Bolton now on the books, we'll find out.
The former New York Red Bulls defender's cheerleaders often marvel at his aerial positioning and silky passing out of the back. Ream's detractors point to glaring defensive mistakes made at the international level and some softness on the turn.
Who's right? For now, they all are, to a degree. The formula for finding success abroad has many pertinent variables, many of them expressly related to the landing spot.
The American's arrival may forever be linked to the departure of Bolton skipper Gary Cahill. Of course, anyone thinking Ream is meant to be the England star's direct replacement is having a laugh, as Wanderers boss Owen Coyle freely admits. David Wheater has stepped into Cahill's lineup place alongside Zat Knight, leaving Ream to fight for the third center back role.
As Wheater is actually a natural righty that can play both spots and Knight is only intermittently an EPL-level defender, Ream should take every rep he can get with the former — who reasonably could one day be his starting partner.
Of course, Ream will need to rise to the breakneck speed of the game in England, in addition to shoring up his weaknesses. He should get some time to do all this, and nobody should fret if he doesn't play a whole lot the rest of this season.
Then again, Bolton are still alive in the FA Cup and Coyle seems to live in a perpetual state of selection crisis. When Ream does take the field, he will definitely want to keep his fire extinguisher on a swivel.
Both Knight and left back Sam Ricketts have bundles of energy, which isn't always the best thing when stationed between them. There's a reason Bolton have the most generous defense in the EPL this season and much of it has to do with gaps at the back. Happily, covering tracks is a Ream specialty.
On the plus side, Ricketts is always up for an outlet pass and, overall, Bolton is a team of scrappers. They don't quit or mope, much like their manager. Coyle has a good eye for battlers, which lends some instant gravitas factor to this move.
He's precisely the type of coach needed at Bolton, who always look up against it, being that the city rests in the cradle of Liverpool and Manchester. Though the last few seasons have been more of a struggle, Wanderers have reached European play twice since returning to the EPL in 2001.
Some may be concerned that Bolton, currently a point away from the safe zone, could tumble back down to the Championship at season's end. They shouldn't be. Even a flight down, the English game is as fast as it gets and the level would prove useful to a still-growing central defender — just ask Jay DeMerit.
In the end, it may not be a glamorous destination for the former Arsenal target, but it could well be the right one. He won't be buckled under by pressure at Bolton, let alone right away. Most of all, adopting the natural spirit of his new club and boss should in time give Ream the bite needed in his game.