BOLTON // It is fair to say that Johan Elmander's first two seasons in English football were a disappointment. The Swedish striker arrived from Toulouse, the French side, in the summer of 2008 with a big reputation and a hefty price tag - £8.2 million (Dh46.7m) making him Bolton's record signing. Yet his first 45 league games yielded only eight goals - 10 in all competitions - and Elmander was labelled an expensive flop.
However, the 2010/11 campaign has seen the Elmander, 29, net three times in five league games and Owen Coyle, his manager, believes the forward has "turned the corner" in his battle to make it in the Premier League. Elmander's strike partnership with Kevin Davies has flourished this season - the Bolton captain has two goals - and ahead of today's confrontation with Manchester United at the Reebok Stadium, Coyle has revealed he never had any doubts over the Swedish international's contribution to the cause.
However, as a former striker himself, the Bolton manager is acutely aware the difference finding the net can make. "As a striker, if you are not among the goals a part of you will be down," Coyle said. "We did try to help but the biggest influence has been Johan himself. "We can impart any knowledge or perceived wisdom but he is the one who has to deliver when he crosses the white line. "Now I believe he has turned the corner and I am sure there are more goals to come."
In a similar manner to the renaissance Dimitar Berbatov is enjoying at United, Elmander's reputation is rising by the week. "Johan is playing ever so well and I really enjoy working with him," Coyle added. "I know what people have said about him, but I don't feel he has ever had a problem with the pace of the league. "His workrate and the quality of his play has always been terrific since I came to the club.
"But, as I know, strikers are judged on goals. We are getting them now. Long may that continue." United arrive at the Reebok with question marks hanging over their defence, having thrown away leads to draw their last two away games - at Fulham and Everton - and allowing Liverpool to fight back from 2-0 down at Old Trafford last week before Berbatov's winner made it 3-2. Darren Fletcher, the club's Scottish midfielder, said his teammates know they must cut out the lapses of concentration that have prevented them from making a 100 per cent start to the season.
"There has to be a concern that we nearly threw another lead away [at Liverpool]," said the Scotland captain. "We have conceded sloppy goals through lapses in concentration in a number of games and were fortunate Dimitar pulled out the third goal to win the game. "But we have to remember we threw away a fantastic lead. "It is something we have to try and put to rest if we want to progress in the Premier League.
"It has been individual lapses of concentration that have cost us. "It is something we have been looking at and it is important we put it right as soon as possible. "On the whole, our performances have been very good and really, we should be sitting here with maximum points. Unfortunately we are not."
* Press Association
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