2017/18 Opinion – Midfielders Part One

Courtesy Graham Burrell

The season is now over, but my look at the squad is not. It’s time to move onto the midfielders, or at least the first part. One thing is for sure, we won’t need tow parts for the strikers, will we?

Midfield has been quite an interesting area of the field. You’d think that Michael Bostwick and Alex Woodyard had it wrapped up, but I’m classing the wide players in here too, so we’re going to have a bit list. It might run to three parts, especially with the loan players too.

Without further ado shall we crack on? I’m taking them in roughly alphabetical order so we’ll start with a controversial player who has split opinion recently.

Harry Anderson

At the beginning of the season I called Harry as one of the players who would set League Two alight. He has all the qualities you want to see as a wide player at this level, explosive pace an a bullish, rugged physicality that saw him shrugging off defenders with apparent ease.

Before Christmas I was spot on. He bagged six goals and made a significant difference whenever he came on. Crewe away sticks in my mind, 1-0 down at half time but Harry ripped them apart in the second half. Away at Forest Green he showed electrifying pace to win a dour game, running as fast as anyone we’ve seen in years and then finishing confidently. He looked to be growing into his role, rarely having a poor game and always poised to make a huge difference.

Then it all changed. That started with the red card at Luton, a silly dismissal which may not have cost us the game, but certainly lost us the one-man advantage that we had. We lost 4-2 and although there was no public condemnation from Danny, I bet there was a bit of a bum kicking behind the scenes. A young Harry got caught up in the moment.

Then there was the concern about Harry’s inability to play against a 3-5-2, when a midfield man could track him and not give him space to run at or run into to. Harry’s skill comes at pace, if he’s approaching a player at speed he can drop a shoulder and beat them. If he’s in behind, he’ll beat anyone yard for yard. Against a 3-5-2, he’s got a player on him and he drifts out of the game.

From there, he drifted out of the team. The switch to 4-3-3 towards the end of the season negated all his abilities, he looks to struggle when tucking into the ‘inside left’ or ‘inside right’ role of old. He’s a winger, pure and simple.

Harry Anderson has ended the season with a lot to prove. As Hiram Boateng ran the show for Exeter, Harry looked lost for us. At the beginning of the season I could never have predicted the issues he’d face throughout the start of 2018. Next season will be massive for Harry as he must mature as a player and add some positional intelligence to his other attributes.

Nathan Arnold

I find it tough writing about Nathan because he’s a lovely guy and someone I truly believe could have had an impact in the second half of the season. We lacked genuine wide players and I believe we were forced into a 4-3-3 because we of that, especially after Ginnelly and JMD left and Cameron Stewart failed to impress.

I don’t know what went on, I won’t speculate because I class Nathan as a friend. That isn’t me being sycophantic but genuinely, I don’t know. I haven’t pushed him and I’m not going to either.

What I do know is he started well enough, grabbing an assist in the opening game and looking dangerous right up until the Luton game. In that 0-0 draw he was cynically hacked down in the final minutes as he burst forward with a grand chance to score. That foul resulted in an injury which I feel ended his Imps campaign.

He made his way back to fitness but struggled to break into the first team, something I imagine affected him. In his interview with Alan Johnson he alluded to not wanting to be a bit-part player, something I think was taken out of context by those reading it. Nathan wanted first team football and whatever happened, he was handed the chance at Salford. I’m not commenting on that either, but as the season died down he was over in Nepal supporting Garry Goddard’s excellent charity. Some lamented his absence when we may have needed him, others understood that something had gone off behind the scenes that we didn’t understand.

Those who say Nathan isn’t a League Two quality player are wrong. The way he skipped past the Rochdale full back in the Checkatrade win was embarrassing for the player, also he was one of the few to come out of the home tie against Coventry with plaudits. He worked tirelessly in that game and showed he’s got the quality to impact a League Two side.

I hope he remains at City, I hope he comes back into the fold and shows everyone that he’s not just good enough, but he’s strong enough to put the past behind him and demonstrate his skills to us all. Remember, Nathan Arnold was a cod, but right now he’s an Imps and whether he’s my friend or not I believe he has something to offer us.

Next Page – three midfielders for you starting with our bright young thing