I know this article is going to get fans frothing at the mouth with anger, but it’s a genuine question that I feel it’s worth raising.
I’ve listened to the different targets people want us to sign. I chuckle at Doidge, raise a hopeful but disbelieving eyebrow at Eisa and ponder on a couple of others. All the while I’m asking where they’re going to play if they join. I’m trying to see exactly where an apparent new striker would fit in right now.
Our set up is a 4-5-1, that is as close as you can get to describing it. Danny doesn’t like labelling formations, but when we’re moving forward we have one central striker. The wide players look to get around Akinde, McCartan sits in the ten role and should be getting there too, but when we’re back behind the ball Akinde is the lone front man. He’s interchangeable with Matt Rhead, although when the big man comes on you need much more pace around him.
That’s why he’s left until late, even when Akinde is flagging, because he doesn’t have the legs to carry a lone striker role for 25 minutes of a half. From now until the end of the season, Akinde will start and Rhead will deputise. On Saturday I heard fans clamouring for him to come on after an hour, but his mobility means he has to be later than that, otherwise we risk inviting pressure on to oursevles, more so than we do with 11 men defending a corner.
Behind those two we’ve got McCartan and we used to have Matt Green. Greeny wouldn’t fill the hole, he wasn’t as happy coming from deep, so we switched it up when he came on, usually by going to a flat 4-4-2 with him partnering Matt Rhead. It’s why we didn’t see a lot of Akinde and Green together, because one suited the 4-4-2 and the other was a major weapon in the 4-5-1.
We need (or needed) cover for McCartan, but is that not Danny Rowe? He filled the role through the centre this weekend for half an hour or so and looked more than comfortable. I paid close attention to DC saying he could play in a ‘couple of position’, meaning he’s not labelled as a wide player. Sure, he can play out wide, but it seems to me he’s going to be another Tom Pett; used in a couple of roles and effective in all.
The question left to be answered is this; where would a new striker fit in?
The question left to be answered is this; where would a new striker fit in? It’s okay to say something short-sighted like ‘a goal scorer will always play’, but that won’t be the case. Lincoln City will not bring in a striker this winter and drop John Akinde, because what John brings to the team is valuable. Would we have held on at Swindon without a robust and mobile striker?
If we’re not going to be replacing Akinde, which we’re not, then where would a new player go? There’s been lots of chatter about Mo Eisa and obviously, he’s a top player with goals at this level, but we’d need to alter our approach in the second half of the season to accommodate him. Maybe we’d go 4-4-2, but then who gets dropped out of Rowe, Anderson and Andrade? It would also mean Shay McCartan comes out of the side. Can you see Danny changing his philosophy for one player?
I know where will be some of you out there claiming we should drop John Akinde, but that is not going to happen. He is crucial to the way we play, having brawn and mobility is critical and few strikers offer both. He’s not as quick as Green which I know frustrated many at the weekend, plus he’s not as adept at winning headers as Rheady, but who in our squad can bully a defender into giving the ball away before creating a chance for himself out of nothing? He’s also got more running and mobility than Rheady, more brawn and strength than Green. It’s the ‘cup half full’ scenario isn’t it?
Who else in the squad can chase down a tired ball in the last fifteen minutes and make it stick up front, without the need for it to be pinged right back? If he’s paired late on with Danny Rowe, terrifyingly quick and alert, then where exactly would a new face fit it?
I’m not saying Danny definitely wouldn’t change it around to bring in someone like Eisa, I’m not saying that we won’t sign a striker, but for the first time since we’ve been back in the Football League I don’t think we have a pressing need for a new face. Sure, maybe we could do with cover, but I’m not hanging around on News Now waiting for the announcement of a so-called proven striker. I don’t think bringing in a Matt Green replacement is as critical as I did back at the start of the month.
Now I’ve seen Danny Rowe as a ten I think I’ve seen the future of our forward line, not just for the rest of 2019, but also into the next campaign, all being well.