When you consider we’ve also added Josh Griffiths and Lasse Sorensen over the last couple of days, it has to be said those hungry for signings have been satisfied. However, does that tell the whole picture? Getting bodies in is great, but are they any good, and where do they fit into the Lincoln City squad.
I’ll start with Adelakun, because his signing is one that really excites me. I spoke about him on here before as a signing I’d love us to make, but I thought he’d wind up at a Portsmouth or Charlton rather than with us. I guess him having previously played at Scunthorpe helps; he knows the area and is surely looking to settle. His move to Bristol City was decided by a tribunal, and his form since has been patchy. The feeling I get from fans who watched him regularly is that on his day, he’s unplayable, but he did tend to drift in and out of games. Certainly, he struggled to get game time at Ashton Gate, and one Hull City journalist did not think his return of three goals and zero assists at the KCom warranted a permanent move for him. Does that tell the whole story? I’m not sure it’s ever fair to judge players on goals and assists alone, certainly not from one spell with one club. For instance, what if I told you he contributed four goals and 11 assists in League One in 2017/18 when Scunthorpe fought for promotion? Would that be enough to justify me billing him as a top signing?
The key here is potential and how he fits into our side. Whilst with the Iron, he tended to play right-wing in a flat 4-4-2 or right attacking midfield in a 4-4-1-1. He has occasionally played on the left and as a ten, but his attributes are certainly suited to playing out wide on the right. In that role, what do we need? A player who delivers crosses, who beats full backs and who can drive us up the field. While his spell at Hull didn’t bring a permanent move or the assists he might have liked, his numbers are not bad – he tried 4.05 dribbles per game, with a 47.4% success rate. He also delivered 2.35 crosses per game, which I think are both decent returns. For comparison, when Brennan Johnson played right-wing, he delivered 2.1 crosses per game and attempted 6.1 dribbles with 53% accuracy. Harry Anderson, an obvious crowd favourite, tried 4.9 dribbles per game (59.3%) and delivered 3.03 crosses per game. Now, I know Adelakun’s numbers are not quite there but remember he was on a short term loan and didn’t complete a single 90 minutes.
I feel that Hakeeb Adelakun is a rough diamond, a player with potential and ability who needs the right environment. I’ve likened him to Dany N’Guessan in my recent articles, and I wonder if perhaps there is even a bit of the Mustapha Carayol in there. Both were wingers who could utterly delight on their day and who needed a stable platform and good management to do so. N’Guessan saw a change of manager here, and Carayol was a half-decent player in a woeful team, but in a good team, with good management, I think Adelakun could well be a star for City.
This is an interesting one from my perspective because we’re filled with similar players already. If one assumes we go 4-2-3-1, which we did last season, then there’s a chance that Bishop occupies the ten role behind either Hopper or Nlundulu. Bishop’s pathway into the team is less clear if we go 4-3-3 with two attacking midfielders (Grant and mcGrandles last season). One assumes Bridcutt and Sanders will fill the four role, especially if the 4-3-3 is with two holding midfielders akin to England, but then we have McGrandles, Fiorini and James Jones in the mix as well. That’s strong competition for places, and one would assume Fiorini will play regularly, ditto McGrandles.
Bishop’s favoured role appears to be on the right of midfield, although he is a jack of all trades regarding his position. He partnered Andre Dozzell in one of two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 for Ipswich and played as the ten in the same formation. Last season, he grabbed four goals and two assists for Ipswich in 2711 minutes of football, which is a goal involvement every five matches. That isn’t great, but it was his most prolific season – in fact, before that, his total minutes on the pitch amounted to 2651 (remember, this doesn’t include FA Cup due to a Wyscout anomaly), and in that time, he had no goals or assists. After suffering injury hell, is he finally on the up? His early-season form under Paul Lambert suggests so, but he tailed off when Paul Cook came in. His passing stats aren’t too bad, 81.1% pass accuracy per game, 5.05 into the final third and 1.79 into the penalty area. His shot assists stat is interesting too – he created 15 shots for teammates over the course of the season, nine of those in the months of Paul Lambert’s reign and just four after Paul Cook came in. One man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, and there’s enough to suggest Bishop has the ability to succeed. Is he an obvious starter for us? No, not in my eyes, but then depth was perhaps what cost us Championship football last season.
Neither of these signings can be judged on their numbers solely though, because both have a story. We’re not Wigan or Ipswich; we can’t sign top-class ‘ready made’ footballers, and is there such a thing anyway? Is spending £1m on Conor Chaplin the way to get out of this league? Maybe, but not all clubs can do that, and some who don’t spend big do get promoted. In Bishop and Adelakun, we see players with experience at this level, the ability to perform regularly in the Third Tier, but who both have something to prove. They’re of an age where one good season would see them back on the radar of Championship clubs too, which is what we want to see.