After 4 consecutive victories (if you include the joke competition we find ourselves in), it appears that Bolton are back. It was hugely positive to see us win at Millwall in midweek and that we haven’t conceded in any of those victories is possibly the biggest positive. However, the problems that our strikers were having during our dip in form are still present. In those four victories we have scored 6 goals, a reasonably healthy return, but only 2 have been scored by a striker and not only were they both by Zach Clough they were in the same game. I hate to put a dampener on proceedings but I’m not sure that is good enough. We won’t be able to rely on David Wheater or a comical own-goal to see us through week in, week out. Therefore it is still a problem that hasn’t been resolved.
I’m not sure it’s down to the players playing badly. For me, the system they are playing in is the problem right now, specifically, who each striker is paired with. We have 4 first team strikers available: Clough, Madine, Proctor and Anderson with Clayton still to come back. Given the immediate options, which combination is the right one? Let’s have a look:
Clough and Madine/Proctor
Although in recent matches Clough has been deployed more as a left-winger than as Madine’s partner, he is the one who is most likely to get alongside him if they play together. Though this appears to be Parky’s favoured pairing, I’m not sure it gets the best out of either target man. Clough should, in theory, be the man who feeds off Madine or Proctor winning the ball in the air and benefitting from him being the target man, since he won’t be able to match any centre-back physically himself. His tendency to drift wide and lack of pace, however, means that this is a thankless task for the big man up front with him and, in my opinion, makes it highly unlikely they will get chances to score as well. It might help Clough, but it won’t help his partner.
Anderson and Madine/Proctor
I am much more in favour of this system for 2 reasons: firstly because Anderson can hold his own physically against big lads at the back and secondly because if the target man wins a flick on he has the pace to latch onto it. Anderson has found himself benched of late but I think he has struggled to make an impact mainly because he hasn’t had his main weapon (his pace) utilised properly. The issue would remain, clearly, that the target man would still struggle for goal scoring opportunities but I think it gets more out of the little man up top if that man is Keshi. We are yet to see Clough and Anderson link up and this could mean the Denton Destroyer moves into midfield. It would be more expansive but maybe leave us too open.
Proctor and Madine
Now hear me out. Gary Madine remains our top scorer this season with 3 goals. Those 3 goals came early on in the season where he was deployed alongside Jamie Proctor. In this case, Big Gaz doesn’t need to be the workhorse and can focus on being the goal scorer of the team. I was there at Charlton watching this system in action. It wasn’t pretty at all, but until we were thwarted by a great goal in the last minute it was working. Madine scored and Proctor put in a great performance. Both have struggled of late playing different roles for the team and this system got the best out of them. It may be limited, but in the big games where we need to grind out a result I think it would be hugely effective.
So there we are. Unless we have an injury to both our big front men I doubt we will see a Clough/Keshi partnership as it doesn’t suit our playing style. Thus these are the options. Which is best? You decide!