In my previous article; Adam Le Fondre-Mysteriously Wasted, I highlighted the potential of there being a clause in Adam Armstrong's contract which would mean the Newcastle United loanee would be played at every possible opportunity in order to keep the financial settlement in place whereby we weren't required to pay his wages.
However, in Phil Parkinson's pre-Norwich press conference on Friday, Marc Iles over at The Bolton News and a friend of the site, had asked the question as to whether this rumour had any foundations, to which PP replied that there was no wage deal/agreement regarding the payment of Adam Armstrong's wages. Additionally, Lee Anderson has firmly backed this up on Twitter stating that these agreements don't happen "with us...Ever."
The Newcastle lad has been a regular fixture in Phil Parkinson's team selection since his arrival despite the elephant in the room, being that he was being played out of position week in week out and was therefore logical to presume that there was some form of agreement in place whereby PP was forced to fit a square peg into a round hole. Although, it appears that this is not in fact the case. It seems that Parky is just keen on re-kindling last season's technique of keeping the side unchanged, insisting that "the understanding between players only improves when you can keep a side together".
Given that Armstrong's selection is purely down to loyalty, it has been a concern that fans favourite Adam Le Fondre has been sacrificed which is increasingly frustrating given his previous track record at the club and throughout his career as a proven goalscorer. Despite us scoring three against relegation rivals Sunderland on Tuesday and our win on Saturday, it still seems evident that we are in need of a second striker to play off Gary Madine.
However, Parkinson had remained unfazed by the lack of goals up until very recently, had kept Armstrong out wide on the left, which, to beat defenders for pace, is ideal, but to score goals, not so much. A decision which bemused many considering his unfamiliarity with the role and limited effectiveness in front of goal from such a position.
An argument which I've heard multiple times in the last few weeks is that Armstrong would do no better should he be moved into a more central role, however, I can't say I totally agree following his goal at the weekend and with him being the club's current joint top goalscorer as a result of being played in his favoured central forward role.
This nicely brings me onto my next point which is that we can comfortably discuss the need for a switch up in the current system without having to forcefully accommodate any exceptions to the weekly team selection. I discussed this with Dan and Ian on our most recent podcast on which we evaluated what needs to be changed and what needs to be left alone.
We came to the following conclusions;
Firstly, a second striker is needed, be that Armstrong or Le Fondre, It doesn't matter to me, either way, Gaz is screaming out for a supporting striker to bring down and knock long balls on to.
Secondly, it's important that we keep all our best attacking options on the field together as much as possible and in their most influential roles, i.e Vela in the number ten role, which, despite me have previously suggested changing, it was an option which almost seemed to inevitably be the first sacrifice of the initially-presumed enforced accommodation in the starting line up. However, with this longer an issue, you could argue that switching back to the old diamond midfield formation with two strikers would work, but we think otherwise.
Thirdly, to alter the newly-founded partnership of Karl Henry and Darren Pratley sitting in front of the back four and return to the diamond four with two wingers is something we can't really afford to do. Their ability to play off one another has shone through since Henry's arrival and has made Pratley a better player in some aspects. Considering Pratley's role as captain and Parky's proven loyalties towards him as well as Henry's form would suggest that this wont change for some time other than through injury, so breathe easy.
Fourthly, if we opt for width, we need our actual wingers there. For example, the likes of Craig Noone and Will Buckley who are both available and awaiting their nods from the bench would do a much better job starting out wide on the left than Armstrong who is so evidently improvising, regardless of his recent improvements. Without forgetting last season's danger man Filipe Morais, I think he'd be better utilised in the impact sub role having looked slightly out of his depth recently.
Fifthly, we even discussed returning to 3-5-2 which we quickly dismissed despite its effectiveness last season, allowing Le Fondre and Madine to partner up as our strike force with Vela in behind, two out and out wingers, two holding midfielders and three at the back. Despite this potentially sounding like our best-suited outfit, the three at the back is the issue which is my next stop.
Finally, the back four needs to be left alone now, period. I'm aware of Andrew Taylor's injury, but as soon as he is back fit, he needs to replace Robinson at LB and then it can be left well alone.
We now have two solid full backs with our excellent Wheavers partnership at centre half who have really impressed lately despite a nervy start which saw Burke enter the fray on a couple of occasions. However, with him now out injured for the time being and additionally seemingly out of favour with fellow West Ham loanee Josh Cullen, it is safe to say the defence is good as it's going to get and should not be messed with.
Even in a situation where fans are so desperate to incorporate Le Fondre, I'd rather not incur the knock on effects in the form of alterations that it would bring to the back line.
Additionally, I think Ben Alnwick has been identified and acknowledged as number one now and should also be starting given his consistently impressive performances too.
To make any of the above alterations I think would be welcomed at this stage as we can also comfortably say that we have not found the answer. This may be criticised given our growing unbeaten run, but when looked upon from a different angle, I'd say at least two out of the three draws have been a case of two points lost rather than one point gained.
Eventually though, it has to be said that we're looking to bring in a second striker, preferably Le Fondre but then you have to consider who'd be dropped. My choice was initially Prately, perhaps now more-so Armstrong as despite his impressive performances against Norwich and Fulham, the jury is still out on the youngster for myself. Ultimately however, it's a pandora's box which you could discuss until the cows come home.
That's probably therefore a good place for me to stop rambling on and ask you to suggest what you'd change given this new-found information straight from the horses mouth, if anything at all.