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Zach Clough and Adam Le Fondre - An unwanted partnership?

An investigation into a reluctant tactic on Phil Parkinson’s part

West Ham United v Bolton Wanderers - Carabao Cup Third Round Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

In recent weeks, as some of you may have noticed, up until Saturday, forwards Zach Clough and Adam Le Fondre were yet to feature together since Zach’s loan return to the club.

Upon his return, the majority of fans predicted and favoured line-up included both of the lads. However, with Parky still hesitant to play without some form of a target man up top, including both of them into the line-up, particularly in our current formation set-up, has been somewhat difficult.

Many presumed back in February that the formation would switch to a 4-2-3-1, at the time, Derik and Henry as the holding midfielders behind the attacking midfield three which was predicted to include Zach, Sammy Ameobi and Tyler Walker, all playing off Alfie. However, the same 3-5-2 system stuck with Ameobi improvising as Gary Madine’s replacement along side pacy loanee Walker. This came as a surprise to lots of us given that Ameobi had never previously played up top and because neither Clough or Le Fondre featured which was initially thought to be a given.

This has become a recurring theme and little has changed, in certain fixtures where either one or both of them are expected to start, they’re either dropped or the other one starts. As the season has progressed and each of the new signings have been given their opportunity to prove their worth, Phil Parkinson is once again, starting to get an idea of his best team.

Whilst Le Fondre features more regularly, supported by a number 10 or last week’s salvager Aaron Wilbraham, Clough has struggled to embed himself into the weekly XI. Even as the clock runs down and Clough is given the nod, its either Alf that makes way or has already been dragged off for Wilbraham & co. Why you ask? Well, I don’t know either.

We at LOV are constantly scratching our heads as to why the pair are never given the chance to feature together, particularly in the second half given their track record and form under Neil Lennon when both lads were regular starters. Whilst Josh Vela is still struggling for fitness and Darren Pratley is having to fill in, it only makes sense that Clough would play off Alfie, but it seems like a move which Parky is genuinely reluctant to make.

Despite being more flexible recently with his line up’s, ringing up to seven changes at a time now, a Clough and Le Fondre partnership is something which obviously doesn’t seem logical in Parky’s eyes. Obviously, he knows his players better than anyone, but given their close bond made public online and social media, within which Le Fondre refers to Clough as his ‘apprentice’, the pair are yet to be given their chance to shine and prove to Parky that they are more than capable of playing off one another.

With numerous options as it stands and with tactics constantly changing in order to match those of the opposition, only the coaches know whats the best move at any given time, but surely if theres an option to bring on both attacking options on the bench when we’re chasing the game, it seems logical and was only a matter of time before both featured in this scenario.

In the dying minutes against Wednesday, Clough replaced Derik whilst Wilbraham was also introduced in place of Jon Flanagan to support Alfie to grab a last minute goal, and quite fittingly, it happened.

I’m not going to try and claim that this long overdue throw of the dice was necessarily the reason why we managed to take a point from the game and all credit has to go to Wilbraham for his headed effort, but it’s also not like it didn’t work at all. If anything, it gives the gaffer food for thought going into the next game, and slowly but surely, I’m hoping we will now start to see both Clough and Alfie feature together more and more.

Obviously, this is going to take time and I don’t expect to see both on the team sheet at 2pm on Saturday, but the introduction of Clough at some point in the second half is something which I’m hoping will be considered more prominently, depending on the scoreline.

I’m all for these two getting their chance to put on a show which we know they can, but whilst results are going our way, prioritising results is still the most important thing for us right now, but if this revelation can grow to influence the final scoreline, then its definitely worth experimenting with, if nothing else.