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Opinion: Amidst the new striker buzz it’s Dapo who has me excited

Consensus seems to be in favour a ‘speed and strength’ front line but I want to see something a bit more us.

Bolton Wanderers v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League 1
Evatt congratulates Dapo after impressing off the bench
Photo by Eddie Garvey/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It has been as exciting a window as I can remember. We have reinforced every area of the pitch from attack to goalkeeper. The latest (hopefully not last) addition to the squad was Icelandic striker-cum-winger Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. The 6ft 2” frontman doesn’t boast the scoring record that one might want from their new striker but that wasn’t why Ian Evatt wanted him. It’s quite clear in interviews that Evatt saw Dadi as the key to release fellow newbie, Dion Charles. Charles has impressed since he signed for the club but is yet to score. At times he has cut a similar, isolated figure to Eoin Doyle as the lone striker. Charles has made a far better job of this role but there was still an obvious issue of lacking support.

Rewind to Ipswich and the manager made the bold call to switch systems to the ill fated 5-3-2 of last year. The change proved a master stroke for many reasons but importantly for this article it made the striker role less isolated by having two of them. Evatt started with Amadou Bakayoko and Charles, a conventional ‘strength and speed’ partnership. They worked well, pressed intensely and seemed to compliment each other well. The player sacrificed for the extra striker was Wanderers’ ‘star-man’, Oladapo Afolayan. It was a bold call but Dapo hasn’t looked his usual self in recent weeks and this formation took his usual position away. Most tacitly understood the rationale for dropping our (so far) player of the year. Dapo came back swinging off the bench with a late goal to confirm victory.

All this has created a bit of a discussion about who to start alongside Charles this weekend. There is a certain clamour to see Dadi play which I understand, new signings are exciting after all. The majority of the rest seem to favour Baka keeping his spot which seems reasonable. The third option that has gone under the radar is by far the most exciting. By far the most ‘us’. By far the best potential for goals.

As is probably obvious by this point I’m talking about a Dapo-Charles partnership. What this partnership lacks in physical stature it more than makes up for in technical ability, finishing ability, mobility and effort.

The first point to make clear would be that Dapo has played striker before during his West Ham and Solihull Moor days. The switch to winger came relatively late but even if he hadn’t the lad clearly has all the attributes to make it work. Dapo has 10 goals in a struggling team this year and they’ve all been excellent finishes. To put that in to context, that’s one less goal than Baka and Dadi have had since the 2019/20 season...COMBINED (that’s circa 115 combined games).

There’s more on offer beside being the most prolific choice though. He’s also the best ball carrier...In the league...By far. The @analysis_bwfc account has a nice graph illustrating this. This offers support to a strike partner in a less obvious way than being a tall target man but can be just as effective. I’d argue more effective when you consider our style of play. Evatt has preached it from day one: Patient build up, move the ball around, move and make space and exploit with a killer pass. Aaron Morley was brought in to make those killer passes, so let’s have two strikers who can really take advantage of those gaps.

I can’t think of a defence in this division that would be able to keep track of a Dapo and Charles partnership that was constantly mobile, constantly harassing, driving at them with the ball or even trying to keep pace when they run in to space. Most centre backs in League One will take the option of a physical battle with a target man over this type of attack any day of the week.

Sure this type of partnership isn’t as conventional as the a ‘big man - small man’ and I do think we’d still be successful if we went down that route. Both Baka and Dadi would be good partners for Charles and both would offer success in their own way but a target man style striker was only ever mentioned as a plan B. Someone we could bring on if the passing wasn’t cutting it. But history has proven that the alternative that exudes mobility and technical ability works and works well. Suarez & Sturridge. Yorke & Cole. Owen & Fowler. Henry & Bergkamp. Dapo & Charles?

Maybe some might say that we shouldn’t shoe horn one player in to the detriment of the team even if they’re your best player. Hopefully the proceeding paragraphs have convinced anyone sympathetic to that view that this isn’t the case. Even if you disagree I’d argue that Dapo isn’t just the best in the team, when he’s on his game he’s the best in the League. You make room for that level of quality.

The choice ultimately lies with Evatt. It’s a known cognitive bias in humans that we will look favourably on ‘the new’. I sincerely hope it doesn’t make him miss the potential partnership we already had.


Who would you partner with Dion Charles?

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