The Striking question

A new striker is the Rams top priority for the summer according to fans and Clough alike. We’ve failed to score in way too many games this season (including seven at home) and a few extra goals to convert losses and draws; and draws to wins has been highlighted as one of the main barriers to progress. 

Defining the problem is simple enough but what is the answer? Is it just a case of spending £1m+ on a striker? 

The first place to look for clues would be at the Championship top goalscorers chart. Rickie Lambert is top and cost a million quid a few years ago to getSouthamptonout of League 1. He’s done a Grant Holt this season and like Holt, has blossomed late. Billy Sharp is also up there and needs little introduction, only that ifLeicestercouldn’t sign him with all their cash, it’s unlikely we could have done.

So money equals goals? Not quite. The rest of the list is a mix of free transfers, Bosmans and more budget buys. Absent from the top 10 are: Nicky Maynard, Craig Mackail-Smith, Ismael Miller, Matt Derbyshire, Jermaine Beckford, Kenny Miller, Sam Baldock, Lucas Jutkiewicz, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, and Robert Earnshaw. All players who either moved for £1+ in the summer or command massive wages (there may be others I’ve missed).

Above Billy Sharp, we have Ricardo Vaz Te and Ross McCormack. Vaz Te earned a one year contract withBarnsleyafter leaving Hibs in the summer and scored a single goal in each of his past two seasons. McCormack fared slightly better, scoring 4 last season and 5 the year before (he did score 23 the year before that to be fair).

I won’t look at all the top ten but the third main category is the experienced journeyman goalscorer; represented by Marlon King, Kevin Phillips and Darius Henderson.

But it’s not all about strikers. There’s no doubt that another dozen gaols from our forwards would help but looking at teams like Reading, West Ham (pre Vaz Te when they were top) and Cardiff, their strikers have scored on a similar level to ours. The big difference is the contribution from elsewhere. This is arguably the Rams biggest problem.

Despite all our corners and Ben Davies’ delivery, Shackell has scored once and Barker not at all. Bucko has two, which is great given his appearances but overall a poor return from the defenders (for the record, Roberts has one, Kilbane one, Brayford and Naylor none).

Midfield is equally unimpressive. Bryson has done well with 6 and Hendrick’s 3 is a fair return given it’s his debut season. Bailey has 0. The bigger problem is the wide men, who have flattered to deceive. Ben Davies may be Mr. Assists but has also scored lots goals during his career. Not so this year with only 1 (or 2 depending on who gets the nod for theWatfordgoal). Jamie Ward has scored some high profile goals but really should have more than 4 given his attacking role; whilst Paul Green has only 1 despite frequently being involved in the attacking play.

On the other side of the coin, the strikers have scored and not been overly wasteful but have they created enough? Theo’s strength isn’t bringing other players into the game and moves tend to end in a shot or loss of possession when he’s on the ball. This is fine to an extent, strikers need to be single minded at times. However, Steve Davies’ game is also about getting a shot in. I’ve made joking comparisons with Mick Quinn – he scores a few but his contribution to open play is limited. Put the two together and you have two players scoring a few goals but I don’t think it could really be described as a partnership. There aren’t many occasions I can recall the two exchanging passes or receiving a knock-down in the build up to any of our goals (or setting anyone else up for that matter).

An article by our friends at Derby County blog listed goals scored per team and it showed us to have scored 20 less thanReading and 30 less than West Ham. A big jump and one that wouldn’t be bridged even if you exchanged a 12 goals a season man for a 25 goal man.

So what does all this teach us? In my view, the lessons are: we need more goals from the team; Paul Green’s replacement needs to have an eye for goal; a million pound striker won’t necessarily solve the problem; judging by Vaz Te and McCormack’s track records, don’t rule out Nathan Tyson scoring a hatful next season!

The solution isn’t an easy one: someone who will score goals; someone who can provide and create; someone who can hold the ball; someone who can provide some magic. This all sounds dangerously close to Chris Maguire’s billing last summer! No doubt we’re in for plenty of speculation – let’s see what Nigel can find this year and enjoy the speculation along the way. A £400k bid for Darius Henderson anyone?

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Posted on April 26, 2012, in General Rams Comment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Sounds about right to me. One of the positives for me this season has been the solidity we’ve gained in midfield by having the wide players also being battlers who track back. However, to some extent that’s been at the price of creativity. It’s a difficult balance – recent history has given us creative attacking midfielders like Kinkladze, Idiakez, Reich, Bisgaard & Bueno who probably made about 3 tackles between them. So I agree that the right mid signing will be the key one over summer. Note that the examples I just gave are all foreign and Clough seems to have a severe allergy to scouting abroad…that leaves a very small pool of players available for Clough to get his man.

    • I wouldn’t mind us going back in for McGugan. I know he’s not an orthodox right winger but we change tactics and formation every five minutes anyway and we need a Plan B if “going solid” isn’t working.

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