“We have been successful when attacking games on the front foot but with limited striking options Monk must now decide whether to try someone new up front or revert back to our less successful tactic of “hoof it to that big bloke up there”
Oops, Che did it again. Cast your minds back and you may remember that during the desperate, dying embers of last season, Che slid in for a challenge on Huddersfield’s Martin Cranie that led to him seeing red. Luckily that one was rescinded and Adams returned the following week against Bristol City. After lunging in for a similar tackle/spot of GBH on Ipswich’s Noone though, Che has not been so fortunate and has been strapped with a 3 match ban. Bolton fans were outraged, some Blues fans suffered from temporary blindness and pretended not to see it and I personally winced at the sight of a “tackle” Stuart Pearce would be proud of.
So for the second season in a row, we were treated to the sight of Che Adams receiving his marching orders and stalking off the pitch holding his head in disbelief whilst apologising to fans and picking pieces of Noone’s shins out of his studs. If losing a recently re-energised Che wasn’t bad enough, we now find ourselves in the undesirable position of having just one striker fit for selection. The silver lining is that Lukey Jukey has been outstanding over the last 3 games and is arguably in the midst of his best run of form in a Blues shirt. However, being forced to play as a lone striker has not been kind to the Big J and he is undoubtedly much more effective when fielded with a sidekick.
With injuries aplenty, the Blues are in the brown and Monk’s got a difficult decision to make. We need goals and have been successful when attacking games on the front foot but with limited striking options Gazza must now decide whether to try someone new up front or revert back to our less successful tactic of “hoof it to that big bloke up there”.
There are 3 choices really:
1) Play a 4-4-1-1 formation with someone just behind Juke in a supporting role. This will inevitably descend into the aforementioned long ball hoofage.
2) Find someone to fill Che’s boots and stick with 2 up top.
3) Adopt the pincer approach and attack from the wings with a 4-2-3-1 setup.
We’ve tried guys in the number 10 role to varied success. Boga and Jota could slot in there and to a lesser extent Mags could have a crack at it but we’ve tended to find that whoever is put there gets lost in the shuffle a little bit. There’s a strong chance that Burton are going to swarm Juke with a very defensively minded formation and any number 10s are likely to also get swept up in that defensive tidal wave. It’s highly possible that the Brewers are going to look for pace-fuelled counter attacks since we’re firing on all cylinders at the moment and a number 10 may find themselves tracking back more often than they’d like to, thus breaking the link between them and the Jukemeister.
Perhaps the toughest option is to find a strike partner for Lukas. I’ve seen suggestions of Boga, Jota and J Mags but, although they all have the ability to ping a decent shot every now and again, I’m not sure they have the clinical striker’s instincts that we need. Mags is perfect for exploiting wide areas before cutting inside, Jota likes to pick the ball up early and run at defences and Jezza’s more likely to take the ball sideways in an attempt to beat 5 men before making the decision to shoot.
Another possibility is to scour the youth system in search of someone to step up to the big leagues. Wes has had a phenomenal start to his first team career and Charlie Lakin impressed during his senior debut. Perhaps there’s another gem waiting to be uncovered? Kyle McFarlane’s no slouch and has got a keen eye for goal. A relegation battle probably isn’t the ideal time to blood new, young players but if it can work for Wes maybe a little faith and positivity is all it takes to create a superstar?
In hindsight it’s a shame we sent Ronan Hale and Brock-Madsen out on loan. Ronan bagged a hat trick for Derry City’s first team I’ve always had a soft spot for Nicolai (although I can’t actually remember whether it’s because of what I’ve seen in real life or because he lead my team to the title on Football Manager 18…)
Oh and Jack Storer is still about, I guess he could have been useful to us if we needed someone to upset the dressing room and maybe plant a headbutt on Lloyd Dyer.
My personal favourite suggestion came from Matt Ryan on Twitter who suggested that James Beattie laces up his boots for the good of the cause and throws himself into the game. Times are tough and we need a hero! I think our best option though is to spread the game out wide and opt for a two pronged attack via the wings in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
If Juke is left on his own as a target man, which seems the most likely solution, then our only hope is that he doesn’t get crowded out by a sea of yellow shirts. Utilising Jota and Mags as far wide as possible and playing the ball through them at all costs will force the back 5 to disperse and open up channels for Davis or Boga to find space.
Delving back back into the fountain of youth, we also have Charlie Lakin who could do a job on the wing, allowing our Spanish wizard to play a more central attacking role. Whatever the line up, I anticipate that we’re going to be massively outnumbered in the Burton box as they attempt to pump the breaks on our win streak. With that in mind, I think our best option is to overwhelm their defence whilst placing trust in our own brick wall of Colin, Dean, Mike and Grounds/Harding. Perhaps the Grounds/Harding decision may actually be Monk’s toughest conundrum?
Earning the three points is as crucial as ever tomorrow but as the season draws to a close, it’s worth keeping an eye on our goal difference too. Making a dent in that figure may be a big ask tomorrow but we need to look at chipping away at is as best as we can. Hopefully the relegation battle won’t need to be resolved by goal differences but if it is; the boys may well be punished further for throwing the towel in at Hull and Brentford.
I have full faith that Gazza, Jimmy and the REAL Pep have something up their sleeves and to be honest, I’m equally intrigued and excited by how tomorrows team sheet may read. With kids for a quid, the Tilton and Kop stands more or less sold out and extra seating being opened up in the Gil Merrick, it’s sure to be yet another massive crowd with Blues fans playing the role of 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th man! Come on you Blue boys!
By Mark Watson