I have not been one to get on the back or criticise Big Sam this season, we find ourselves mid-table in our first season back in the top flight and 18 months on I still believe Allardyce was the right choice to ensure stability at the club. However the one aspect that has been particularly disappointing this season is that of the forward line.
We are the lowest scorers in the league away from home and have managed just 29 goals in 26 games this season, the fourth lowest in the league. We also haven’t managed to score two or more goals in a game since early December. Not good enough.
Carlton Cole, for all his efforts is and never will be a goalscorer. He puts in a shift and when playing at his best can be a nightmare for defenders, as he proved against Chelsea in December, but he is too inconsistent and his goals are few and far between. In Andy Carroll, I still believe we have a very good striker. Injuries have not helped his cause this season but we look a much better team with him in the side. Again though, with just two goals this season, his goalscoring record needs to be improved, but he is exceptional in the air and very good and bringing other players into the game, Kevin Nolan in particular. The jury is still very much out on Modibo Maiga. For me, I’m not convinced he will be a success in the Premier League. Despite occasional flashes of brilliance he is far too weak and inconsistent. In fairness to him, he has started very few games for the club and often been played out wide, so he does deserve some time to prove myself and others wrong.
With a lack of goals pre-January from the three frontmen, we needed strikers during the transfer window; preferably one’s who could put the ball in the back of the net. Instead Allardyce opted for the frighteningly out of favour Marouane Chamakh who has hardly featured, let alone scored for Arsenal this season, and unproven Brazilian Wellington Paulista. Both signings were 6 foot something, just adding a bit more height to our already gigantic strike force.
Chamakh has started a couple of league games for the club and to be honest I’ve seen very little to inspire me. As for Paulista, well he may not have featured for the first team yet but there is a bit more of intrigue surrounding his signature. The 28-year-old, who scored 28 goals in 40 games for Cruzeiro last year, has netted three times in four appearances for our development squad. I would be lying if I said I knew much about the striker but he certainly seems to know where the back of the net is, something the rest seem to struggle with. I would like to see Paulista definitely make the bench in the coming weeks, it might just be that something different we need.And that lack of variety is the most striking thing about our attacking options this season. In Carroll, Cole and Chamakh we have three big, strong almost battering-ram centre forwards. When one or more of these are on the pitch, we almost inevitably resort to route one football. Okay it may have proved rather successful at the beginning of the season but it has now become far too predictable and the opposition know how to set up and defend against it. If it gets to say the hour mark and we need a goal, we have no one available to bring on to really mix things up. Okay we could just chuck another big man up top, but when you know what’s coming, it’s much easier to defend.
Just look at Adam Le Fondre at Reading. He may not be the greatest striker in the world but he’s a poacher. He’s sharp and quick, and this is something we could desperately do with at the moment, especially when Carroll is winning the vast majority of his headers. I just feel Big Sam was naïve to not try to bring in a Le Fondre type of player. Perhaps even keeping a Baldock or a Maynard at the start of the season would have been wise. Again there probably not going to light up the Premiership week in week out but they are not a bad option to bring on against tiring defenders for the last 20 minutes.
To be fair to Big Sam, there probably wasn’t a great deal out there in January to bring in but I know I’m not the only fan who is hugely frustrated by our lack of invention, variation and pace going forward. Every side needs a plan B. It’s a major worry that when we do go behind, especially away from home, it’s difficult to see where our next goal is coming from.
Let’s just hope it’s all part of the Big Sam master plan and we bang in three against Tottenham Monday week.
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