A look at our attacking options and how they could be best utilised.
So, we have our first point of the season- a 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest. Sir Douglas had the team playing in a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Craig Davies and Joe Mason up top.
I’ve always thought, if we got Mason and didn’t get Jutkiewicz back, that this would be our best solution. We played our best football of last year with the strong, imposing Middlesborough loanee alongside the young, nippy Cardiff loanee. Having lost out on the Juke to Burnley we have to think of new strike combinations. Our most similar player to Jutkiewicz is Craig Davies. He’s 6 ft 2 thus tall enough to dominate in the air. He’s our strongest player and he’s not bad on the ball. During his rather disappointing time so far at Bolton we’ve seen several decent long range strikes with both his right and left foot. If Wheater, Mills and Dervite decide to keep hoofing the ball they’ll at least have a competent target with Davies. Having one bigger striker and one who’s better at finishing isn’t exactly new to Bolton- Kevin Davies and Nicolas Anelka were one of our most successful pairings in recent years.
Before the arrival of Mason people were suggesting a partnership of Jermaine Beckford and Craig Davies with Connor Wilkinson and/or Zach Clough on the bench. This, in theory, should work similarly to the Davies-Mason pairing. However it just doesn’t seem to. Beckford’s runs don’t seem to overlap with Davies’ flick ons nor is he ever in quite the right position to receive the ball from Davies. I hate to say but Mason, while by no means the best striker in the division, just offers so much more than Beckford.
Jermaine Beckford picked up a few injuries which coincided with Mason’s loan spells last season so we didn’t see an awful lot of them together. However, I think an obvious problem is a lack of aerial threat. While neither of them are tiny, they’re just not great in the air. I know Dougie’s philosophy is based around playing short passes from the back through to the midfielder etc… but the reality is that it just doesn’t happen enough to justify having two ‘poacher’ style strikers. Also wingers such as Feeney like to pump balls into the box and our chances of getting onto the end of these crosses is much lower without the presence of someone taller.
Should Dougie choose to play with only one up front, my first choice would be Craig Davies. While he’s not a brilliant striker, he can miss easy chances and doesn’t quite have the finishing as most strikers in this division- he’s the best we’ve got for now in this position. The others just don’t have the physical presence to handle playing on their own.
If Davies were injured and we had to play one of Beckford or Mason on their own it would be Beckford for me. I have glossed over Beckford’s flaws but the fact of the matter is that Mason cannot play as a lone striker. We saw this in his first loan spell in which he scored once in eight matches. Beckford can just about play on his own, although his finishing has been poor his runs are more suited to making space for a through ball rather than for taking a knock down from another striker.
Young Connor Wilkinson and Zach Clough may get a few games this season. Wilkinson’s tall and apparently quite strong in the air and is good with the ball. Zach Clough seems to fit the Joe Mason mould as a good finisher who’s runs are more suited to playing alongside another striker.
Who would you like to see start up front?