Taking on guest blog duties today is season-ticket holder Mike Taylor who looks at what needs to change in order for the promotion push to be sustained…
We aren’t top by a fluke: The performances against Boro and Millwall are inconsequential; take the two points and clean sheets and look forward.
However, don’t be blinkered either: Swansea, Brentford and Watford are going to sprint to the finish and we need to stay in the fight. We aren’t playing worse, but I would categorically state that teams do now know how to stifle Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia.
In order to regain our potency, a central #10 must step forward. Without a central #10, with a defensive pair rather than a playmaker from deep, 4-2-3-1 doesn’t function as intended.
Daniel Farke has defensively improved 4-2-3-1 this season with two holding midfielders but they have managed just one goal between them and they lack the incisive, super-quick passes out of the defensive midfield areas; the passes that Mo Leitner and Ton Trybull were renowned for.
As a predominantly lone striker, Pukki looks increasingly isolated, oftentimes because Buendia and Cantwell are dropping deeper to receive the ball. Our new tweaked system works well defensively but is there an attacking forfeit?
In 2018/19 Marco Stieperman was brilliant as a very unconventional #10 but as we can see this season with Marco, Mario Vrancic and Teemu, all those legs are clearly two years older.
If we are to take that defensive advantage to another Championship title, or an automatic promotion slot, then that #10 role needs energy, game-changing creativity, and it needs goals, goals, goals.
I trust Farke to fix it, but I suggest it might be an unexpected change.
Will the pace, power and long-range shooting of Adam Idah be the ace up our sleeve? Bring on tonight’s mouth-watering tie. It’s time for some NCFC magic, and maybe time for a new hero to emerge.
“Midfield Mike” Taylor