Monday evening’s trip to Bournemouth saw Patrick van Aanholt score an absolute screamer to level the scores in the opening stages of the second half but for the most part, the Eagles struggled to provide much of an attacking threat, so what exactly is the cause of our toothless approach in the final third?
After seeing Christian Benteke embark on a dreadful run of goalscoring form, news of a knee injury picked up during the international break prompted some supporters to wonder if his absence from the starting XI would actually do Roy Hodgson a favour but in the games without the Belgian, we’ve looked a tad unsure of exactly how to operate. His game is one which does paint an aesthetically unpleasing picture but crucially, the likes of Zaha and Townsend seem more comfortable in their primary roles.
Without Christian, the gaffer has used a front three, with on loan Swansea man Jordan Ayew acting as the central point and for all the Ghanaian’s efforts, it simply feels as though placing him there is like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. You could be forgiven for wondering why last January’s multi-million pound signing Alexander Sørloth is not being given a run of starts but as his cameo at Dean Court proved on Monday, Hodgson remains rightly unconvinced about his ability to flourish in the top flight.
There are plenty of questions to ask, namely why our scouting and recruitment process has led to a player, in Sørloth’s case, being purchased when he is quite clearly below the level necessary to compete from week to week but in the immediate future, Roy must find a way of allowing his players to cause defences problems, with or without the services of the sidelined Christian Benteke.
For me, the obvious call would be to utilise Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha as a centralised, floating attacking pairing, just as we did when triumphing over Chelsea to end a seven-game run without a point or a goal at the start of the last campaign. Admittedly, our lack of depth in wide areas leaves one or two headaches to overcome from a positional perspective but hypothetically, it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Defences have regularly been bamboozled by the runs of Wilfried Zaha who, when allowed to dovetail and overlap Townsend in a flowing formation, can cause all manner of problems. The 25-year-old’s finishing is getting better all the time and quite frankly, aside from his wonderful individual strike and Huddersfield and Patrick’s aforementioned thunderbolt against the Cherries earlier this week, it’s not as though we’re creating anything better in the current three-man set-up.
Sadly, this is a scenario in which Ruben Loftus-Cheek would have been perfect as wide cover but in the short-term, Jordan Ayew can balance the play on the flanks to some extent. I’m not suggesting it’s the perfect solution to our current issues but after seeing a string of underwhelming attacking performances, I’m all for shaking it up against Wolves this weekend.