Sunday, 19 February 2012

Firing Blanks

VBL looks at Thistle's recent scoring drought, and makes some suggestions about how to fix it.

Thistle have only scored one goal in 2012 so far. So far this season, we have failed to score in 41% of the games we have played. Our leading scorer, Paul Cairney, is a midfielder. The league’s top scorer last season, Kris Doolan, for all his endeavour this year has only found the net 6 times.

Just call me Michael Cox. Stats galore. The fact of the matter is that Thistle’s efforts this season are being let down by misfiring strikers. At various points in their Thistle careers, Tommy Stewart and Christie Elliot have looked dangerous. However, one of these players has been looking seriously short of match fitness recently, and the other has had his raw talent knocked out of him by the rigours of full-time football.

I would love to see Stewart doing what he does best by playing off of a front man and hitting shots from distance. In this league, with the current standard of pitches, the ball could bobble in front of the goalkeeper, could take a fortunate deflection or even go flying into the roof of the net. Tommy Stewart seems to be trying too hard. If he was that good, he wouldn’t be at Thistle.

Christie Elliot is as raw as they come, and that is not a criticism. His enthusiasm for the game was clear to see when he first arrived at Firhill. It was refreshing to see a player receive the ball and drive directly at goal. He was rewarded with a handful of goals, which have since dried up. Similarly to Stewart, he needs to remember why he was brought to this club. His performance on Saturday against a poor Morton side was reminiscent of the old Christie, although his positioning behind Doolan made it difficult for him to get into decent scoring positions.

When Liam Buchanan left, Kris Doolan was asked to step up and become the number one striker at Firhill. He achieved his target last season. This year, Doolan has scored some tremendous goals, and has consistently been one of the hardest working players in the squad. He has, however, perhaps suffered from the fact that he has not had a regular striking partner alongside him. This problem may allow Jackie McNamara to experiment with a different starting formation, playing Doolan as a lone striker with two wide men in a five man midfield. Although a 4-5-1 formation suggests negative, Gus McPherson-esque football, it would allow our best players, Cairney, Rowson and Paton, to find stability in the midfield and allow creative players such as Erskine and, possibly, Naismith to provide the chances and back up for Doolan. Cairney, as one of the three central midfielders, could also provide some back up for the lone striker and chip in the odd goal or two.

These are simply my thoughts, and I hope that they open up a discussion about McNamara’s options. For me, it is better to consider what we can do with what we have. We have the personnel to make changes, which suggests that McNamara is well aware of the need to change the dynamics of the team in the middle of a game. We have a potentially excellent manager at Firhill who needs time. He has a very young squad at his disposal, some of whom will be low on confidence at the moment. He’s got a tough job getting the likes of Elliot and Stewart back to where they were, but I think he can do it. It’s our job as supporters to help the team out. We can make our own suggestions about what McNamara can do, as I have just done, but let’s keep it positive and realistic. The club have no money, and Gerry Britton can’t play anymore. Let’s give these boys all we can, and hopefully they’ll repay us with goals.


1 comment:

  1. "Although a 4-5-1 formation suggests negative, Gus McPherson-esque football"

    To paraphrase Jonathan Wilson: a formation is entirely neutral. It is the application of the players within that make the formation what it is.

    Thistle playing a 4-5-1, or any of its variations thereof, makes sense in a lot of ways:

    *The midfield trio of Paton, Rowson and Cairney seems a pretty good mix. Paton as the holder; Cairney as the attacking midfielder to support the forward; and Rowson shuttling between the two. That would get the best of all three midfielders' attributes, in theory.

    *Cairney in particular could be wonderful playing off a forward, but he'd have to be prepared to a) get in the box occasionally, and b) run beyond Doolan if Doolan was to drop deep to collect the ball.

    *Erskine and Naismith on the flanks would have the licence to do what they wanted to an extent, with a) three men in midfield, and b) over-lapping full-backs encouraging them to cut inside. I know that Erskine is inconsistent, at best, but every team should be able to afford at least one player of his potential quality. If he has an off day, it's only on one part of the flank, eh?

    However, it puts a lot of responsibilty on Doolan and Cairney for goals.

    It would also put a lot of emphasis on short passing, which shouldn't alarm the midfielders, but short passing from the 'keeper and full-backs would be a must. Otherwise, Thistle would likely lose *every* ball in the air.

    Whether you would call it 4-3-3, 4-5-1, even 4-2-3-1, it's how the formation is applied that counts.


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