We’ve returned to the Championship after a hectic off-season which saw us bring in 12 new players and sell, release, or loan out 20! That’s a huge amount of activity but absolutely essential after our second relegation in 8 seasons. Our current manager Rafa Benitez has a proven, winning track record and has already done many positive things to improve the club. But does that include the forwards? Our attack consists mainly of four players: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dwight Gayle, Ayoze Perez and Daryl Murphy. Let’s look at each one individually as to how they’ve done so far (at the 9 match mark).
Mitrovic: 1 goal, 1 assist in 130 minutes league playing time. Now this doesn’t tell the whole story, especially about his disciplinary problems but it does suggest given his limited playing time that he can be a scorer in this league. Granted he needs more playing time and it’s essential he maintains a proper attitude on the pitch.
Gayle: 7 goals, 0 assists in 694 minutes of playing time. Dwight started the season well but has also gone through periods of inconsistency. He can put the ball in the net but is he capable of doing so consistently over a long season? It remains an open question. A decent if overpriced signing for me.
Perez: 1 goal, 1 assist in 473 minutes. This is the shocker. He has directly contributed to 2 of our 17 goals and has played a large number of minutes to get that meager result. Clearly something is amiss here. He appears tentative and weak on the ball. Not what we expected at all from a young player who showed some promise, although sporadic in the Premiership.
Murphy: so far no league appearances. Why hasn’t he been used in the league yet given the weak play of the forwards recently?
I have a real problem accepting that this group of forwards is going to lead us to the Championship title at the end of the season. We are extremely inconsistent up front and probably overspent to get Gayle. The club failed to strengthen sufficiently at this position last summer and we are now seeing the result with inconsistent finishing from all three forwards who have played so far in the league. I’m hopeful that Daryl Murphy will add power and finish to the lineup but surely forward will be a target area for the January transfer window. Let’s hope we’re in contention to win the title by then but recently it seems less likely.