If there’s one player who’s received mixed reactions from supporters this season, it’s Miggy Almiron.
His penalty miss against Burnley got him pelters, but a lot of people also questioned what he brings to the team as a result, and I think that’s harsh.
While I do believe players deserve constructive criticism when they aren’t performing – and he’s rightly received some this season – we also need to look at other factors, like how he’s being utilised.
He was our standout player against Manchester United – not only did he create our goal and a lot of our attacks (which ultimately went nowhere thanks to our lack of recognised striker on the pitch – thanks, Steve, Lee and Mike) but he also put in some excellent defensive work, especially in the first half.
His pace troubled Manchester United for the majority of the match and they really struggled to contain him. His ability to burst away on a counter-attack was (and often generally is) unrivalled. But I can’t stress enough that he provided some excellent defensive work, especially because he’s not exactly big or imposing.
So why isn’t he performing like that more often?
It’s all about the way he’s being played. He was given the freedom to run riot on Saturday because, despite the fact he started as an out-and-out winger, we approached the game with an attacking mindset. It was mostly fruitless, though, without Callum Wilson upfront. He also had more freedom in the first half against West Ham. Despite the fact he was on the left of a three-man midfield, which can sometimes throttle him, he was in a team that attacked for the entire first half. But in that second half, and all our other games so far, the manager’s “tactics” have kept him camped in our own half.
It’s so frustrating to see a player with his pace and ability be restricted to his own half. Especially when you consider how Rafa deployed him.
Miggy played in an incredible combination with Rondon and Perez and completely changed our style of play. He was played high up the pitch and was allowed to go forward. In his first half-season with us, he dramatically improved our goals, possession, and shots. We had the fifth best form in the league towards the end of that season, and it’s all down to the fact that he gave us the opportunity to play offensively. Rafa used him intelligently but Bruce, not so much.
We’ve still seen bright sparks since Bruce took over, like West Brom away in the cup, the 3-2 win against Southampton, the 2-0 over Everton. The latter, we all know, was down to Graeme Jones, who also understands how to utilise Almiron. He’s deployed him in his preferred number 10 position, but we’re pretty sure he has less control than in his first few matches, which were a breath of fresh air, and now we’re back to square one.
When Miggy is at his best, it’s because he’s in a position that gives him the freedom to play to his strengths. Generally speaking, that’s behind the striker or on the left with the option to float inside. Bruce insists on playing him as an out-and-out winger.
For what it’s worth, I think Almiron can work as a winger. His blistering pace plays well into it and it worked for him on Saturday. But what’s the point of putting him in an unpreferred position, and then expecting him to stick to his own half?
And how can we lay the blame solely at his feet when he’s essentially had his wings clipped?
For me, Bruce’s inability to understand his best position is working against Almiron. But ultimately, he’s being throttled by our defensive mindset. So, while he’s not been at his best for most of our games so far this season, how can he be when he’s prevented from actually doing what he does best?