The Adebola Theory

dele adebolaIt’s always exciting when you get a new toy. The problem is, it’s not always obvious what to do with it.

I think Andy Morrell did very good business in the week, tying Jay Harris to a new contract and drafting in Dele Adebole and David Artell. The loan duo will add muscle and experience to the squad for the run-in, and at Conference level those are probably the two key elements you need to add to a squad, assuming you haven’t got the financial wherehithal to make a dramatic bid for Robin Van Persie!

Artell had a very solid debut against Alfreton, the timing of his arrival looking even better now Martin Riley has pulled up lame. He and Chris Westwood still need to bed down the partnership, but the latter’s assured performance showed that having a new Mark Creighton-style stopper around can’t hurt him!

Adebola had more of a mixed time, and some of the crowd became impatient in the second half at what they perceived to be a lack of effort from him. I’ll be frank: shouting at players that they need to try harder triggers the football snob in me. For me, claiming a team’s players aren’t trying is shorthand for “I don’t like what I’m seeing but I don’t understand football well enough to explain why it’s going wrong, so I’ll say they’re not trying!”

Complaining that Adebola wasn’t running sixty yard shuttles in seven seconds is a little like moaning because your cat hasn’t recorded “Match of the Day” while you’re in the pub. Adebola isn’t that sort of player and we can’t ask him to do that sort of thing. But on the other hand, some good judges I know weren’t impressed, and I include my dad in that, who has a well-entrenched love of a big target man! I think the issue is working out how to get the best out of a player with Adebola’s clearly defined strengths and weaknesses.

This is where the dilemma of what to do with a new toy comes in. I assumed he’d fit into Wrexham’s style of play pretty neatly. We tend to use our central striker as a battering ram, just not in the obvious and unsubtle way we’d deploy Adebola.

Look at Andy Morrell at Gainsborough for proof of this. Without threatening the goal (apart from the bizarre disallowed goal which earned him a booking when, by any reading of the rules of the game you care to go for, it was a legitimate goal!) he did his job terrificallly well. It’s a role which lends itself to his style of play, even with so many miles in his legs these days, and he was probably helped by the lengthy stoppage while Luke Waterfall was being treated. Given that breather, he ran himself into the ground, constantly occupying the centre backs. It’s a clear tactic we’ve employed for a while: the striker puts in a 70-minute stint, knowing he’ll be withdrawn, and harries the centre backs constantly. Then, we throw on a quick or at least lively sub (and we tend to have the likes of Rob Ogleby, Adrian Cieslewicz and Nick Rushton on the bench to fulfil this function) to capitalise by running at tired defenders.

I assumed this would be Adebola’s role: the attritional target man deluxe. The guy is huge (watch out for the pre-match high five between him and Dean Keates – it’s VERY high for the skipper!) He puts me in mind of Bill Shankly inviting the press to take a walk round his new centre back, Ron Yeats, before talking to him!

Keeping Things in perspective: man mountain Ron Yeats is actually standing 20 miles behind Bill Shankly in this picture.
Keeping things in perspective: man mountain Ron Yeats is actually standing 20 miles behind Bill Shankly in this picture.

He certainly has the physical attributes to wear down central defenders, and with the wind against us in the first half it seemd to be ideally set up for him to take his toll on Darran Kempson as the ball held up when it was played long to him, allowed him time to back in and rough the centre back up.

It didn’t quite work out like that though, partly because Kempson seems inspired by his unhappy time at The Racecourse and reserves his best performances for when he returns. He handled himself well in the physical encounters and was dominant when the ball came in flatter for a more orthodox aerial scrap, although to be fair to Adebola, the one header I can recall him winning in the first half was an assist for Thronton’s goal.

What surprised me was the fact that he stayed on for the full ninety minutes. Perhaps that’s naive of me: after all, if we’re desperate for a late goal he represents our best hope if we have to desperately launch balls into the area. However, it doesn’t fit in with my theory of getting him to wear defenders down for 70 minutes before making way for a more nippy model of forward. When Rob Ogleby came to the touchline with about twenty minutes left it looked like my theory held water, but there seemed to be some debate over the change and he wasn’t thrown on for a little longer, replacing Brett Ormerod instead.

Again, the proof of the pudding’s in the eating: Adebola hit the bar in the 93rd minute and we did pose a threat after the double substitution, suggesting the make-up of the front line was appropriate for the closing stages of the match. Adebola deserves more credit than he received, I think: he’s short on match fitness but set up a goal, hit the bar and certainly gave us what Morrell promised he would: something different up front.

I still wonder if, as time goes on and Andy Morrell gets more acquainted with his new toy, he might be used to soften defenders up for Ogleby and Cieslewicz though.

One thought on “The Adebola Theory

  1. Great article, and got to say I agree with pretty much everything you say. Was obvious to all tho that adebola was dead on his feet pretty much from the off. I was glad to see him start, but was so disappointed in his performance. A big target man that hardly won a thing in the air. Mobility was poor. Kempson of all people had him in his pocket. I know people well say you got to give him time to settle etc. but we haven’t got time. And at 37 he aint gonna improve or suddenly get more mobile.I think Ciesy is treated poorly by morell. Deserves much more time on the pitch, and at any other club, including the league above, he would be on from the start. A talent that for me is going to waste.

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