Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
It’s often suggested that players get managers sacked. That was the case at Wrexham this season, but not in the manner you might expect. Kevin Wilkin ultimately paid the price for not using a key player correctly.
That player, surprisingly, is Louis Moult. He’s a player Wilkin knows well, having brought him with him from Nuneaton, and you’d think he knows how to get the best out of him after he scored seventeen last season.
However, when you scratch below the surface of those stats you find something odd. Moult only scored in three games after Christmas in that prolific campaign. When I noticed that quirk on his arrival I wondered if we’d signed a player on the basis of one of those fluke half-seasons of good form which sometimes happen. We’ve all seen it: a striker has a purple patch where everything he hits goes in and he makes a good living off the back of his potential without threatening to ever approach that golden state again.
That theory held water until I actually saw him play. Moult is clearly a class act, and the nine goals he’s hit in the New Year suggest he’s got no issue with sustaining his form as the season wears on.
So how do we explain his barren second half to last season? One possibility is bad luck: the shots simply wouldn’t go in.
Another is that he’s still learning: it’s easy to forget how young he is, and last season was the first time he played more than twenty games in a season. Perhaps the extra experience has taught him how to sustain his form.
The third possibility is the most damning. Perhaps Wilkin didn’t get the best out of him.
All three suggestions hold water, but it’s the last one which has echoes with this season. You need only to see Dean Keates’ frustration at the lack of use Wilkin got out of him to wonder whether the previous gaffer got the best out of his squad, and the statistics certainly suggest Moult could be utilised more effectively.
Incredibly, in the forty-eight games that he was available for selection by Wilkin, Moult did not start fifteen times. He wasn’t picked for a third of the games Wilkin oversaw!
And that’s not all. In a further sixteen games he started but didn’t play the full match. So in total Moult only played a full ninety minutes in seventeen out of a possible forty-eight games under Wilkin!
For me, Moult and Manny Smith are the only possible choices for player of the season, yet ten players have managed more time on the pitch than Moult this season.
Sorry for being obvious, but I reckon we’ve a better chance of winning when our best striker is on the pitch. Moult has scored at the rather impressive rate of a goal every 112 minutes this season. If he’d played every minute under Wilkin and kept scoring at that rate he’d have had 39 goals by the final whistle at Wembley!
Having a twenty-goal striker doesn’t keep you in a job, but I’ll bet having one who’s heading for forty would!