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.
For a side which prides itself on its passing football, it’s perhaps surprising to see how much of our creativity stems from our back four.
Gary Mills may well have brought in some entertaining ball players but they certainly aren’t the only source of our substantial attacking threat.
Two goals in ten games is a decent return if you’re not an out-and-out striker. It’s particularly impressive if you’re a full back. Sean Newton seems to be living up to his pre-season promise.
He announced on arrival at The Racecourse that he’d look to provide goals and assists and he’s got off to a sound start. Throw in the one assist he’s managed so far and he’s been at the sharp end of a goal just over every three games.
And yet Wrexham will hope for more. Mills’ side is set up to encourage overlapping from the full backs, so he’ll no doubt hope that the total of two assists he’s got from his full backs thus far this season will increase as the campaign wears on.
Indeed, a study of the statistics reveals that our goals are coming from quite surprising places at the moment. There will be no great surprise to see who our two leading providers of assists are.
Connor Jennings has been playing as a striker until this season, and his successful conversion into a midfielder has allowed him to get into positions which play to his strengths. He is at his most dangerous when facing goal, running towards the edge of the area so he can either let off a shot or lay the ball off, rather than battle with his back to goal or cut in from the flank as he has had to previously.
Jennings has four assists, and Dominic Vose is one behind him, as you would hope from a player whose bewitching ability to create threatens to make him a cult hero already.
However, it’s much less expected to see how many goals have been set up by our defenders.
Manny Smith has a couple, Jamal Fyfield has one as well and even Cameron Belford chipped in with that injury time long ball to set up Adam Smith at Kidderminster.
That means nearly a third of our goals this season have been created by our defence. They’ve chipped in with five of our goals this season as well, so should we be surprised by this?
I suppose not. Blaine Hudson and Manny Smith often look threatening from set pieces, and our possession-based game allows time for our full backs to get forward and support their forwards. Indeed, when a mesmerised defence is driven back by our passing, it even allows our centre backs to get forward. Hudson illustrated this rather entertainingly against Altrincham last Saturday with his casual strolls deep into the opposition half.
I remember Denis Smith criticising his defenders for not chipping in with enough goals. It seems that Gary Mills’ defenders take that responsibility very seriously.