Wrexham got back to winning ways last Saturday, which was absolutely essential if we are to build some momentum as we challenge for promotion. However, it was how we went about our business which, ultimately, might prove to be as important as the result.
I’m in danger of coming down with a Repetitive Strain Injury from typing the phrase “we need to address our lack of creativity” so often! The problem in recent weeks has been that we’ve only looked threatening when we’re over-committing. Increasingly, we’re forced into such desperate measures much earlier than we would want to: at 0-0 we usually look to have a level of control, but the moment we fall behind we need to do something drastic if we’re to conjure up an equaliser.
After the fiasco at Ebbsfleet we needed to do find a less desperate way of playing which still delivered a goal threat. What we tried against Braintree felt like a potential solution to the conundrum.
Ostensibly we lined up in a 4-3-3, but the composition and movement of that front three was significantly different from what we’ve previously tried.
Stuart Beavon was the spearhead of our attack, but Chris Holroyd and Bobby Grant fulfilled the wide attacker roles in a very different manner to our usual attacking shape. Playing very narrow, they looked to get into threatening positions in the penalty area as often as they could. Indeed, when we were attacking one of them would often join Beavon as a second striker, with the other tucking into the hole behind.
There were some similarities to what Liverpool look to do, with the wide strikers expected to come narrow and score their fair share of goals. In that set up, though, Roberto Firmino is more akin to a false nine, drifting deep to drag defenders out of position and create space for the wide strikers to attack. In contrast, Beavon stayed up front, occupying the centre backs and giving the wide striker who drifted into the hole more time.
It was an attempt to get more specialist attacking players into dangerous positions with forcing matters and ending up having to take wild risks, and it worked. Grant got a goal and when Jason Oswell came on up front he went close a couple of times.
Meanwhile, Holroyd was sniffing around in the six yard box, nearly stealing Akil Wright’s goal from him and perhaps denying Oswell when he tapped a possibly goal-bound header home from an offside position! We looked threatening and could have scored more than the three we eventually managed.
The question, of course, is whether this new approach will work against better opposition. Braintree were the perfect opponents to experiment against as they were already relegated and, although they fought hard, are obviously not going to provide too stiff a test. The reluctance of their goalkeeper to attack the ball at set pieces also helped us to create opportunities.
We won’t face such obliging opponents again this season. With games running out, today’s match is a crucial opportunity to gauge if Hughes really has solved the creativity conundrum.