Bristol news Rovers' early-season issues in front of goal are not down to a striker shortage MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - Yes, the onus is on strikers to create and score chances, but Bristol Rovers have hardly been guilty of profligacy in front of goal against Sunderland or Ipswich Town
Breaking News ! Bristol Rovers’ attacking options have been the primary cause for concern among supporters over the past week following a tepid display which resulted in defeat against Ipswich Town. Jonson Clarke-Harris’ departure has left the club without an established goalscorer, and while the signing of Brandon Hanlan has boosted Ben Garner’s resources Rovers still appear light going forwards. That was the case at the Mem on Saturday, but the issues facing the Rovers boss are much more nuanced just the lack of a proven goal-getter. Yes, the onus is on strikers to create and score chances, but Rovers have hardly been guilty of profligacy in front of goal so far this season – which has seen two defeats and two draws in all competitions. Read More Related Articles Bristol Rovers' Chelsea loans – Where are they now as McCormick becomes next starlet loaned to Gas? Chances haven’t gone begging, sitters haven’t been spurned. Instead, the primary issue for the Gas has been their stodgy play in possession and difficulties advancing the ball through the thirds of the pitch and get into dangerous areas to create chances. Against Ipswich, Rovers formed 30 attacks, leading to just three shots and they mustered an expected goals (xG) score of just 0.38. And if the Luke Leahy penalty scored at Sunderland is subtracted from that game, the Gas are left with an xG of 0.59 from 180 minutes of League One action. So the claims that the strikers – Hanlan, Jonah Ayunga and James Daly – are not good enough are premature. They haven’t had the chance to prove themselves. The counter argument is they could do more to forge chances from themselves, but the service has been poor. Saturday’s pass accuracy was a below-par 71 per cent, and the balls played into the final third in particular lacked precision with just 59 per cent finding a blue and white quartered shirt. Read More Related Articles 'Technically excellent' – The Bristol Rovers youngsters to keep an eye on in the years to come Read More Related Articles 'Can make things happen' – Closer look at Chelsea's Luke McCormick after loan move to Bristol Rovers The attacking display across the board was limp. Zero counter attacks mounted and only two smart passes attempted compared to 14 from Ipswich, who pounced on a pair of late defensive errors to win 2-0. Flair players crucial to Garner’s gameplan did not link with each other enough. Zain Westbrooke, playing in tandem with Jayden Mitchell-Lawson behind Hanlan on Saturday, played just one pass to the Derby County loanee on Saturday. Only three were sent in the opposite direction – nothing like the dynamism the manager wants to see. One explanation for Rovers’ struggles going forward is the wing-backs – Mark Little and Leahy – who ironically have been among the best performers in the opening league games through their defensive efforts. In the 3-4-2-1 setup, the pairs of holding and attacking midfielders are stationed in a narrow box which should shuffle up, down and across the park in unison, placing huge importance on the wing-backs being the attacking threats out wide. Bristol Rovers manager Ben Garner. (Image: Dougie Allward/JMP) But Rovers mustered 11 attacks down the right flank on Saturday which accounted for an xG total of <0.01. Simply put it would take more than 100 games, on average, for those 11 attacks to deliver a goal, and it was a similar tale down the left-hand side the week previously.
. The result was Rovers were playing in more of a back five than a back three for much of the game – the absolute opposite to the manager’s desired outcome. He wants his side to be the one penning other teams in their own half. And with Sam Nicholson injured they were lacking one of their speedier players on the break who could alter the pattern of the game.
The average position of Bristol Rovers and Ipswich's players, showing a higher average position for the visitors' full-backs compared to Rovers' wing-backs.
With Ipswich gradually creeping further and further up the pitch as the game wore on, Rovers’ passing options – and their composure on the ball – ceded. Hanlan was left isolated and fed a diet of imprecise long balls he could do little with. Even then it took an own goal to break the game open, but the match was trending in one direction from the hour mark. This is not to discredit Leahy or Little. The former is normally more comfortable on the front foot and his attacking influence should grow as the games go by and the players’ comfort in this new system increases. And Little might merit a place in the back three on current form. But the absence of Alex Rodman, a player with naturally attacking instincts, at right-wing-back is telling, and Garner appears cautious to play Josh Hare – who is still feeling his way back after a serious knee injury.
Alex Rodman of Bristol Rovers
(Image: Ryan Hiscott/JMP)
Rodman is suffering with bouts of vertigo after an ear infection, which has derailed his training schedule, but his return can’t come soon enough for Garner. His willingness to both relish possession of the ball and get forward to deliver crosses could be key to unlocking more fluency from Rovers in possession. But the fact remains the Pirates need to make use of the last weeks of the transfer window. They’ve played four competitive games now and the most glaring flaw is the lack of chances created and finished. The manager is aware of that, and had hoped to make a surprise move for Bristol City winger Hakeeb Adelakun. He met Garner on Wednesday, but favoured a move to Hull City which was confirmed on Thursday afternoon. Rovers will now move on to other targets. But it is important to remember that while Saturday’s game was a tough watch, Rovers have played two of the division’s favourites for the title and come away with a point – a tally many would have realistically predicted and, deep down, accepted.
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Performances must improve, but kinder games await beyond this weekend’s trip to Doncaster Rovers and there are some causes for optimism. Anssi Jaakkola has seamlessly returned from injury and maintained his high standards from last season, Cian Harries has answered questions about his physicality and defensive instincts and the defence as a whole has been much improved – baring Max Ehmer’s own goal and an unfortunate slip on Saturday – since the rickety outings in the cup games which started the season.
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The verdict from the dressing room after the game on Saturday was the work on the training ground has been excellent and before long Rovers’ bright young talents will come good. Gasheads do have patience, but it is wearing thin.
Source = MetiNews.Com