2020/21 SQUAD GOALS | Part 4: Up top

To wrap up the series, let’s take a look at the all important currency of football: goals – and where ours are going to come from in 2020/21.

What we’ve got

Adebayo AkinfenwaAlex SamuelDavid WheelerScott KashketFred OnyedinmaJosh Parker
Wycombe apps1525131765913
Championship apps0090445

What we need

Anyone who says they’re not excited about the prospect of Adebayo Akinfenwa mixing it up in the Championship is telling porkies – but 2020/21 will almost certainly be the season when he finally becomes a super sub and starts only the odd game. Alex Samuel, meanwhile, as we know, just isn’t a natural goal-scorer – his value to the cause will remain in his indefatigable pressing and intrepid hold-up play. Unless he miraculously does a Stuart Beavon*, that is. The centre-forward load may continue to be shared as we’ve become accustomed to, but, bluntly, we need someone who’s going to just stick it in the net – obvious but vital.

*six goals in his first 70 league appearances for Wycombe then, out of nowhere, 22 in his next 46 🤷

During the 2019/20 regular season, we scored 36 non-penalty goals from a non-penalty expected goals (NPxG) of 37.02 – in other words, our finishing was a tad below expectation for the quality of chances created – a league-high 47% (17) of them from set-pieces**. Even for the Championship’s 2019/20 set-piece kings, Millwall, set-piece goals only accounted for 38% of their non-penalty total. In fact, there were almost half as many set-piece goals per game in the Championship last season as there were in League One. The average proportion of goals from set-pieces by a team in each division may be more or less identical (25% in League One, 27% in the Championship), but as a side finding our way in a new division up against much higher calibre defenders, can we realistically depend so heavily on dead ball situations? It’s going to be tough. As such, we have to give ourselves more of an outlet from open play. A clinical, hard-working striker with solid aerial ability (we’ll still play direct, just with tweaks) who can initiate the press should be one of our top priorities.

**We also benefitted from a league-high ten penalties, scoring nine – without which we would have been ten points worse off.

Tweaks to the midfield may allow us to create more chances from open play, but we’re still not going to be posting earth-shattering xG figures. Luton, who tore apart many an opponent on their way to the League One title in 2018/19, ended their first campaign back in the second tier with an xG of 0.95/game – the only team in the division to post a figure below 1. There were a number of perfectly valid reasons for that – a new manager trying to instil his philosophy, a spate of midfield injuries, players who’d risen from League Two to the Championship in such a short space of time – but the point is it’s going to be bloody tough for us and chances will be at a premium. We need the right personnel to convert often lower quality chances under pressure.

I haven’t touched on the wide options mainly because, frankly, we shouldn’t have any qualms about David Wheeler and Fred Onyedinma cutting it in the Championship. Both have played there before, of course, but they’re part of the most special of environments now – this time, with Wycombe, it will be different. They’ll keep their respective places on the right and left of the front three. As for Scott Kashket, you’d be confident of him chipping in with the odd goal, but he’s not physically equipped for that central role in our predominant system – not to mention he’s far more of a nuisance cutting in from the right anyway. Add an energetic full-back bamboozler like Paul Smyth – another who you wouldn’t be too surprised to see make a reappearance – and we should have ample in our arsenal in that respect.

Header photo: Ben Prior

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