An overview of our 13th (!) signing of the summer/autumn
|Length of loan||3 months|
|Position||Right centre-back / box-to-box midfielder|
|Former clubs||Leicester (parent club), Peterborough (loan)|
|Professional appearances (goals)||44 (5)*|
For Saturday’s loss at Luton, we were actually missing eight players: the five we knew about (Ryan Tafazolli, Dom Gape, Alex Pattison, Uche Ikpeazu and Adebayo Akinfenwa) and the three we still needed to complete our squad. Two days later, the first of the latter arrived: Championship-ready right-sided centre-back cover (the other key needs are a left-back and a creative midfielder). Josh Knight fills the gap between Anthony Stewart and the still-developing Giles Phillips and Andre Burley. With centre-backs playing on their strong side so crucial to ball progression – fundamentally because it gives you a more effective set of passing options from the back – and our apparent shift towards a slightly less direct approach, we couldn’t afford to be without two possible starters in both spots.
He was deployed almost exclusively in a box-to-box capacity on the right of a diamond on loan at Peterborough last season, but Knight is a centre-back by trade and has played the majority of his Premier League 2 (U23 level) games for Leicester there. This will be his first taste of Championship football, but he arrives after impressing for a Posh outfit that fell just short of the League One play-offs. It’s the logical next step.
Gareth Ainsworth has billed Knight as “another option in defence”, but that’s not to say he’s come in as mere cover; his versatility could open up new tactical possibilities. Three at the back would have been possible before, but it would have involved using all three of our senior centre-backs – hardly ideal. Now we’ve got four, there’s a bit more wriggle room. We still need someone capable of playing left wing-back, it won’t become the default, and such a comparatively complex system can’t be coached overnight, but the prospect of a 3-4-1-2 with Gape and Dennis Adeniran between the wing-backs, Daryl Horgan as a 10, and any one of numerous front two combinations is an intriguing one at least.
While he takes the Wycombe six-foot club up to ten members, the numbers suggest that Knight isn’t outstandingly strong aerially. He ranked above average among League One midfielders last season, winning 53% of his aerial duels – the same as Darius Charles (also six-foot) but slightly less than Gape (5’9”) and Curtis Thompson (5’8”), who won 56% and 59% respectively and contested close to the same amount as their new team-mate. So he can hold his own, but he’s unlikely to dominate those battles. Tall ≠ great in the air, as is often assumed.
If our new number 12 does get on the scoresheet, it’s less likely to be with a header and more likely to be from a surging run from midfield or lashing in a loose ball from a corner. He scored three times for Peterborough, twice with drilled strikes from the right-hand side of the box – one of which came in the 3-3 draw at Adams Park (0:26 below) – and once to round off a counter-attacking move. He averaged a shot every 180 minutes in 2019/20 (nine shots in total) but was efficient, finding the net with three of his five shots on target.
You always want a utility man or two in the squad and Knight, who can also play at right-back or in a holding midfield role, joins David Wheeler as probably our most adaptable player. As the games start coming thick and fast, that could prove priceless. This one’s got the makings of another very shrewd move from Gaz and co.