The transfer window gameplan that Preston North End need


Any Preston North End fan that has woken up this morning and checked one of their social media pages will have wished they had stayed in bed.

A quick browse through the PNE hashtag on Twitter or the relevant pages on Facebook this morning has revealed a dire situation for the Lilywhites at the beginning of this transfer window. For starters, Cameron Archer will not be making his triumphant return to Deepdale, complete with lap of honour and red carpet. Instead, the Aston Villa man will be heading to Middlesbrough until the summer and will be doing their play-off hopes the world of good instead.

It seemed the youngster’s heart was in it with Preston when, in truth, it seems Boro are a more attractive proposition for the player. You couldn’t blame Archer, especially with the side in such good form and highly likely to be in the promotion hunt under Michael Carrick. Still, the blow of missing out is a sickener nonetheless, with many feeling PNE are just a forward away from something more.

To make things even worse, one of our main striking options in Emil Riis appears to be sidelined for a while. The Dane hasn’t been in the best form as of late – he has only five efforts this campaign – but he was playing superbly against Stoke until he was forced off the field. It appears his injury might be fairly serious, meaning we’ve just got a whole lot weaker in attack.

So, what now for North End? What does the gameplan need to be?

The issue is that we cannot afford to have a repeat of past windows. Anyone who has followed Preston for even the last couple of seasons has seen a familiar pattern emerge. North End appear to be a few signings away from a real push towards the top end of the table but a reluctance to splash the cash and a lack of shrewd moves sees them fall by the wayside. Last January saw the signing of Archer which was excellent but there was a real feel that perhaps another wing-back of centre-back was needed. Instead, the only other addition was Bambo Diaby on a free transfer and North End had to settle for midtable again.

It always seems as though North End never quite nail down everything that they need when it comes to doing business. If the club signed a player in each position of need, at least fans could admit the side had at least ‘had a go.’ Instead though, they never quite do all the business necessary and they just cannot afford to do that this month with these latest revelations.

Firstly, North End need a striker as a matter of importance. Ched Evans may be in fine form right now but this is the same Ched Evans who had previously laboured in front of goal. Last season, he managed two in 23 in the Championship for example. That is not the goalscoring form of a striker that you want leading the line and there is no telling if or when the goals may dry up again. Troy Parrott is a top-quality player in terms of his ability on the ball, his chance creation and his movement but he just hasn’t been able to hit the back of the net. If he can break his goalscoring duck then he could be SOME of the answer but if not, we’ll struggle. Sean Maguire is a hard-worker too but that doesn’t necessarily amount to goals either.

PNE then need to add another option who has at least proven at some level they can score a hatful of goals – whether that is on loan or permanently. After some painstaking showings in front of goal, we simply cannot afford to rely on the same options – if not less – in the second half of the season or you are asking for trouble.

Secondly, a wing-back is essential. Alvaro Fernandez, Brad Potts and Robbie Brady have all performed solidly but it’s already become apparent that there is no Plan B if one of them is injured or out of form. Fernandez is pretty much the only reliable option on the left with Brady injured and away from Potts, Lowe has had to turn to Daniel Johnson, Ali McCann and Alan Browne to fill in on that right flank. Out of position, you are not going to get the same level of performance and it simply can’t continue.

Finally, a creative central or attacking midfield addition would be the icing on the cake. Daniel Johnson is either a 1/10 or a 10/10 but there have been far too many of the former rather than the latter as of late. Alan Browne is not the same as he once was either in that role and, again, Brady finds himself injured so can’t play there. Ben Woodburn can slot in there and whilst he’s proven an ability to create chances and sometimes try things, he too is not at the top of his game currently. PNE have had a lack of flair, creativity and drive far too often this season and a signing that can get fans off their seats would be a welcome addition.

It could be wishful thinking to hope for even two of these signings to be made this winter considering our budget and likely deals done elsewhere. It’s become all too familiar that PNE merely hope and pray and rely on what they have got rather than push the boat out. It seems to be rinse and repeat every season. This cannot be the case this year. A good January could make or break this season – the right additions and the play-off spots are up for grabs this year in a really open league. The wrong ones and it will be all too easy to sink down the division like a stone.

Over to you Peter and Ryan.

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