TAKING A PUNT TAKING A PUNT

TAKING A PUNT

In another of his weekly columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at Walsall's Liverpool loanee Michael Ngoo, and considers whether we've got him all wrong.
In another of his weekly columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at Walsall's Liverpool loanee Michael Ngoo, and considers whether we've got him all wrong;

A frustrating display last weekend was typified by Michael Ngoo. The man on loan from Liverpool struggled to make any sort of impact on the game before being taken off on the hour mark. However though the striker’s home debut was poor, it was the complete change of tack by the Saddlers that was a bigger concern.

Having not been at the Peterborough game I didn't really know what to expect from Ngoo. It is probably fair to say that Dean Smith would have given him another go regardless of how he played on what was an atrocious London Road pitch, where Deano couldn't really get the measure of his new recruit.

Having someone who is 6ft 6in up front inevitably tempts players into the long ball over the top, and this seemed to be the case against Crawley. Walsall looked to have forgotten about their passing philosophy, floating balls up to Ngoo in the hope that the big striker could hold up play. The possession-style game was not flowing and it looked like the Walsall from two or three years ago.

This might be a strange idea for someone of his height, but in my opinion Ngoo isn’t great as a target man. Every time he tried to bring down the ball it would ping off in some direction like his chest was made of granite. Everyone looks at Ngoo and assumes this is the type of player he is, and I think the Saddlers players are guilty of the same thing.

The forward actually seems a lot more comfortable with the ball at his feet. When he did get it on the deck Ngoo tried to take on players and showed promising signs. He also has blistering pace when he gets into full stride with those long limbs, which took me by surprise.

It was very noticeable when Ngoo left the pitch when Romaine Sawyers replaced him. The team suddenly started to pass the ball around again. It wasn't as if Walsall conceded possession every time because of Ngoo, they just played it around with more confidence almost as soon as he was substituted. Sam Mantom for example could not pass the ball straight in the first 60 minutes, and was suddenly doing so with pinpoint accuracy late on.

It must be a mind-set of the players: that is the only explanation. If they try to play the same game no matter which striker is on the field then it will probably give them more joy because this is the way the whole squad wants to play. I hope for Ngoo’s sake that he is not frozen into the ‘last-minute-sub’ role after his Crawley display. There is certainly a better player underneath the poor performances we have seen so far.


By: Scott Brotherton
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