When Ben Tollitt got injured last season, you couldn’t help but fear it would really hurt us. And it did. Along with injuries to the likes of Wallace, Kirby and Harris, we lost the heart of the team. However, are we really setup for Ben’s return?
Obviously, let’s get one thing out in the open from the start. I cannot wait to see Ben Tollitt back in a Tranmere shirt. He’s exciting, fearless, quick, creative and skilful. Everything we have a severe lack of.
But I’m worried. My concerns go further than fearing the sheer amount of pressure that is likely to be on this young man’s shoulders. That’s another problem all together.
No, my problem is the system. When Tollitt and Dunn (or other) played on either wing for a last season, we looked lethal. Regardless of end product from either, we had two players with tricks and pace in wide positions that opposition full-backs were frankly petrified of.
If they doubled up on the wingers, they were going to leave the likes of Stockton, Norwood, Harris, Cook or Connor Jennings in relative space elsewhere. Teams were stretched, and Rovers looked exceptional for brief periods of time.
We all know what happened next.
Fast forward to this season, and after an utterly abysmal start to the new campaign, Rovers have lined up in many games with that 5-3-2/3-5-2 formation. It lacks wingers – of any description. Yes, we went 4-4-2 from the start against Wrexham, but this should have surely come earlier?
When Tollitt returns, except from that Wrexham game, he would have been coming in to a team that was not using wingers. A team used to playing narrow.
To get the best out of him, we’d have to go back to 4-4-2 (probably), which is fine, however we have not been playing this system. So, has Micky always been planning on reverting to a 4-4-2 in the lead-up to his return, or was it always the intention to play the narrower 5-3-2 and then make a huge switch when Tollitt was fit?
It makes no sense, either way.
Surely to give Ben the best chance of hitting the ground running, we need to have been playing with wingers from day one so he can be integrated in to a team playing to his strengths already. A team used to getting the ball out wide and playing at pace.
Mellon knew in the summer that Tollitt would not be available for a few months, so this should have been addressed with a loan signing.
We have Dunn, Rokka and Dawson; clearly Mellon is not confident any of these three can produce displays out wide. In fact, save for the odd game for Dunn, the other two have practically not featured at all.
Dawson has now gone out on loan, which may help him as well Tranmere, but you cannot help but suspect that should he be successful at Darlington, then the move will become a permanent one.
Norwood and Jennings have both played out wide during their careers. Given the lack of goals up top, I’d have been tempted to play those guys in wide positions if we needed to just so we have a system that will play to our strengths when Ben is back.
Whatever happens, this game against Chester cannot come soon enough. Not for the fact it’s a derby match, but simply because we need our most offensive player available again.
I’m sure the frontmen will be equally keen to see Ben back on the team sheet.