Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Polworth dilemma

Caley Thistle had every reason to be confident going into this weekend’s fixture against Hamilton Accies. With seven wins in eight in this fixture away from home, Inverness hoped to build on last week’s systematic demolition of Dundee but instead had to settle for a barely deserved point as Liam Polworth struck right at the death to cancel out the opener from D’Acol.

Hamilton have opened the scoring in seven of their league games so far this campaign but have struggled to hold on to those leads winning just one of the games they take the lead in coming against Ross County. It was a familiar tale for the home supporters as they failed to take advantage of an out of sorts Inverness who bagged another late goal, their fourth already this season in the last fifteen minutes, to extend their unbeaten run to five games.

Richie Foran's team selection was a puzzler.  Last week, ICT had turned in their best performance of the season, so most expected an unchanged lineup, with Polworth, who scored against Dundee, continuing in a central role where he could greatly influence the game.  The midfielder has played a number of matches in recent months wide on the right, where he looks far less comfortable.

Instead, Polworth was shunted out wide again to accommodate the returning Iain Vigurs.  It was no surprise that the former struggled to get into the game to the same effect as he had done the previous week.  It spoke volumes that when Polworth did find himself playing more through the middle in the latter stages of the match he was much more effective and grabbed a late goal.  Interestingly, the tactical switch that allowed this was the substitution of Greg Tansey, usually the man Caley Thistle turn to for finesse in the centre of the pitch.

It’s now crystal clear where Polworth is most effective - in the centre of the pitch playing either just behind the striker or in a holding midfield two.  Playing him out wide tends to result in him having less influence on a game.  Inverness do have natural wide players in Jake Mulraney and Billy King, but both are weak defensively; this may be why Polworth is used in this role.  In addition, Foran is clearly trying to shoehorn four central midfielders - Polworth, Tansey, Vigurs and Ross Draper - into the team.

Whilst this might be an approach that’s worth adopting against the likes of Celtic or Aberdeen, for more winnable games Foran should be gambling on his wingers, playing Polworth where he is at his best, and leave Vigurs (or, on recent form, Tansey!) on the bench.

Andrew Sutherland (AS) is our Caley Thistle Correspondent.  He would never miss an ICT match unless he was offered a date with the lead singer of CHVRCHES...who he would then take to said ICT match.  He occasionally writes for When Saturday Comes.

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