Preston have been stacked in midfield for a number of years now. It’s arguably been the strongest area of the squad in the past with players like Ben Pearson and Paul Gallagher being mainstays for numerous years.
It has been freshened up recently though and the arrival of Ali McCann from St Johnstone gives Frankie McAvoy another option in the middle of the park.
With most formations you end up playing three central midfielders. A six and an eight playing deeper than the number 10. Ali McCann falls into the six or eight category – someone who can play box to box and roam around the pitch making tackles and spraying the ball about.
Currently, Ryan Ledson and Ben Whiteman play those roles. It may mean one of them has to make way for the new signing.
Of course there is always plenty of rotation in a long Championship season but Ledson or Whiteman may find themselves missing out over the next few weeks. A decent fee was paid for McCann so you would expect him to be playing a lot of the time.
However you would have thought that with Tom Bayliss too and two years later after a handful of games he’s now on loan to Wigan Athletic. McCann looks to be a player that can have an impact straight away though.
The number 10 role, for the time being at least, is Daniel Johnson’s to lose. He’s had a decent start to the season and has been captaining the side as well.
Club captain Alan Browne faces a struggle to get back into the side. Capable of playing in any of the midfield roles, Browne now has some serious competition to deal with. Of course, he could play as a right back as well.
For tough away games Frankie may play a more defensive midfield three without a natural number 10. Alex Neil always favoured Brad Potts for those type of games.
The younger trio of Lewis Leigh, Adam O’Reilly and Jack Baxter will likely have to settle for reserve football for now.
Overall, McAvoy faces a fine balancing act on his hands to keep all the midfielders in the squad happy.