Frankie McAvoy has entered uncharted territory in recent weeks, taking charge of a club for the first time in his coaching career.
The Scot has spent most of his career working with Alex Neil, and following him to Preston in 2017 as a first-team coach. Now, he finds himself in the hot seat.
McAvoy is serving as Preston’s interim head coach following the departure of Neil, and has picked up four points in two tough games against Norwich City and Swansea City.
We’ve seen a very different approach so far. Neil stuck almost rigidly to playing one up front, but McAvoy has gone with two strikers in both of his games in charge so far.
We saw a midfield diamond against Norwich before going to a 3-4-1-2 at Swansea, with McAvoy not afraid to stamp his own authority on the team after years of working in the background.
There has been an emphasis on getting the ball into the box for two strikers to attack, and we have seen one particular weapon that was rarely used under Neil.
Tom Barkhuizen possesses a pretty long throw-in, and McAvoy has decided to use that to his advantage. Barkhuizen has started both of McAvoy’s games, and his throw-in ability may have played a part in his selection.
Neil only really went to the long throws when chasing a late goal, but this has been a staple of McAvoy’s approach from the first whistle, giving the opposition something to defend against a host of bodies in the middle.
Against Swansea, it paid off. Barkhuizen hurled a long throw into the box, Swansea couldn’t clear their lines, the ball ricocheted through to Scott Sinclair, and his effort found its way into the net.
Long throws are always associated with Tony Pulis and a rather attritional brand of football, but after North End became a little too reactive under Neil, credit must go to McAvoy for being proactive and looking to utilise Barkhuizen’s long throws from the first whistle.