When you’re operating with a budget like Preston’s, finding that cutting edge going forward can be difficult.
Yes, North End have plucked some bargains in recent times, and a little further back. Callum Robinson and Jordan Hugill cost no more than £250,000 collectively, whilst David Nugent, Ricardo Fuller and Joe Garner didn’t break the bank either.
It’s hard to keep finding those bargains though, especially in the current market. Proven, quality attackers tend to go for big money – money that Preston often don’t have.
North End do currently have three decent strikers at Alex Neil’s disposal, but few would say we’re blessed with quality. In fact, we may be heading towards the summer transfer window with a problem up top.
Neil can pick from Seani Maguire, Louis Moult and Jayden Stockley as things stand. Stockley has been in and out of the side since his January arrival, leaving Maguire as the first-choice striker. Moult’s injury woes in 2019 have resulted in sporadic minutes of late.
However, nobody has really nailed down that starting role with impressive displays. Maguire’s movement appears to have taken a hit due to his injury hell, and he often just wants too many touches. Stockley is an aerial threat with a decent touch, and he’s found himself in the right place at the right time. He’s clearly not mobile though, and doesn’t appear to be a regular starter like Hugill was – more an option off the bench.
Moult earned a super-sub reputation earlier this season, coming off the bench to grab a couple of goals. Yet is he really a starter? He’s bulked up a little, and his link-up play is good, but he may also be better off as a substitute.
That leaves North End in a sticky situation. Can anybody say with great confidence that one is better than the other? That one should be starting regular ahead of the others? They all seem to be in a similar situation; decent, but with deficiencies meaning they can’t really be relied upon to start week in and week out.
Neil may look to bring in another striker this summer. A striker with the ability to hold the ball up, but also the mobility to run the channels or cause the odd problem in behind. Hugill wasn’t perfect, but he had that extra bit of mobility that Stockley and Moult don’t, whilst having the frame to hold play up – which Maguire struggles to do.
Yet if another striker is arriving – just months after spending £750,000 on Stockley – then surely one would leave. Four into one doesn’t go, and Stockley would be safe. Maguire is unlikely to attract huge interest due to his injury problems, which may make Moult the most likely to go.
There are some issues for Neil and co to consider this summer, and finding a reliable striker without breaking the bank has to be a key target – even if it’s bound to be difficult.