9 of the top 10 transfers in football history have been paid for either playmaker or strikers. Whilst a team can be drilled into defending and stopping the opposition, in the final third the extra money is paid for players who have something natural; either the vision to play a slide rule pass or the composure and ability to score. In the summer our continued lack of finance led David Moyes to turn to free agent Jermaine Beckford to boost our striking options at the club. This article will examine the impact he has made this season both individually and in comparison to the club’s other forwards. We will look at his strengths and also analyse the areas of his game which are still very much a work in progress for the speedy forward….
This campaign Beckford has scored 8 goals from the 13 games he has started, albeit there has been a lot of sub appearances on top of that figure. During the times when he hasn’t been finding the net his confidence has not been affected and he has a real appetite for hitting the ball early, as shown by his blockbusting volley against Blackpool this season. The below stats show his goalscoring record and shot completion stats in comparison to our other forwards currently at the club….
Throughout his career he has averaged a 1 in 2 ratio, albeit in the lower leagues. The campaign started slowly for him, failing to register a league goal until November. There are clear signs though that he is finding his feet and has now racked up goals on a regular basis since the turn of year . I think Moyes would have set a target in his mind of between 10-12 goals so this is well within reach.
His partnership with Saha also looks promising. In the 5 games they have started since the turn of the year the Blues have won 4 and drawn one, and looked much more penetrative in behind opposition defences.
“What will be different for him is other parts of his game which will be required in the Premier League. Can he link us up, hold the ball up and help us out in other situations?”
David Moyes, July 2010
This is an area in which Beckford has a great deal of ability, both inside and outside the box. His 8 goals are below loaded onto a chalkboard, all of which coming from inside the box where he really comes alive.
Moyes has been very complimentary about Beckford’s movement in the press:
“His movement is as good as anyone I’ve seen, and it’s the best of any of our strikers. His movement outside the box is good too. his movement in the box is as good as I have seen from a lot of the best. He can lose defenders and go one way and then the other. He is fantastic at that.”
David Moyes, Feb 2011
A classic Beckford goal for Leeds angling a run from left to right to finish with his right
Hold up/link up play
This is for me the biggest weakness in his overall game. He struggled particularly early on this campaign when he was the lone striker, his stats against Villa for instance where he only won 2 out of 7 tackles and 4/5 of his aerial challenges showed that the ball wasn’t sticking. His pass completion rate of 64% is decent for a Premier League Striker in terms of linking up the play, but not spectacular. Alongside Saha however, who has the capability to hold the ball up as a targetman, Beckford is able to play in a role he is more accustomed , making runs around Saha for the ball. David Moyes said as much after the derby game in which the ball repeatedly didn’t stick with Anichebe and Beckford upfront.
Beckford chalkboard for challenges vs Aston Villa, Sept 2010 – blue are those won, red are those lost
Beckford has certainly brought something to the table for the Blues this season. Our goal per game ratio with Saha and Beckford starting together in games since the turn of the year has been 2.4 (season average 1.5). With Cahill & Yakubu up top we where strong in terms of hold up play an aerially but extremely limited in terms of getting in behind defences which requires pace and movement. Beckford has this in abundance and whilst he has a lot to learn in terms of hold up play and as a link man, you cannot doubt that he brings us something we have been clearly lacking since the exit of Andy Johnson in 2008.