The club today announced the free transfer signing of Scottish International Steven Naismith on a 4 year deal from Glasgow Rangers. This post will take a look at what the new boy will bring to the table and analyse the pros and cons of the move…..
1. Where will he be deployed?
Naismith is an ideal Moyes purchase given his versatility and capability to be deployed into various roles. Many will envisage him partnering Jelavic upfront and whilst he is comfortable either playing through the middle or as a second striker, Fellaini’s impact in the advanced role during last season’s run in would indicate the Belgian occupying this role when the new season is upon us. More likely is Naismith filling in on the flanks and specifically our problem right side– a void we have tried and failed to fill in the recent seasons. The below image shows how I think our forward 4 (should Pienaar sign) will shape up in a 4-4-1-1 /4-2-3-1 with Naismith starting right side and then attacking the space created by Fellaini.
We predominantly attack down the left and with Naismith’s quality in the air he will be looking to come off the flank and get on the end of crosses – something he is more than capable of doing against the best in the world as he showed here against Spain. Naismith has also featured on the left flank for club and country and at Rangers he has been used as a central midfielder. He certainly has the tactical acumen and team ethic to comfortably occupy any of the forward /midfield berths.
Naismith already has a decent playing relationship with our top striker Nikica Jelavic from their time together at Ibrox. These images show the duo in action against Dunfermline with Jela (circled yellow) and Naismith (blue) showing intelligent movement as a duo to switch roles with Naismith’s favoured move from the right channel inside complimented nicely by Jelavic dragging his marker into the right channel to create the space for his colleague.
Naismith is also a good creator and averages an assist every 8 games, teeing up 5 of Jelavic’s 36 goals for the Gers.
3. Goalscoring Record
Naismith has a 1 in 3 goals to games ratio, although as noted in the earlier points he has often been used in midfield roles and in teams managed by Walter Smith where goals are often a rare commodity. Before injury curtailed his last campaign he hit 10 goals for club and country; 5 on his preferred right foot, 3 headers and 2 with his less potent left.
4. Winning Fouls
Naismith is more than willing to ‘put in a shift’ – a basic requisite of any player courted by Moyes. He is prepared to do the hard work off the ball and work the channels and run selflessly for the cause and battle for every ball. Winning free kicks in and around the opposition’s 18 yard line is a crucial factor in enabling teams like ourselves to relieve pressure on the back four and move from the defence to offensive stages of play . In 2010/11 Naismith was surprisingly the most fouled player in the Champions League and over his career averages 1.8 fouls won per game which is top 10 territory for fouls won per player in the premier league.
Cruciate injuries can be extremely difficult to recover from and Naismith has suffered from 2 in 5 seasons. Players like Arteta and Jagielka have successfully recovered from this type of injury for us in recent times but to come back from two is more tricky – just look at Micheal Essien who at 30 looks a spent force. Hopefully at 26, Naismith is young enough to fully recover and the complex medical process prior to his switch to L4 would mitigate such risk and also indicate that the bloke who delivered Danny Williamson’s medical is no longer on the club’s payroll.
This is a low risk acquisition for the club and Naismith will bring much needed versatility and a cutting edge in the final third. He appears a level headed grafter who is willing to earn his corn, supplemented with decent ability / big game experience and these qualities should make his transition from ibrox to goodison a fluid one.