Alex Neil on why No.10 role is so crucial to Preston North End’s play
Alex Neil has been discussing selection dilemmas in the ‘No.10’ position at PNE.
The midfield area is arguable the strongest in the North End squad, with the ‘10’ role, although more advanced, being a part of that.
It is the most important position in Neil’s trusted 4-2-3-1 system, expected to do anything from starting the press and shutting down opposition play through the centre, to making lung-bursting runs in behind.
The obvious candidates for the role are Daniel Johnson, Josh Harrrop and Alan Browne.
Johnson has been in that role almost exclusively since bursting back into the team way back against Wigan at the start of the season.
Harrop, who is also used on the left, has also shone of late in his more favoured central role.
And Alan Browne, who won player of the year at Deepdale last season, uses his energy and industry in a more advanced position.
For Neil, it is less about the individual choice at No.10 and more about how that would affect others in his system.
He said: “That’s why we’ve spoken about combinations, it folds into, who is the forward player, who are the wide players and do they complement each other?
“For instance against Wigan on Saturday, we needed a lot of long and short movements. There is no point everyone coming short to the ball and no one prepared to run, and vice versa.
“There is no point in everybody running and no one being prepared to drop short to get on to the ball. It’s about getting the combinations.
“Sean likes to make little darts down the sides, DJ is one of the best we’ve got in terms of sliding the little balls through.
“It’s been missing when he’s not been playing, there’s no question about that.”
When it comes to Johnson –, who missed seven weeks before returning against Swansea – and the other influential players in the PNE squad, Alex Neil says they are priceless.
“For the goals and assists that he’s got for us, then naturally if you take someone who has churned those numbers out of the team, you’re going to suffer,” said Neil.
“If I went to any team and sai, ‘ I’m going to take him and him out’, it instantly changes.
“Those players are so sought after in this league because they influence games, that’s their biggest trait. Influential players, you can’t put a price on for your own team because they’re so important.”