The battle to be Preston North End's No.10 is a competitive one

Alex Neil is blessed with options for the No.10 role in Preston North End’s team and that offers a selection headache of the right kind.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne have both operated as the No.10 attacking midfielder in Preston's team

For much of this season Daniel Johnson has filled the advanced midfield role, playing in the space behind the striker.

For two years Alan Browne had made that role his own and has just recently slotted back in there. With Brad Potts and Josh Harrop natural fits there too, albeit both have been used in wider roles this season, there is choice aplenty for Neil.

The North End manager has been keen to stress how Johnson and Browne play the role differently.

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Daniel Johnson scores for Preston against Barnsley

Who is playing ahead of them as the striker makes a difference too.

Neil said: “This season we have played a lot with a running nine, whether that be Tom Barkhuizen, Sean Maguire, Billy Bodin or someone like that to stretch it.

“DJ then plays in the pockets of space that they leave because they have stretched the game.

“When Alan plays as a No.10 I think we need more of a focal point up front. We needed someone who can get up, win the headers, win the flick-ons and Alan can play beyond them and run down the sides.

Alan Browne finds the net in Preston's win against Huddersfield

“We saw that when we beat Huddersfield – Alan and Jayden Stockley complemented each other really well. Alan will get you double figures of goals at this level as long as you utilise him well and get people around him who will help him.”

In the second half of last season, Neil played with two No.10s in the shape of Browne and Potts in a 4-1-4-1 system.

Johnson was chosen to play the advanced role against Wigan in the second game of this season and never looked back.

In the 1-1 draw with Leeds last month, Neil moved Johnson further back and had Browne higher up the pitch to help press the Yorkshire side’s defence.

At Charlton three weeks ago, Browne played as the No.10 behind Stockley, who started for only the second time in the league this season.

Johnson limped off after half-an-hour of that 1-0 win with a foot injury which kept him out against Huddersfield.

If he is ready to resume at Derby on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how Neil chooses to arrange his midfield.

With the Rams’ trip the first of 10 games between now and January 1, they are options Neil will be glad to have.