As the season’s kick off nears and with the closure of the transfer deadline a little more than a fortnight away, Preston North End’s attacking options are under scrutiny.
Primarily that is because of the sale of Callum Robinson which has taken a dozen goals out of the equation, if we are to use the 2018/19 campaign as a measure.
Of PNE’s 67 goals in the Championship last term, 12 came from Robinson’s boots and head – he got another in the League Cup.
A fair chunk to replace then, although the goals were rather spread around the squad.
Alan Browne got the same number as Robinson in the league but the next highest tally in Championship action was six – Tom Barkhuizen, Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson scoring half-a-dozen apiece.
Gallagher’s haul included three penalties and Johnson netted twice from the spot in league games – no bad thing to have good penalty takers, let’s make that clear.
Next in the list came Jayden Stockley and Louis Moult with four each, Sean Maguire and left-back Andrew Hughes both got three.
It appears that PN E want to replace Robinson like-for-like in terms of a player who can play wide of the main striker and can drift inside.
David Nugent has come in to provide another option down the middle, competing with Maguire, Stockley and Moult.
Maguire and Moult both had injury-hit seasons last time around, with Stockley showing lots of promise after arriving in January.
Alex Neil tends to favour a 4-2-3-1 system or a variation on that – he used a 4-1-4-1 to good effect for much of the 12-game unbeaten run from January to March.
Only rarely has he resorted to a 4-4-2, with his preference for support to the main striker to come from wide and the No.10 position.
Hence the current search for another Robinson-type to play a bit wider.
North End do have some decent options for the wings in Barkhuizen, Billy Bodin and Josh Ginnelly.
Josh Harrop has also been used at times in pre-season in the wider role cutting in.
Bodin has to date been the shining light of pre-season with his performances on the right-hand side of the attack.
After missing the whole of the last season, an element of care will have to be taken with him, so too Harrop.
What the next fortnight brings will be interesting.