Why Ross County should offer Liam Henderson an escape

Why Ross County should offer Liam Henderson an escape

By Graham Ruthven

Ross County were quick to take action in an attempt to arrest a disappointing start to the season. Jim McIntyre was sacked just a handful of games into the 2017/18 campaign, with Owen Coyle  swiftly appointed as his replacement. On the face of things, though, the change in management hasn’t really worked.

 

At the time of McIntyre’s sacking, the Staggies were slumped in 10th place in the Scottish Premiership. Three months later, they are now joint-bottom of the standings with just 17 points from 21 games. The Dingwall club face a fight just to stay in the top flight and the signs aren’t exactly positive.

 

So what do Ross County need when the January transfer window opens? What sort of players does Coyle need to address the imbalance in his squad? We looked at some of the numbers and figures behind their season so far and came up with some suggestions of where they should go from here.

 

 

Their problem area is…

 

The Staggies need leaders. Under Coyle, Ross County are struggling for strong characters on the field, with captain Andrew Davies suffering his injury troubles this season. Looking at specific positions, though, Coyle is lacking in a number of different areas. There are clear problems for him to solve this January.

 

At present, Ross County are the second-lowest scorers in the Scottish top flight. In terms of strikers, though, County are actually well-stocked. In Ryan Dow, Billy McKay, Craig Curran and Alex Schalk, as well as Thomas Mikkelsen, they have a number of attackers who have, on some level, proven themselves in Scotland. That’s now where their most pressing need is.

 

 

Instead, it’s behind the strikers where they are lacking. Ross Draper was seen as something of a marquee signing during the summer, but the former Inverness CT man is averaging just 0.1 through balls and 0.2 key passes per game. It could be argued, of course, that creativity isn’t really Draper’s game, but his struggles are reflective of a wider trend.

 

Davis Keillor-Dunn has made himself a starter in Dingwall this season, but he is only averaging 0.7 through balls and 0.3 key passes per appearance. Michael Gardyne is County’s most reliable threat from midfield, with three goals to his name so far this season, but his passing statistics don’t make for glowing reading either. While the Staggies need reinforcements in a number of areas, midfield creativity is where they must prioritise targets.

 

Who should they sign?

 

In recent years, Ross County have made a habit of overhauling their squad midway through the season. This isn’t the first time that the Staggies have found themselves battling near the foot of the league table, in desperate need of reinforcements by the time January comes around. Invariably, they look abroad, to Northern Europe and Netherlands, for those players.

 

 

But can they afford to take that risk for the umpteenth time? County need players who are proven at Scottish Premiership level, players they can count upon to hit the ground running and lift them out of trouble. The loan market could prove fruitful in this regard.

 

Liam Henderson would be a good option, but of course, Celtic have already loaned Jamie Lindsay to the Dingwall side for the season. He’s the sort of central midfielder they need to drive them forward, so perhaps County should put everything they have in to luring Henderson north. He’s out of contract at the end of the season, so it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. It would depend on whether Celtic would be willing to let him leave.

 

What the gaffer said

 

 

Coyle: “We’ve always said since we came in that there was an imbalance in the squad. It’s a bit top-heavy in certain positions but lacking numbers in others, so we will have to balance that up and make sure that we’re competitive in those areas of the squad.

 

“Equally we have to make sure it’s the right quality we’re adding and not just adding bodies for numbers’ sake, we have to bring the right quality in. It’s important to come out of it far stronger than you went into it and to do that you need the necessary quality, and if we do that there’s no doubt we will kick on.”

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