Los­ing one player can be so cru­cial...

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY - Gra­ham West­ley EX­CLU­SIVE COL­UMN

DUR­ING last sea­son, my Peterborough United team rock­eted up the League One ta­ble, pro­duc­ing cham­pi­onship-win­ning form, with Conor Wash­ing­ton and his goals play­ing a piv­otal role.

Fol­low­ing his multi-mil­lion pound sale to QPR in Jan­uary, our form slipped back.

In the end, the sale prob­a­bly cost me my job as our win record dropped and I won just four of my last eight games.

Now there are al­ways voices that will have you be­lieve that one player ‘shouldn’t make that much dif­fer­ence’.

There can be sub­stance to that ar­gu­ment and there are ex­am­ples to quote; Spurs had lost Harry Kane un­til yes­ter­day and have won four on the bounce with­out him in the start­ing eleven.

Sub­lime

But the flip side of that can also be true. Liver­pool have won 2.1 points per game in the Premier League with Sa­dio Mane this sea­son and just 0.5 points per game with­out him. They have scored 2.3 goals per game with him; 1.3 per game with­out him.

My per­sonal view is that cer­tain play­ers do and will al­ways have a dis­pro­por­tion­ate ef­fect on their team.

Conor Wash­ing­ton had blis­ter­ing pace and sub­lime read­ing/tim­ing when run­ning in be­hind. He forced de­fend­ers onto the back foot and gave our mid­field quar­tet of Chris For­rester, Jer­maine An­der­son, Jon Tay­lor and Erhun Oz­tumer the space in which to pass, ro­tate and drive holes into op­po­si­tion de­fences.

Cen­tre-halves pulled full­backs in to pro­tect chan­nels, en­abling Michael Smith and Cal­lum El­der to ex­ploit the wide ar­eas. With­out Conor, de­fences were more com­fort­able to play high, press our pass­ing and stifle our move­ment.

At Spurs, Vin­cent Jansen is not con­vert­ing chances like Kane, but he still plays up against de­fend­ers, links the game sim­i­larly and en­ables Son He­ung-min, Dele Alli and Chris­tian Erik­sen to con­tinue to cause their prob­lems from those in­side pock­ets and score their goals whilst the full­backs pro­vide the width.

Look­ing at Liver­pool, you see the Peterborough prob­lem. The ab­sence of gen­uine pace from their front line dis­torts the game that oth­ers need to play. Hence the team suf­fers from the loss of an in­di­vid­ual be­cause pat­terns change and flu­ency is dis­rupted. In the longer term, when a man­ager is build­ing a squad, he has to re­cruit in such a way that no sin­gle player is in­dis­pens­able. Any player can be in­jured and no club should be key­man depen­dant. It is eas­ier said than done and it takes time. I’m sure Jur­gen Klopp will be aware of the is­sue and will solve the prob­lem.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

IN­FLU­EN­TIAL: Conor Wash­ing­ton, far right, cel­e­brates scor­ing in his Peterborough days

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