Ledgerwood Signing: What does FCE do now?
The signing of Nik Ledgerwood, needless to say, is galvanzing a fanbase hungry for any news this offseason. After years of imagining the signing of Canadian National Team players to the ranks in our dreams, one has actually happened. But what does this mean for FCE’s tactical outlook on the field? What kind of player does Colin Miller sign next?
The first question many are asking is how Ledgerwood will fit into the FCE system. Those who follow the MNT know him as the traditional right back shoring up the flanks defensively, occasionally moving forward to support the wing in attack. His career in Europe, however, has seen him employed in the defensive midfield role in front of the back line for a large part of his appearances, particularly in the past two seasons. Colin Miller’s comments on his signing indicate that this will be his primary role on the squad:
“…we will look at him to be a central midfield player for us. Nik will give us experience, he will give us tenacity and he will raise the bar in terms of the level of professionalism and experience at the club.”
FC Edmonton has not had established defensive midfielder in the squad for some time, with Eddie Edward—a regular for years at right back—the latest to occupy that role. Edward, who has proven his worth on the right, will likely be preferred in his more natural role in the upcoming season. Defensively, little has changed across the back but the added experience of Ledgerwood is hoped to be of benefit to a back line that started 2015 poorly.
So if the season started today, what would FCE’s lineup look like?
This has been the formation at FCE for the better part of the past three seasons, and it was even seen during the Sinkgraven tenure. This formation makes more use of the attacking players in the squad, but a two-striker system — as shown above — is not a system that Miller has historically used at FCE, at least to start a game. When only using a single striker, a player such as Corea will fill in instead, with Smith the only real left-winger in the squad so far.
The central midfield roles are crucial in both shoring up the defense in front of the back line and as a bridge when transitioning from defense to attack. These duties are to be shared among the two central midfielders or split among the two, making switches as the play develops.
FCE’s use of the holding midfielder has been limited, only being used by Miller when facing an injury crisis or facing a stronger team. The signing of Ledgerwood, however, might indicate a move towards using a holding midfielder more often. He would be responsible for disrupting attacks in the middle and closing down on shots from distance. There may also be times where he may need to switch with the centre-backs when necessary. Ideally, Ledgerwood would not be expected to be large part of the offence but can support attacks up the middle without straying out of position. Who knows, he may be able to take a shot or two from deep:
So what’s next?
With four forwards and five central midfielders already, it is hard to picture Miller adding on these fronts, unless the opportunity to bring in better quality in comes up. In fact, addressing the need for attacking width may actually get the coaching staff to consider tactical variance.
The glaring hole in the squad is on the left wing, there since Lance Laing departed for Minnesota. Smith often filled in for Laing during the latter’s international absences, but had inconsistent performances and has yet to prove he can provide crosses for strikers like Ameobi. Smith is still useful in providing depth as he has versatility covering the left fullback role. Smith — despite my depth charts above–will actually be likley competing for the left fullback spot with Allan Zebie going into preseason camp. It is hoped that the priority of future additions to the squad is placed there.
In other areas of the park there are still issues of depth, namely in the fullback positions on both sides, and in particular the right. While Edward is expected to start in that position, Plan B in case of injury to Edward is currently …Ledgerwood. While Ledgerwood is proven at right back, it may help to have another player in the so as not to have be forced this hand. Alternatively, a backup holding midfielder may also be considered if the tactical direction of the squad is to have one.
While it might not address the most pressing needs of the squad, there is no doubt Ledgerwood’s experience and quality already makes him an important part of the squad. It is only the beginning of the year, and more pieces have yet to fall into place before preseason camp begins in three weeks, and three months until the beginning of the season.