Opinion: Life After Armand

Football is a game of opinions. Messi vs Ronaldo. VAR or no VAR. Whether or not Peter Walton’s decision not to award a penalty for a horrendous Rafael penalty decision on 25th January 2011 ultimately resulted in an unfair relegation, etc. etc.

After scoring 15 goals in 30 games last season, you would expect Armand Gnanduillet to be adored by the Blackpool faithful, and his departure to cause anguish. However, you’d struggle to find a more polarising footballer to wear tangerine in recent times.

In the 2019/20 season, the Frenchman contributed over a third of the team’s total goals in what ultimately was a disappointing campaign, but this has not been enough to win us all over.

Why Armand’s like marmite

The most common source of annoyance is less to do with Armand himself, but the style of play that is caused as a result. Standing at 6ft 4”, he offers an easy outlet to defenders not confident in playing the ball out of defence. When comparing Blackpool’s offensive output with the division’s leading sides, you can see the percentage of long balls played in 90 minutes is the highest.

The chart below shows the number of long balls per game in comparison to other League One teams. Blackpool are by far the highest, averaging 22 per game, while Sunderland and Fleetwood are joint second with 20.

Data from whoscored.com

Another bug bear is Armand’s perceived lack of work rate. Typically, a striker who likes to press and hassle defenders will cause oppositions to hit vertical balls, and rely on dropdowns. Given Armand’s lack of mobility, we can see teams have not needed to go long and build attacks with short passes from defence. Given all we know about Neil Critchley and his success with Liverpool’s youth teams, it is highly doubtful this will continue moving into 2020/21.

Moving on now he’s gone

For all of his flaws, Gnanduillet undoubtedly contributed significantly to a lot of Blackpool’s successes in the previous 2-3 years, and the team was built around him under Larry’s short tenure. With his departure, the club will almost need to hit the ‘hard restart’ button to react and adapt.

From what we know about Critchley and his previous styles of play, we would expect players such as Joe Nuttall and Ryan Hardie to thrive from a switch in approach. Both ultimately failed trying to play the lone striker role, and may flourish under a new system.

This could easily be as Inside Forwards (think of Salah/Mane roles), with Gary Madine leading the line. New signing Keshi Anderson can also play anywhere along the front line, as can heavily rumoured Jerry Yates. Where this leaves prolific assister Liam Feeney at this stage is unknown. Hopefully we won’t see the Star Man begin to fade.

What do you think? Do you expect Blackpool to miss Armand and struggle next season, or flourish in his absence? Let us know by commenting below, or joining the conversation on the social platforms!

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