Whilst Blackpool have had a busy window, the lack of defensive reinforcements was starting to raise concern. The lack of cover in the middle and on the right of defence was clear to see, so the arrival of Jordan Gabriel, on a season-long loan from Nottingham Forest, will help settle the nerves and provide some much needed competition in positions which have been lacking thus far this season.
Jordan Gabriel (no relation to Peter) is a young, offensively minded right-back, who is highly thought of at Nottingham Forest, with the 22-year old having just signed a new four-year deal.
Gabriel made his league debut in this year’s opening Championship fixture, playing 90 minutes in a 2-0 defeat away at QPR. By all accounts it was a solid appearance, but the Tricky Trees have since brought in experienced full-back Cyrus Christie on loan from Fulham, who has taken over the role of first choice in the wake of Matty Cash’s summer departure to Aston Villa. Whilst this is bad news for Jordan, it has allowed the Seasiders to secure his services for the 2020/21 season as he seeks regular first-team football following a batch of injury-plagued seasons.
Jordan does have experience lower down the Football League after spending a portion of last season on loan at Scunthorpe United in League Two. He made nine appearances before COVID-19 ended the season prematurely, putting in a couple of eye catching performances. It is testament to this spell and his capabilities in training when football recommenced that he was then considered good enough to be part of the squad in the Championship and even start on the opening day.
Vital Starter or Squad Member?
It is quite apparent what Critchley is looking for in his fullbacks, with the signing of Gabriel echoing the qualities of Demetri Mitchell on the left-hand side of defence. Both players are youthful, with the fitness and aptitude to get up and down the sides of the pitch for 90 minutes. They will both offer an option in the final third of the pitch, as well as being solid defensively. With both wingers likely to tuck in, or cut-in with the ball, this will leave space in behind for the full-backs to exploit on the overlap.
However, whilst the offensive output seems encouraging, there are certainly questions marks as to whether or not another attacking fullback will be good for the balance of the side. While Ollie Turton may not be revered by all, he has always been reliable from a defensive standpoint. His security on the right-hand side has enabled left backs like Mitchell, James Husband and (in future) Luke Garbutt to bomb on, safe in the knowledge that Turton would tuck in and create a solid back three. How the side operates defensively with two out-and-out wing backs is yet to be seen.
View from the other side
Gabriel has made two appearance for Forest this season – his other appearance coming against Barnsley in the League Cup. Whilst he was solid if not memorable in the contest with QPR, he certainly made an impression in the League Cup. Off the back of this game, fans were fawning over his ability as you can see below.
The reaction from the Forest fanbase was certainly mixed in the midst of his departure, with most wanting to keep hold and prioritise over the likes of Carl Jenkinson (who it seems Forest are struggling to get off the wage bill).
Jordan is clearly a player who fits both Neil Critchley and the board’s ideal mould for a player. The fact he was initially linked a couple of months ago, but the deal seemingly broke down due to him being needed at Forest earlier in the season, shows that he was clearly a man the club were keen to secure the services of, as well as showcasing his ability to play at a higher level.
It’s likely that the agreement will include a certain level of appearances for Gabriel, which both Forest and Gabriel himself will have been keen on, and you’d therefore expect him to work his way into the side. Plus the fact he’s had a full pre-season at Forest and already made two appearances means that should come fairly quickly. The deal works for all parties in that he’ll be able to get regular football with a view to stepping up next year at the City Ground.
The club is looking for more of an attacking option on both sides of defence, and quite what that means for Ollie Turton is yet to be determined. He’s fallen into the same hole of James Husband in that while being dependable in a defensive capability, he’s not the type of marauding wing-back which Critchley seems keen on having as his first choice. Turton can play at centre-back so may provide an option there as well as being an option for Gabriel who has had his injury problems over his career to date.
If Pool can get Gabriel fit and in form, we should have a really solid right-back on our hands at this level for the season.
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Image: Blackpool FC Official site