HomeOTHEREPLThe rise of Simon Cox

The rise of Simon Cox

As the Shane Long ‘saga’ rumbles on as predictably as these transfer sagas do, it is necessary to look at the current alternatives already at The Hawthorns.

I was at the 2-2 pre-season friendly at Southampton where Roy Hodgson played Simon Cox and Ishmael Miller up front with Marc-Antoine Fortune on the wing. Starting the three closest understudies to Odemwingie, Hodgson was obviously focussed on firming up the attacking hierarchy.

And it was Cox who impressed. He bagged both goals, the first a tap in after Saints keeper Bartosz Bialkowski dropped the ball at his feet, and the second, a calm, low finish after he was slipped in by the impressive Thorne.

On the other hand, Miller, so often the bane of the Baggies crowd, was at his most frustrating. Sparks of quality were too often followed with groans from the stands as he lost possession. I often think Miller gets an unfair press with the fans, but giving away countless free-kicks, most of them for pointless handballs, does not do him any favours.

A shame because in the first half, he had looked the most likely man in cyan to get a goal, rolling his defenders expertly to get away a few shots. With such strength, and a left foot like an angry kangaroo, Miller is close to being a lethal striker. But he lacks the canny footballing brain of Cox.

Fortune suffered out on the right-wing for most of the game. Seemingly scared of getting to the by-line, the striker looked much more at home when he was put in the middle and he had a fierce shot hit the post late on.

Last season, Fortune was the preferred back-up to Odemwingie, but towards the end of the campaign Cox began to assert himself a position within the team, particularly after that stunning goal against Spurs. The statistics back up Cox’s credentials.

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Of course, looking simply at the amount of shots our strikers had does not tell the whole story. It does not reveal the quality of the shot, or the quality of the decision itself to shoot. We do not know for how many of these shots there was a teammate in a better position.

However, it is an interesting place to start, and the stats suggest Coxy is the second best striker we have at the moment. In just under 350 more minutes of playtime, Fortune only managed two more shots than Cox, and created fewer chances for the team.

Obviously Miller and Bednar were out on loan for a lot of the season, and it would be harsh to judge them on such a small amount of playing time. (That said, the fact Bednar didn’t manage a single shot in anger in 4 appearances, one of which he started, is pretty dismal.)

I personally don’t see Gera as a striker but I have included his stats because he may be used in a role in between the midfield and attack. Last season he was particularly trigger happy for Fulham and managed to get a shot off every 27 minutes, nearly as potent as Odemwingie. He played six minutes less than Fortune throughout the whole season and yet had 18 more shots and created 19 more chances for his teammates. Zoltan is no stranger, and we know the versatility he brings to our attacking options. Although he is likely to figure on the wing, Hodgson may decide to use him in a more central attacking role.

But after looking through that table, and watching Cox, Miller and Fortune against Southampton, I would hope Hodgson has cemented Coxy in the second place of the striking hierarchy, and should anything happen to Odemwingie, the focal point of our attack.

Now 24, with a couple of international games (and goals) under his belt, this season Cox has the potential to develop into a Premier League striker. Even if Long does come up the M40 for what looks like being a record fee, his Irish compatriot will still play a part in the squad.

But with so much attacking verve in midfield, a fluid 4-5-1 will likely be the formation of choice, and he will need to grab any chance he gets.

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilsonhttp://twitter.com/#!/mattwilsonsg
I'm Matt, a life-long south coast Baggie who may not have the accent but certainly has the passion. Follow my sarcastic mumblings @mattianwilson if that's your thing.
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