How Sammy Ameobi could fit into Neil Warnock's Middlesbrough side following arrival from Nottingham Forest
With Middlesbrough fans set to return to the Riverside this season, supporters will want to see players who can excite.
While loanees Yannick Bolasie and Neeskens Kebano were fun to watch last term, in recent years Boro have lacked players who can take on defenders and provide that attacking flair. The type of players who lure spectators to the edge of their seats.
New signing Sammy Ameobi appears to be someone who fans will enjoy watching due to his direct running and mercurial skills – even if he’s been labelled inconsistent at previous clubs.
Boro fans received a glimpse of the player when Ameobi made nine appearances for the Teessiders during a loan spell in 2013.
So where can the 29-year-old fit into Neil Warnock’s team?
A natural winger
During his two seasons at Nottingham Forest where he made 81 appearances in all competitions, Ameobi has predominantly operated on either the right or left flank in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Starting on the right allowed the winger to cut inside onto his favoured left foot, while his performances on the opposite flank predictably saw him make more runs down the channel.
Following the departures of Kebano and Bolasie, Boro were short of natural wide players who can run at defenders and dribble with the ball quickly when transitioning from defence to attack.
If Warnock does want to deploy a back four, with a variation of a 4-2-3-1 system, or even a 4-4-2 set-up if the club can sign some new strikers, Ameobi appears to be a perfect fit for one of the wide positions.
The 29-year-old is also used to tracking back when required to do so, yet Warnock’s recent comments were interesting when he spoke about maximising Ameobi’s attacking qualities and relieving him of defensive responsibilities.
While the Teessiders will still want to sign more wide players this summer, the versatility of Marcus Tavernier and Duncan Watmore could mean the pair line up alongside Ameobi to support a natural striker this term.
Possibilities to adapt
Warnock’s choice of formation will certainly be interesting during pre-season.
Last year Boro started the campaign with a back three, which appeared to suit the likes of Anfernee Dijksteel and Paddy McNair in defence, and reverted to the system at different stages.
The set-up gave the side more security at the back, but how would it affect offensive players like Ameobi?
While the 3-4-1-2 system Boro used last summer wouldn’t incorporate a natural winger like Ameobi, there were times at Forest where the 29-year-old played as part of a front two with another striker.
Of course Warnock will hope to sign a more natural frontman, yet Ameobi is an imposing figure at 6 ft 4 who could cause problems in a central position - like Bolasie did during his short stint at Boro.
Warnock also spoke last season about playing a 3-4-3 system, which would presumably include two wing-back as well as two playmakers to support a centre forward.
That would allow Ameobi to operate in an attacking area of the pitch without being bogged down by defensive duties.
The player’s role will obviously become more apparent as pre-season develops and more new signings hopefully arrive on Teesside.
As we saw briefly in 2013, though, Ameobi has the ability to excite.