Going into the January window it was clear to see Motherwell required some fresh additions to bolster their underperforming playing squad. A defeat in what turned out to be Stephen Robinson’s last game in charge left the club just two points off the foot of the table, with a catastrophic relegation becoming an ever-more worrying threat.
The recruitment team at Fir Park moved fast, bringing seven new faces to Lanarkshire and improving key areas the team had been lacking. Whilst not all the signings have perhaps worked out, Liam Kelly, Tyler Magloire, and to the surprise of some Jordan Roberts, have all been massively influential in helping the team find some form.
As mentioned though, upon his arrival Roberts had more than a few doubters, with many thinking a loan from a team in a lower division was a poor piece of business. The 27-year-old however has made a lot of punters eat their words, with a string of impressive performances cementing his place as an important part of Graham Alexander’s team.
What are the factors behind Jordan Roberts’ bright start? We’ll take a dive into some recent games to find out.
A Tweak of Position
In all five of Roberts’ appearances for Motherwell the team have primarily set-up in their favoured 4-3-3 system, which whilst being a fairly common formation, has the twist of utilising three out-and-out number nines rather than two wide players. A lot of this game plan relies on the link-up play between Roberts, Watt and Cole as when they’re on-form, their interchanging and rotation can be a nightmare for defenders to keep track of.
An example can be seen in the 2-0 win over Hibs. There were several times the set-up paid off in the first-half. On one occasion, Devante Cole received the ball deep and instantly has both Roberts and Tony Watt making runs in behind, Cole this time slipped Roberts through on goal, and had the return ball to the initial passer been slightly better weighted Motherwell would have had a real opportunity.
In fact, both of the goals Motherwell scored at Easter Road came from play between the three strikers, with plenty of other opportunities arising throughout the match. The set-up Graham Alexander plays may not come without its faults, but it’s clear to see playing three strikers beside each other can easily allow creativity to flow.
Another important aspect of Roberts’ play has been his ability to win long balls. In his last two appearances (Livingston and Hibs), the forward competed in 35 aerial duels, providing an out ball similar to the way James Scott was used in the first-half of last season.
Whilst Devante Cole’s numbers are significantly lower, Roberts’ 17 per game in this stat is closely matched by Tony Watt with 16, with both players winning their battle against the defender over a third of the time.
There’s no doubt the 2019 portion of 2019/20 was a hugely successful time-period at Fir Park, and a lot of that success was down to the form of academy-graduate Scott, and his ability to beat opposing wide-players in the air.
Many full-backs are physically overshadowed by players with a real aerial presence, and whilst Jordan Roberts isn’t a target-man by any means, his ability to win the ball in the air has been a huge help to Motherwell’s play.
Sometimes in football, the simplest things can be factors in success, and with Jordan Roberts it’s clear to see his commitment to the team is having an enormous impact.
In Motherwell’s last two games, substitute Nathan McGinley has challenged more defensive duels per90 than any other player, who’s in second place though? Jordan Roberts with 8.84, averaging three more than Ricki Lamie and Tyler Magloire in third. For a forward player that stat is pretty incredible!
We can see the effectiveness of a hardworking forward in Motherwell’s third goal against Livingston. Before the defender’s back-pass has even reached the goalkeeper Roberts is on his case, his pressing ends up blocking the kick-out, with the ball as a result falling back to Motherwell in midfield. Cole then plays through long and Graham Alexander’s side have restored their two-goal lead.
When a player works their socks off, it becomes very easy for a manager to make them a crucial part of the team, and in Jordan Roberts’ first Motherwell appearances he’s done exactly that. Of course there are still six games left in the season, and despite the upturn in form relegation isn’t entirely out of the picture just yet, but if Jordan Roberts can keep up his fine form Motherwell will have a real asset going into the season run-in.