Forest have certainly signed a striker. For large periods recently The Reds have played without this type of player; the goal-scoring pedigree of the forwards at The City Ground has been much debated, but I would argue that the only true strikers the club have employed lately have been Matt Derbyshire and Billy Sharp – two players starved of time on the pitch because they did not fit into the team’s tactics.
A look at Fryatt's movement when advanced of the ball illustrates what he does differently to the forwards we have observed last season at Forest. It is his movement off the ball that makes him a striker rather than a forward.
Forest have tended to play their way forward patiently through maintaining possession. For the forwards this has entailed making runs away from dangerous areas to get the ball (see diagram, left, which can be enlarged if clicked). They would come deep to help in the build up, or drift out wide, to help create a foothold high up the pitch, and bring others into play.
Simon Cox is particularly good at this kind of football – for all the criticism he has received, there are few better at this level (if any) at moving into space and establishing possession in opposition territory. He is difficult to get off the ball and good at picking out arriving midfielders, who find themselves in good positions to hurt the opposition because Cox is drawing the heat.
But where Cox plays typically between and around the centre-back and full-back (as well as dropping back into midfield – or even defence – for the ball), Fryatt specialises in playing more centrally, in amongst the centre-backs. He looks for space in behind them, and is ready to capitalise if they get dragged out of position (see diagram, right. Click to enlarge).
Instead of moving away from this congested area in search of the ball, Fryatt’s game is based around finding the smaller gaps in these more dangerous areas. He has reasonably good technique, and when receiving the ball his only thought is to score, meaning his second touch is often a shot on goal, leaving the defender very little time to make a challenge.
He is especially threatening when other players are lurking in wide areas, as this can stretch out the defensive line. This creates a dilemma for the player marking Fryatt; as the striker moves into space which appears in a stretched line of defenders, how close should the defender be? If he follows he will possibly leave a greater gap which can be exploited by another attacker, but if he’s not touch-tight to Fryatt, the striker is good enough to turn and shoot quickly when receiving the ball; this is his main asset (see below for an example).
It is all about the end product with this kind of player, in contrast to Cox, who will always contribute something to a game through his ability to help keep possession. Fryatt will not contribute as much to the build up and general game-play, he is there to score goals.
Those impatient with the likes of Cox will insist that the man up front is there to score goals and nothing more – but if he’s well handled by the defenders and not making another contribution, you’re effectively playing with ten men – so there is a use for players like Cox. With an all-out striker on the pitch such as Fryatt, it will be more important for Forest to win the strategic battle elsewhere, or he just won’t get a kick.
But when involved, Fryatt can do real damage. If he gets a sight at goal he is certainly that clinical finisher that we have all been waiting for. Last season he scored a Championship goal every 153 minutes, which was one of the best strike-rates in the league, all despite playing for struggling Sheffield Wednesday (although it must be noted this was over a relatively short period).
He also has good ability on the ball; if allowed to turn he excels in taking on an isolated defender – he scored some lovely goals in this fashion last season.
Forest fans have been crying out for that elusive 20 goal a season striker – Fryatt has not delivered this kind of form so far, but the 28 year old appears to be maturing into the finished article.
It is testament to his skills that the Hull City fans are split in their opinion of whether they should have retained his services. He was widely acknowledged as the best finisher at the club, even by those happy to lose him, and was in Steve Bruce’s plans for this season, who intended to use him as a back-up and cup player. He was equally well thought of in Sheffield.
The only criticisms I could find concerning this highly respected professional, was that he is sometimes caught off-side too often (in my opinion a trait of the kind of player he is, as he'll make a lot of runs looking for a through-ball) and that he wasn’t quite quick or powerful enough for Premiership football.
I have seen some Forest fans show concern about his injury record – have we signed another sick-note? It is true that Fryatt has missed large parts of his career through injury – most recently in the 2012/13 season, but over the past five years he has averaged over 30 appearances per season, so these fears seem unfounded.
While not the most exotic of Forest’s new signings, he is, perhaps, the one to be the most excited about so far. He has proven he can score goals at this level, and fits in nicely with what I expect will be Stuart Pearce’s preferred tactics. When compared with Lars Veldwijk, he seems to me a much safer bet and I believe will be in front of the Dutchman in the pecking order, as the younger man has yet to prove himself at anything close to this level.
Fryatt will play a role that Forest have been lacking. Technique, reasonable pace and strength, the ability to use restricted space, clinical finishing; he has all the attributes needed to score goals in Stuart Pearce’s new-look Forest.
Maybe we’ve got that 20 goal a season striker at last.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to www.soccerbase.com for statistical help.
Soccerbase page on Fryatt: Stats
Hull fans react to Fryatt leaving: Fryatt gone
Fryatt's goals for Hull: Goals