A Big Question: Are we gonna see a false 9 as the default lineup?
It's mid-January, so there's no need to rush and no need (yet) to panic if you're an NYCFC fan. There is talent on this team, up-and-down the roster, and there are goalscorers.
But it's pretty obvious that there is no direct replacement for David Villa. And it doesn't take too much reading between the lines any time Claudio Reyna speaks to get the impression that there just might not be one coming, either. So what does that mean for this team?
Well, in the second half of last year, under head coach Dome Torrent, when Villa was out it occasionally meant NYCFC would use a false 9 instead of a true center forward. A true No. 9 has four main functions
- Occupy opposing center backs
- Combine in the final third
- Get in the box
- Score goals
A false No. 9, meanwhile, has a different set of tasks:
- Drop off the frontline into midfield
- Try to bring the center backs upfield with you, creating diagonal attacking lanes for the wingers
- Arrive late into the box for potential looks on target
Torrent really liked using his playmaking No. 10, Maxi Moralez, as a false 9. Jesus Medina played there a bit as well, and you could argue it wasn't a huge tactical shift since Villa was a hyper-mobile and skilled center forward who did as much untraditional No. 9 work as he did the fundamental donkey work the job demands. Both guys could ape some of Villa's movement.
Neither Moralez nor Medina could ape Villa's goalscoring, of course. Nor will the other potential options, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (whose goalscoring off the wing is too valuable to mess with), Jonathan Lewis and Valentin Castellanos. Jo Inge Berget – more of a true center forward – might figure, though it increasingly looks like his days in the Bronx are numbered.
Right now it's a riddle. Maybe NYCFC will sign a big-time Villa replacement and obviate this whole line of thinking. But then again... maybe not.