Some footballers are versatile all-rounders who can adapt their role as their team and the game dictates. Others are specialists chosen for a particular strength or niche that their manager can rely on and plan around. Charlie Wyke falls firmly into the second category.
From his first game at Sunderland we knew he wasn’t going to be leaving a trail of fire across the pitch, and he wouldn’t be getting into the Soccer Am Showboat section any time soon. But we knew he’d win almost everything in the air, and he made a great anchor point up front to play off.
I’ve found a lot of the criticism levelled at Wyke unfairly focuses on the things he can’t do – a bit like getting angry at your cat for not fetching. He fulfils a specific role in the team and I don’t fault his effort. Saturday should give anyone cause for concern, however.
The team as a whole were poor on Saturday. We all owe Peterborough’s Jack Taylor a huge thank-you for bringing down Denver Hume in the box and gifting us the penalty.
Between some incredibly slow passing and crosses from Maguire and Scowen that were about as accurate as a Donald Trump rally speech, we were lucky to come away with anything.
What set-pieces and crosses we didn’t squander were all dealt with comfortably by an organised and competent Peterborough defence.
Charlie Wyke didn’t win a single battle.
Without the pace to track back effectively or the guile to dig a chance out of nowhere, Wyke was left lumbering out of position to commit clumsy fouls or stand by and watch as ball after ball soared overhead or was fended off by the omnipresent Clarke-Thompson.
Now at this point fans of Wyke would fall back to the accepted wisdom that a forward is only as good as the service he receives, and there’s no denying that the service on Saturday was far from acceptable. But the mark of a great striker is being able to convert that one chance in ten which falls where you want it over the course of the game.
Wyke is not that clinical. His sole strength is the rate at which he wins the ball in the air and holds it up or hands it off to the likes of Gooch and Maguire. That strength was missing on Saturday, which left me wondering why he was even on the pitch.
His substitution at 70 minutes showed that Phil Parkinson was wondering the same thing. Danny Graham failed to make an impact but that had more to do with the way the game changed as Peterborough pressed the attack then conceded the penalty.
Parkinson clearly sees something in Charlie Wyke that he values, and he is the manager’s current favourite to lead the line. But his value lies in that one particular, reliable strength.
If Wyke cannot produce that strength as was evident on Saturday, he does not have the versatility to add value in another area. Parkinson needs to consider whether Wyke is still a solid anchor-point, or simply a dead weight.