OPINION: Why Wales, not Atkinson, is the better Susaeta replacement
Disclaimer: Views expressed are those of the individual writer and are not representative of those of Talking City. Statistics as per Transfermarkt.
With the unfortunate but understandable departure of Spaniard Markel Susaeta, there is a void that needs to be filled at right-wing for Melbourne City’s remaining matches of the season and that void should be filled by Lachlan Wales.
There have been some that may say that Wales’ finishing has not been up to scratch for portions of this season, and that is certainly true, but with the departures of Susaeta and Javier Cabrera (and Craig Noone’s prowess at left-wing) I don’t think there are too many experienced alternatives in our current squad to play this role.
In defense of Wales, he has shown, albeit sparingly, that he is capable of producing the goods from the right-wing position this season, having two assists from his four matches of playing there, and he’s behind only Craig Noone for successful crosses, crossing accuracy and total minutes played there amongst our current crop of recognized right-wingers.
Aside from Noone and Wales, we do have multiple players who are familiar with that particular wing, with one of those being Nathaniel Atkinson, but he is historically more comfortable playing as a right-back. Whilst he’s played on the right-wing six times before, none of those particular appearances have come under current coach Erick Mombaerts, with the youngster instead starting our last seven league matches at right-back, so it’d be a huge gamble to shift him from there.
Then there is Adrian Luna, who before joining Melbourne City, had put together a whopping 82 appearances at RW with 16 goals and eight assists to show for it. However, since coming down under, Mombaerts does prefer him to play an energetic two-way midfield role, which he does very well, so like the Atkinson situation, it’d be a huge risk to change something that is currently working. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, as they say.
Lastly, there are the young prospects in Ramy Najjarine and Stefan Colakovski, but given their age and relative inexperience, both are better suited to a role off the bench late in the game at present.
Unless you’re within the inner sanctum of the football club, there's no way to know what Mombaerts' thinking on the issue is, but I would have thought that given we’re in a vital stage of the season, sticking with a recognized winger in Lachlan Wales, who he appears to have some sort of faith in, for the right-wing spot is the safest and most logical choice to make.
Time will tell with what Mombaerts does with this potential selection headache for our remaining games, but no matter who ends up getting the nod, they’ve got a crucial role to play.