After 2 whole days of rumours, it’s finally been confirmed that Chris Dagnall has signed on loan until 4th January. The motivation for the loan is simple, the injury to Leon Clarke. Additionally the performance of Billy Daniels against Rotherham highlighted the need for an experienced striker to fill the void left by Clarke. The loan spell coincides with almost the exact amount of time that Leon is out for, with Dagnall and Clarke unlikely to line up in the same XI.
To answer the most obvious question Dagnall is not a like-for-like alternative to Clarke. The Barnsley striker measures in at 5 foot 8 and is more of a nippy, energetic striker than a dominant, physical player to link the play like Leon does. What this means is that we’ll have to adjust our attacking system in order to accomodate Dagnall’s qualities as a footballer. Whether 5 weeks is long enough to implement this, and then have to switch back once Clarke returns, is hard to tell, given that we play a fast, pressing game usually it may not be such a radical alteration, though there should be more playing out from the back than before. Given our recent two results, a change of system may not be such a bad thing anyway in order to regain the element of surprise that we had in earlier weeks.
As for whether Dagnall is as good as Leon, that’s a different question. Although the caveat is that a player’s individual quality is dependent on how they complement their respective teams, as well as fitness, confidence and form, it never really stops fans trying to compare individual players. Going from the usual starting point for strikers, goals to game ratios, Leon currently has 83 league goals in 274 games, whilst Dagnall has 80 in 317, whatever way you look at it, that’s a poorer record. However Dagnall has achieved what Leon Clarke hasn’t, and that’s reaching 20 league goals in a single season. That came at Dagnall’s spell at Rochdale where he had a record of 57 goals in 161 games, a significant proportion of his overall total.
During his four and a half season spell at Rochdale he had two seasons reaching double figures, 2006-07 and 09-10, so we can tell from this that Dagnall is something of a confidence player. When he’s in form he can be unstoppable but struggles for consistency, a bit like Carl Baker. That being said I think a few Coventry fans may cast doubt on this successful spell as being in League Two, as well as a few years back now.
He started out playing in League One with Tranmere where he had a record of 7 in 30, which is strong considering that he was making his break in professional football. For example, Callum Wilson’s first 30 appearances for Coventry only produced 4 more goals.
More relevant would be his record over the past few seasons. After making the jump to the Championship with Scunthorpe, as Gary Hooper’s replacement, he struggled to repeat the form he had at Rochdale, scoring just under 1 goal every 6 games over a two year spell. This includes a season in League One resulting in 4 goals in 23 games. He made the surprise move back into the Championship to Barnsley to link up with his manager at Rochdale Keith Hill. His record with the Tyke is similarly 6 in 49 appearances.
So Dagnall’s recent pedigree isn’t really as a goalscorer, however it’s important to note that he has been used on the right of midfield fairly regularly during his time at Barnsley. He played an important role during their run to Championship survival last season. He’s regarded as a hard worker up front and as a senior player in our team would send the message to younger players of the importance of application.
The summary is that this is surely a temporary measure to replace an injured senior player, exactly what the loan window should be used for. Is Dagnall going to directly replace Leon Clarke in the starting line-up? No. However he’s a tenacious and hard-working player, as well as someone who has shown himself capable of being a lethal player on his day. Sometimes it’s easy to look at goalscoring statistics and judge a striker, look at Paddy Madden last season though, couldn’t score at Carlisle but was a hard-worker, he found himself on loan at Yeovil and things suddenly clicked for him. This obviously isn’t what should be expected of Dagnall but there’s the chance he could and given our financial issues is probably one of the better options we could have gone for without taking a complete risk with an unknown.