Championship side Cardiff City have joined Fulham in the race to recruit Bolton Wanderers winger Dapo Afolayan ahead of the summer window, as per yesterday morning’s report from The Bolton News.
The 24-year-old has been a shining light for the Trotters this term after making his loan move from Premier League outfit West Ham United a permanent one, recording 14 goals and six assists in 49 competitive appearances this term.
Not only has the wide man been prolific in front of goal – but also a reliable figure for Ian Evatt’s men – managing to remain match fit throughout the season and only missing one league game completely through a one-match suspension.
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Looking on course to finish as the third-tier side’s top goalscorer this season, he has now attracted interest from elsewhere and his current side may have a tough task ahead in trying to retain him with the Greater Manchester side certain to remain in League One next season.
They did look like top-six candidates at the beginning of the campaign – but they were unable to sustain that and this may cost them in the end with the Cottagers and the Bluebirds circling.
A move to the former may be particularly attractive after seeing them win promotion on Tuesday evening – but we’re focusing on the latter as we work out where he could fit in the starting lineup.
Although Perry Ng has established himself as a good centre-back option for the second-tier side, Aden Flint and Sean Morrison are both set to leave the Cardiff City Stadium this summer unless their contracts are renewed.
This is why a switch to a flat back four could be in the offing for the long term and perhaps a 4-2-3-1 with both Jordan Hugill and Uche Ikpeazu’s departures back to their respective loan clubs leaving the Bluebirds with a temporary shortage of options up top.
Replacements can be brought in – but due to their financial situation – it’s currently unclear how many players they will be able to recruit from when the summer window opens to the deadline.
A 4-2-3-1 would suit Afolayan who would probably prefer to start in his orthodox role on the wing – because it may take some time for him to adapt to a higher level and having him in his best position can only help.
With this in mind, he could fit into the team like this:
The Ng centre-back factor has to come into play though with Morison regularly adopting a back five during his tenure too – and that could prove to be tricky unless the Bluebirds playing in a 3-4-3 next season, something that could be a possibility with a potential central midfield exodus on the horizon in the summer.
They would need to recruit heavily in the centre-back area – but it could still be a possibility if Colwill can be just as effective as a wide player than as an advanced midfielder:
The winger has operated in more central positions on occasions this season though, playing both as an advanced midfielder and a forward which would suit a 3-4-1-2. Playing him up front on his own probably would be quite a gamble so having two up top would be important for him, making this system a potentially useful one for the 24-year-old.
And with the 3-4-1-2 also enabling him to operate in an advanced midfield role, he could easily change positions mid-match without the need to alter the system.
Colwill has to be considered in this situation though. The Welshman has played up front this season – but his more natural position is in a midfield role – leaving Afolayan to play in a forward partnership.
Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson has successfully adapted to playing regularly as a striker – and Afolayan has the ingredients to do the same with his goalscoring prowess.
Here’s how he could operate as a forward: