Preston North End were the busiest club in the Football League in the January transfer window, seeing eight players arrive and another eight depart Deepdale.
Some key players such as Ben Pearson and Ben Davies moved on, and Alex Neil decided to use something he hasn’t really touched since arriving at North End in 2017 to freshen his squad up – the loan market.
No fewer than seven players arrived on temporary deals during the course of the month, which is a problem in itself as you can only have five in a matchday squad.
It looks like that issue could be sorting itself out with Peter Ridsdale admitting that he is hoping a few of those loans will be turned into permanent contracts before the home clash with Rotherham – one of them could be Greg Cunningham and PNE’s official website may have given that away.
But what other dilemmas is Neil facing in the weeks and months ahead? We take a look.
Fitting all his new loanees into the line-up
Even though North End may have whittled their loanees down to five by the Rotherham game, Neil still needs to keep them all happy with regular game-time.
That may end up being difficult though, especially when two of them are centre-backs and veteran Paul Huntington is playing so well right now for the club he has represented for nine years.
Daniel Iversen and Jayson Molumby are guaranteed starters, and Anthony Gordon may end up going straight in as well, but for the match against the Millers you can only see one of Liam Lindsay and Sepp van den Berg playing as a partner to Huntington, meaning one will probably be left disappointed.
Quiz: Did each of these 18 ex-Preston North End players ever score a goal at Deepdale?
Sorting out his midfield options
North End covered the departure of Pearson with the arrivals of Molumby and the highly-coveted Ben Whiteman from Doncaster Rovers, and whilst neither can do everything that Pearson does, they’re both talented individuals.
And the competition for places in the engine room is fierce. Neil normally plays with three central players – a ‘number 10’ with two midfielders behind him – and he has Molumby, Whiteman, Ryan Ledson, Daniel Johnson, Tom Bayliss and the evergreen Paul Gallagher to choose from.
That’s not even mentioning captain Alan Browne, who has relocated to the right-back position and he’s doing pretty well there, but throw him into the midfield conversation and Neil has some ridiculous depth.
There will probably be some chopping and changing in the coming weeks in this area if results don’t pick up, with Neil still looking for the best formula.
Deciding who plays up-front
One area that PNE are perhaps lacking in is striking options, with just Emil Riis, Sean Maguire and Ched Evans to choose from.
Scott Sinclair and Tom Barkhuizen can play there as well but they are natural wide players – and Neil prefers to use a striker who can hold the ball up and bring the other attackers into play, hence the much-maligned signing of Evans from Fleetwood.
Neil’s issue here though is that neither Riis or Maguire have shown that they are worthy of an extended run in the side.
Maguire has lost his explosive pace that was shown in his first season at Deepdale due to hamstring injuries and in-turn has lost his goalscoring touch, and after looking like the real deal in the early weeks of his North End career, Riis has seemingly hit a stumbling block – he’s scored just twice in 24 Championship games.
Fans were crying out for another striker in the January window and it never arrived, and after scoring just one goal in their last five league games, someone needs to step up and help fire North End up the table.