St. Johnstone have scored a league low 18 goals in 30 Scottish Premiership matches so far this season. This is the lowest of any team in the top 4 divisions of Scottish football, joint with Cowdenbeath - who sit bottom of League Two.
[It has been a frustrating season in front of goal]
This trend continued with a 0-0 draw at Easter Road last Saturday, and has arguably Callum Davidson's biggest challenge this season. Not to sound too much like Michael Owen, but if you don't score; you don't win.
Saints have relied on a sturdy base, with the side conceding just 36 goals. This places St. Johnstone's defence as the 6th best in the league. Without it they would almost certainly be doomed.
The question is, with just 8 games left, what can be done to get St. Johnstone scoring? Unfortunately there is no easy answer, but there is certainly enough time to turn it around and survive relegation, albeit most likely via a play-off place.
Lets delve into St. Johnstone's attacking struggles:
Callum Davidson has, despite plenty of critics, stuck to his favoured 5 at the back system through thick and thin this season, in particular the 5-3-2.
Whilst providing defensive solidity it is fair to say that his 'no thrills' approach has seen an abject lack of creativty. Saints have had the least shots of any team in the league this season, as well as the lowest shots inside the box.
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St. Johnstone have also managed the lowest xG per shot in the division, this shows that the quality of chances that our strikers have managed have been of a lower quality. Without the creativity of Wotherspoon Saints have struggled to create chances, with the Wing Backs also often being stifled this has seen a major drop off in chances created.
This has led to a lot of narrow defeats, with very little to shout about in Perth this season. If we are not giving our Strikers the chances to score, then we have little hope of putting the ball in the back of the net. This is not purely down to the system, but at times this season it has felt like players have been isolated up top, with little service.
[Middleton has an effort on goal]
Perhaps a change of system would bring more goals, with a switch to a 4 at the back formation regularly suggested by disgruntled fans. Saints have looked pretty easy on the eye at times this season, especially when the ball has been played into feet. There is the ability to play some free flowing football in the squad and that can be acheived in a 5-3-2, but perhaps it might be more consistent should the formation be shifted.
However, on the flip side there is also the chance that this would see Saints concede more at the other end, and with the manager sticking with his tried and tested for this long I don't see a change in the near future. One thing for definite, is that St. Johnstone need to keep the ball on the deck and attempt less long aerial passes over the top.
St. Johnstone now have a whole host of Attackers to choose from up front. Saints currently have Stevie May, Nadir Çiftçi, Callum Hendry, Theo Bair, and Jamal Hector-Ingram as fit out-and-out Strikers in the squad.
[Hendry is substituted for Çiftçi]
Whilst Glenn Middleton and Michael O'Halloran are also able to play there. Chris Kane (who is currently injured), and Eetu Vertainen (who has departed on loan) have both also played in St. Johnstone's front 2 this season.
The afformentioned players have scored just 10 goals between them in the league this season. With January additions Çiftçi, Bair and Hector-Ingram all yet to get off of the mark (or in the latters case, even make it on the pitch).
The club's league top scorer is Callum Hendry on 4 goals, and the 24 year old spent the first half of the season on loan at Kilmarnock. Without his goals it is likely that Saints would already be dead and buried.
[Hendry opens the scoring against Ross County]
Now it is just a case of who to partner him with. Middleton and Çiftçi have both played up front with Hendry in recent weeks with varying degrees of success. Middleton is certainly a solid option and when he is on form he can terrorise defenses. We have not yet seen the best of Çiftçi in a Saints shirt, and he has not looked great in recent weeks - hopefully that can improve.
There is also the tried and tested, in the form of Stevie May. He may not be the free flowing goalscorer he once was but you can always guarentee 100% from him and he is always a safe choice up front.
The other 2 options are Bair and Hector-Ingram. Canadian international Bair arrived from Vancouver Whitecaps for a transfer fee in January and is yet to start a game for the club, with Davidson only giving him 62 minutes of game time across 4 substitute appearances. He has not had a chance to make an impact, with fans still eager to see what he has to offer.
Hector-Ingram on the other hand was signed on a free transfer after the January window closed. The 23 year old has yet to make it on the pitch for Saints, and has been left out of the last 4 matchday squads - even with the 9 man benches.
Personally, I would go with a strike partnership of Bair and Hendry. I am keen to see Bair get a run in the team and would like to see if he can change our fortunes up front. However, Any of the above options paired with Hendry are a decent bet. Davidson will probably go with Hendry and May, or Hendry and Middleton as you know what you are getting.
Does the Strikeforce St. Johnstone possess have what it takes to start scoring goals and fire the club to safety? That is yet to be seen. However, there are plenty of options and a lot of potential, but it needs to click, and it needs to click soon.