I’ve been very impressed with Jamie Maclaren’s opening to the season.
Strikers, ultimately, will always be judged on goals but in my book they don’t always have to score themselves. As long as they contribute and Maclaren has contributed very well in numerous areas.
For starters, he’s fast, but pace isn’t everything (just ask Usain Bolt). It’s what you do with it that counts and Maclaren has developed serious positional (and game) intelligence. He knows where to be to cause most problems for the defence and is fast enough to get there first. It’s noticeable that he always gets in front of his marker in the moment that matters.
Once he makes that dangerous run, he’s in position to receive the ball in a dangerous place. And then he has options.
Most strikers will be looking for the shot but Maclaren seems to have developed an unselfish instinct that all the best strikers have – he is aware of his team mates and will always look to play one of them in if in a better spot than him.
Given that in and around the box is where players have least time and space, there’s a hell of a lot happening between Maclaren’s ears in those key moments. He has only a fraction of an instant to size up the situation and make a judgment on what to do with the ball – shoot, pass or hold.
Anyone can do these things well occasionally but the really top class strikers are the ones who do it consistently. The fact that he’s made so many excellent decisions already this season (and executed them very well) tells me that J-Mac may have gone to a new level. He’s a multiple Golden Boot winner, so we know he can finish, but his assists (and potential assists) have been quite superb.
Craig Noone and Connor Metcalfe have benefited from Maclaren assists this year and the return of Andrew Nabbout from injury is likely to prove a lethal combination. They were certainly dangerous last night.
Against the Wanderers, Maclaren was unplayable in the first half and could easily have had a hat trick. You’d just about have to make him favourite for the Golden Boot again.
I’m also looking forward to seeing what he might do in a Socceroos shirt with his improved mental capacity added to his already formidable speed and skill.
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