Since the appointment of Lee Johnson on the 5th of December, the minutes given to Chris Maguire have been very limited and the Scotsman appears to be struggling to establish himself a place in the squad- but why?
Initially, it seems the man nicknamed ‘The King’ doesn’t fit into the style of play Johnson believes in. Jack Diamond, whose most valuable attributes are arguably his pace and ability to run directly at defenders, started seven of the new manager’s first ten league games despite facing limited game time under Phil Parkinson. Whilst Johnson’s favouring of McGeady may challenge this point of view, it’s arguable the Irishman is the best player in the league on his day, something he reminded us of with four assists against Doncaster Rovers and he is too valuable of a player to miss out on simply due to his playing style. Due to Maguire’s tendencies to go missing in games and his lack of pace, it appears Johnson does not believe he is well suited to either of the forward roles in his preferred formations: 4-2-2-2 or 4-3-3.
Alternatively, a potential limit on Maguire’s game time may be something entirely unrelated to Johnson. The effect of Covid-19. Reportedly the first player to test positive, the thirty-two-year-old missed out at home to AFC Wimbledon before the self-isolation period, making an appearance from the bench in our first fixture back, away to Northampton on January 2nd. Before the forced break, Maguire had appeared in every one of Johnson’s initial three games, starting twice, raising the possibility that the virus, which affects people to different degrees, may have impacted our number seven’s ability to regain match-fitness, which is why he is playing so few minutes. If this was the case, however, it would be likely he would have been given time away from training until he had fully recovered, making this an unlikely scenario.
Finally, it has been argued by some that the Scotsman is simply ‘past it’, however he does not appear to have his better days behind him. With twenty-six appearances to his name so far this season, Maguire has managed six goals and four assists; in the 2018/19 season, his first with the club, only nine goals and four assists were managed after forty-three appearances, his ratio for both goals and assists to games being higher this season than in his first, where he was supposedly in his prime, proving he still has the ability to both score and create just like he did years ago!
Whilst his tendency to be inconsistent makes it a valid proposition to not have him as a regular starter, his knack of scoring important goals, especially against the run of play, means he’s far too valuable of an option to leave out of the squad entirely, such as his late goal against Ipswich Town at home last season.
Due to his potential lack of fitness, the best way to utilise Maguire may be to come off the bench in tight games to make the most of his opportunistic traits, or to change the style of attacking play, should it not be succeeding, as Maguire appears to not suit Johnson’s highly intense pressing.