Sunday, 21 October 2012

Gary Richard Perry Dicker: Brighton's underrated midfield maestro

When things start going anything less than perfect at the Albion you can bet your last loyalty points that someone will become a scapegoat.

This season it has, rather predictably, been a close call between Ashley Barnes and Gary Dicker.

Barnes, for his part, is a decent enough striker being played out of position in a team which, perhaps, is aiming slightly higher than his ability suggests he can hold his own.

But, and it is a big but, he seems to be popular with Gus Poyet, plays to the system he is asked to and, whether people struggle to understand how or not, does find the net fairly regularly for someone who is not a main striker.

Dicker on the other hand, is a far easier target. He does not have a great goalscoring record and gives the ball away far more than the likes of Liam Bridcutt and Andrew Crofts who operate in the same midfield three the Irishmen is fighting to be part of.

However, to those who look more closely at the action, there is an obvious reason for this. Dicker, you see, tries far more elaborate and creative passes than any of his chief rivals.

Bridcutt offers a superb and consistent presence in front of the back four as water carrier-in-chief. He wins the ball and moves it on. A key job in a footballing side which relies on pulling opponents out of position and needs to keep the tempo up and the angle of attack changing.

However, when operating alongside Dean Hammond and Andrew Crofts, the Albion miss some inventiveness. That should be where Dicker comes in.

Hammond and Crofts seem to be too similar. Both like to get ahead of the ball, make runs into the box and are the all-action every blade of grass-covering midfield player the Seagulls have lacked since, well, since they were both sold.

They don't though, dovetail nicely together in a trio with Bridcutt. Dicker would.

The times when Wayne Bridge and Bruno have looked most attacking from full back have been when Dicker is in the middle, pulling the strings. As with any good fly half playing rugby, the range of Dicker's passing does not just find player in space but invites players into space. A well placed ball out wide encourages Bridge and Bruno to gallop forwards. A ball to their feet does not.

Dicker is also the most inventive of the current stable of midfielders, ignoring the long term absent Vicente. He gives the ball away more simply because the passes he is trying are more adventurous. By the same token though they are also more likely to create a chance if successful.

At first glance Dicker may not appear the most likely of Poyet's ever-increasing army of central midfielders to demand a starting spot. The Brighton boss can now pick from Bridcutt, Crofts, Hammond, Dicker, Andrea Orlandi, David Lopez, Ryan Harley and Stephen Dobbie for his central three slots. That is not even mentioning Vicente, the out of favour Matt Sparrow, the out on loan Jake Forster-Caskey or the versatile Ashley Barnes, who sometimes plays as the spearhead of the trio. But, come Tuesday night Dicker's name should be on the team sheet.

Bridcutt is a first name on the list type player. That leaves two spare midfield players. Lopez looks capable of competing for one of them, perhaps with Dicker. Hammond, Crofts and Dobbie are all recent arrivals and will expect to play from the start more often than not.

But with the team lacking creativity, Poyet would be wise to give the understated Irishmen a few games in a row to further show his worth.

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