Michael O’Neill is grateful Stoke City have spread the goals out this season – but he still wants a 20-goal striker at his disposal whenever next season kicks off.
But he insists his long-term aim is to have at least one striker bursting into double-figure territory and it remains to be seen if he believes he already has the players to do that, or whether he will have to venture into the transfer market.
Clucas hit 10 goals from midfield in the last game against Hull, while Tyrese Campbell comes closest among Stoke’s strikers.
He seemed set to hit 10 for the first time in a season after sitting on seven from 13 starts and 11 sub appearances – including six since Boxing Day – when the coronavirus crisis intervened.
“We haven’t had a striker who’s scored 15/18/20 goals this season and when that happens you have to find the goals from somewhere else in your team,” O’Neill observed.
“We’ve found them from midfield. We’ve found them from wide areas in Nick Powell, and James (McLean) prior to his injury had chipped in with a few goals.
“So those are all things we need. Sometimes you can be dependent on possibly two players contributing.
“If you look at the situation with Hull, they sold their two top goalscorers in the window and it’s certainly damaged them after taking 24 goals out of their team.
“It’s difficult to replace that, but we have spread the goals a bit more.
“Equally, going forward, we have to find the right combination in the striker situation where a) we are creating enough chances and b)we have someone who will hopefully go into double figures and aim to get 20 in a season.”
Apart from Campbell, Stoke’s other out-and-out strikers have struggled to regularly hit the onion bag.
Sam Vokes sits on four league goals and three cup goals from his 14 starts and 17 sub appearances in all competitions.
Lee Gregory, meanwhile has a total of four goals, all in the league from his 20 starts and 12 sub appearances in all competitions.