5 Areas Alex Neil Needs to Address Before the 2019/20 Season

Injuries

Preston had a horrible injury record in the 2018/19 season with 11 senior players missing at least 5 consecutive games through injury. 5 key players in the shape of Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire, Brandon Barker, Louis Moult and Andrew Hughes all suffered long-term hamstring injuries.

It’s evident that North End have an issue with hamstring injuries and the club will undertake an injury audit over the summer. “Soft-tissue muscular ones is where our focus is, we are looking at hamstrings” said Neil. Keeping the squad relatively injury free will be key in ensuring North End’s form remains consistent. Embed from Getty Images

Callum Robinson’s Contract

Robinson’s current contract runs out at the end of next season and securing the forward on a long-term deal will be a priority for North End. If this can’t be done they will probably look to sell.

However, the Irish international’s importance cannot be overstated with 12 goals in 27 league games in the 2018/19 season making him the club’s joint top-scorer, despite missing four months of the season with a hamstring injury. It could be wiser to hold him to his contract while giving his eventual successor game time. Whatever the decision, it’s key it’s made quickly. Embed from Getty Images

Ben Pearson’s Discipline

Last season Pearson missed 26% of North End’s games due to suspension but when available, his influence is unarguable. PNE won 42% of games he started and only 26% of those he didn’t.

At this point, Pearo’s reputation precedes him meaning he’ll have to be extra careful to avoid suspensions next season. After receiving his 10th yellow at Millwall in February Neil said “He draws attention to himself… I think referees need to take a view on the challenge itself rather than who’s dishing it out.” Keeping Pearson’s head down and available will be key if PNE are to mount a credible play-off challenge. Embed from Getty Images

The Goalkeeper Department

The Lilywhites have an unsustainable 5 goalkeepers on their books – Declan Rudd, Connor Ripley, Chris Maxwell, Michael Crowe and Matthew Hudson. Maxwell will probably leave on a permanent deal while one of Crowe or Hudson will leave on loan to gain experience, with the other remaining as third choice.

This leaves Rudd and Ripley to battle it out for the number 1 spot. Both will be given an equal chance in pre-season but if neither show signs of improvement questions must be asked of the coaching staff. No goalkeeper at the club has significantly improved since Alan Kelly Jr. abruptly left as goalkeeper coach in August 2017. Embed from Getty Images

A Goal-Scorer

You don’t necessarily need a 20-goal-a-season striker to get promoted from the Championship but it certainly doesn’t hurt. In the 2014/15 season Joe Garner’s 26 goals fired North End to promotion from League One.

Of North End’s strikers Jayden Stockley seems the most likely to fill this void. He scored 35 goals in 66 games for Exeter in League Two before joining Preston in January 2019. Since then, he’s scored 4 goals for North End which represents a decent return considering he’s not had a consistent run. Next season is a big opportunity for the 25-year-old and if he doesn’t take it expect North End to invest in January.

(Graph showing the effectiveness of Stockley’s shots and he rates very highly, suggesting that we can expect big things next season)