First Impressions are Often Lasting Ones

The first time I watched Jonathan Glenn play for the Jacksonville Armada one thing was apparent; he did not fit. Mark Lowry deployed the tall center forward in lone striker role that seemed to combine a bit of target man, false nine, and defensive forward. That first night Glenn did not have the strength of a target man, the awareness of a false nine, nor did he have the pressing intensity of a defensive forward.

He was, however, recovering from a pre-season shoulder injury. That injury, and his recovery, bought him patience from Mark Lowry and the Armada faithful. His first goal of the season secured Glenn a Man of the Match accolade despite a relatively poor performance, afterwards he declared to the media “I feel good, I’m 100%.” His improved fitness has not brought improved performances though.

The shoulder injury has healed and the problems from the first match still remain. Glenn can hold the ball up well, but that awareness and pressing ability is still missing. This past week members of the fan-run podcast Flagship Footy (@FlagshipFooty) brought out the “L-word”. Is Jonathan Glenn lazy? On the surface I was first inclined to agree to say “Well, yes”. In one practice I watched Glenn catch a whistle for being offside during small field five-a-side. The guy can’t back track a few yards in five-a-side? Must be lazy.

 

Laziness is a Harsh Accusation for a Complex Problem

However, calling Jonathan Glenn lazy does not address the larger issue. Mark Lowry believes the forward is capable of scoring twenty goals in a season at the NASL level. Not many lazy players would get that sort of backing from their head coach. The more glaring issue behind Jonathan Glenn’s “laziness” is the obvious fact that he does not fit in Mark Lowry’s system.

As a Liverpool fan each time I watch Jonathan Glenn play for the Armada I’m reminded of Christian Benteke. Benteke is a Premier League caliber striker, however he looked lost playing for Liverpool. He didn’t have the skills to drop into midfield like Roberto Firmino does. Benteke lacked the ability to press the back line in the manner gengenpress demands. What Christian Benteke can do is finish a cross. He can battle center backs in the air. Benteke can win knock-downs and flick-ons for a strike partner. Jonathan Glenn is capable of doing what Christian Benteke does at the NASL level. More importantly he is capable of doing it well at the NASL level.

One skill set is not necessarily better than the other. Sergio Aguero would not succeed in playing as a target man, and Edin Dzeko would not succeed playing on the shoulder of the last defender. However, like with players at the highest level it comes down to utilization. Mark Lowry is utilizing Jonathan Glenn in a series of roles and tactics that do not suit Glenn’s talents and abilities. Moving forward there are two possibilities regarding how Jonathan Glenn is used by Mark Lowry.

What is Jonathan Glenn’s Role for the Rest of the Season?

The potential for the Jacksonville Armada to start two strikers up top in a big-man-little-man partnership has been discussed by fans and press alike, however with only two strikers on a twenty-man roster it is impractical. Unfortunately there is not a striker in the U-23 ranks banging down the door for chances either. When getting down to the meat and potatoes of the matter there is only one solution. Derek Gebhard is a better tactical fit for the Jacksonville Armada. Jonathan Glenn is a fantastic weapon off the bench. The roles they had at the beginning of the year have now been reversed. The role reversal does not indicate that Jonathan Glenn is lazy, rather just a poor fit for a system in which the lone striker has to press, pass, and score.

The Armada were not flush with cash this past offseason and relied upon free agent signings to fill their roster. To be blunt Jonathan Glenn is a solid player at the NASL level. He has European experience, even notching a sixteen goal season in Iceland’s top division. Glenn is physically gifted and a consistent finisher with a team of the year award in the NPSL, a club player of the year and golden boot in Iceland’s top division, and has played in Europa League qualifiers.

Acquiring a player of Glenn’s pedigree on a free transfer when the only other striker on the roster had yet to score a professional goal was a no brain deal. Whether Mark Lowry thought Glenn could fit the tactics, or whether Glenn was merely a stop-gap until Gebhard developed are different questions for a different day.

Conclusion

Jonathan Glenn is not a lazy player, but he is a player that does not suit the style of the coach that signed him. On tape there are flashes of pressing ability, sure. There are rare moments where he looks comfortable dropping deep and pinging long passes. They are just that though, flashes and rare moments. There is nothing wrong with that, however the quicker Mark Lowry realizes that Jonathan Glenn is best in the box, the more successful the striker will be.