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What will the Revolution look like if Gustavo Bou plays as a lone striker?

Can Gustavo Bou work as a lone striker?

Philadelphia Union v New England Revolution

Adam Buksa is no longer a member of the New England Revolution after being transferred to RC Lens for an undisclosed fee. This creates some questions for the Revs since Buksa contributed 29 goals and eight assists across 64 league appearances.

Many of these goals were scored while the Revs played a 4-4-2 with Buksa pairing up top with Gustavo Bou. With Bou missing several games at the start of the 2022 season, Buksa was recently operating as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

The Revs could continue to use this formation with Bou replacing Buksa. This is what they did just before the international break when they played the Philadelphia Union to a 1-1 draw. The Revs could also pair Bou with Jozy Altidore or Justin Rennicks. Of course, there could be a new signing this summer.

Let’s say that the Revs decide to use Bou as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1. What would that look like? Here’s what the past tells us.

Bou had the opportunity to play this position last year. Bou and Buksa weren’t connecting well, so head coach Bruce Arena was starting one of them on the bench.

When Bou played up top, we regularly saw him drop in to receive the ball with his feet before combining with a teammate. This movement worked because Bou took a defender with him, which opened up space.

Here are two examples of Bou checking in during the May 22, 2021 game against the New York Red Bulls. It might not be the best game to use because the Red Bulls got a first half red card but I’m using it because the team just switched to playing Bou as a lone striker.

We saw Bou employ a similar tactic when facing the Union this year. In the clip below, the Argentine attacker drops to collect a throw-in and then quickly tries to get the ball to the other side. Bou stays in the play, using his movement to annoy the back line.

Another trademark of Bou is staying high, waiting for a teammate to play him in. Bou isn’t the speediest player, but he can create separation with his shiftiness. In this play from the Red Bulls game, Bou scores a goal while the game is still 11 v 11.

Bou was frequently riding the offside line when the Revs faced the Union. In the clip below, he showcases good movement, but he isn’t quick enough to truly disrupt the backline.

Bou’s ability to successfully ride the offside line is directly connected to his ability to read the game. He can anticipate what’s going to happen next, which allows him to be a step ahead of the opposition. In the next clip, Bou picks off a misplayed ball and almost grabs a goal.

One thing the Revs will miss about Buksa is his aerial presence. The 6’3 striker used his head to score 11 of his 29 league goals. Bou has scored 30 league goals, only one of which came via a header. These stats come from FotMob.

By the end of his time with the Revs, Buksa had established himself as a striker who can finish crosses in the air or on the ground. This worked well because the Revs’ attack currently relies heavily on the service of Carles Gil, DeJuan Jones, Brandon Bye, and more. Bou will need to work on his runs if he wants to finish these opportunities.

To be fair, he was pretty close a couple of times against the Union. Bou almost scores a header in this first clip.

In the second clip, Bou is almost able to beat Andre Blake with some clever footwork.

Buksa’s ability to get on the end of crosses was often seen on corner kicks. The Polish striker loved to use his height and quick movement to beat defenders. This is different from Bou, who often lines up outside the box during corner kicks. This makes sense because he has a hard, accurate shot. It does, however, leave the Revs with one less option in the box.

So where does this leave us? We could see Bou operate as a lone striker, especially in the short-term, but don’t expect the Revs to look the same as when Buksa assumed the role.

Buksa was a prototypical No. 9. His size made him the perfect target when the Revs needed to relieve pressure or send in a cross. He was excellent with his head and just as good with his feet.

Bou relies on his movement to create opportunities. He reads the game well and has great chemistry with his teammates, especially Gil. Listed as 5’10, he prefers to play with his feet. If he’s going to be the lone striker, expect to see fewer aerial duels and more attempts to create space through movement.

I wouldn’t rule out a return to the 4-4-2 with Bou partnering with Altidore or perhaps a striker who comes during the summer transfer window. This formation has flaws since the midfield, anchored by Matt Polster, is often overrun. That said, the Revs lined up that way frequently during the 2021 season and they broke the single-season points record.