After a slow start on the pre-season transfer front, Millwall sparked into life last week by announcing three signings in the space of three days.
Zian Flemming’s arrival for an undisclosed fee from Dutch side Fortuna Sittard was swiftly followed by the capture of Hull City’s George Honeyman while former loanee Benik Afobe also rejoined on a permanent one-year deal.
These incomings are designed to limit the damage of Jed Wallace’s departure just days earlier, with the announcement the forward would be joining West Bromwich Albion following the expiration of his Lions’ contract.
The 28-year-old had become something of a Millwall talisman over the past few seasons with his goals and creative output crucial to not only the club’s Championship consolidation but their subsequent Play-Off pushes.
Wallace continually led the side’s creative metrics, including those around key passes, chances created and ball carrying and contributed 26 goals and 29 assists over the last three campaigns.
Having not received a fee for Wallace is not only disappointing but also limits the possibility in finding a like-for-like replacement for goals and assists given the club’s budget.
Therefore, new recruits Flemming and Honeyman are expected to share this load in Millwall’s tried and tested formation while simultaneously complimenting each other and offering tactical flexibility.
Last season, Rowett settled on a narrow front line of either a 5-2-1-2 or a 5-2-2-1, keeping his forwards tucked in and using wing-backs to provide width and although both Flemming and Honeyman are seen as attacking outlets, their roles within the team will be significantly different.
Flemming is either a goal-scoring 10 or second striker whose priority is getting into the box and finishing rather than creating chances for others.
Still only 23, he scored 12 goals and claimed 4 assists last season as Sittard avoided relegation from the Eredivisie and at 6’1” will have no trouble with the Championship’s physical rigours.
Add to that his technical ability and set-piece prowess in a Sittard side who set-up similarly to the Lions and manager Gary Rowett has done well to address the goal scoring aspect of Jed Wallace’s exit.
In comparison, Honeyman is less of a goal threat but is seen as a better creative passer and can also be used as either a lone 10 behind two strikers or as one of two behind a front man.
In Hull’s 5-2-2-1, he was very much the facilitator compared to his fellow number 10, Lewis Keane-Potter, and, while not carrying the ball as often, will certainly replicate Wallace’s progressive passing.
Although he only produced five goals and four assists as Hull finished 19th last season, Honeyman at the age of 27 is entering his prime and with better players around him will surely develop and improve.
What Honeyman will also bring is leadership, having previously worn the captain’s armband at both Sunderland and Hull and those characteristics could go a long way to filling the void left, not only by Wallace, but also by departing club captain Alex Pearce.
Coupled with Afobe’s return, these signings add new found versatility to Rowett’s front line which should help Millwall become more flexible from game to game depending on the opposition.
Off the ball, Flemming and Honeyman bring impressive defensive numbers and an excellent work rate to Rowett’s side.
While Flemming can use his height and reading of the game for interceptions and aerial duels, Honeyman can press intelligently and time tackles, allowing Millwall to be consistently more aggressive from the front, which Lions fans only saw occasionally last season.
Rowett has continually sought to be more active off the ball since taking charge of Millwall, operating an incredibly robust low block which these two additions will allow him to continue to do.
With this combination of attributes, it seems Millwall fans can expect to see a more aggressive and fluid front three next season.
Millwall have recruited smartly so far to ensure they fill Jed Wallace’s void, but in order to kick on, they will need other squad members to step-up and the club to continue to be active in the transfer market.
If they can add more depth at the back and avoid as many injuries as last season, claiming a top six finish may finally be within their reach.
George Honeyman and Zian Flemming training images courtesy of and with thanks to Millwall FC.