Sam Gallagher was Tony Mowbray’s top target last summer, a player Rovers have tracked ever since his productive loan spell came to an end in 2017.

But what exactly are Rovers wanting from him? After 31 Championship appearance, it’s hard to know. It’s the £5m question.

Rovers undoubtedly needed a new striker last summer, and Gallagher has offered versatility across the frontline, his willingness and workrate undoubted, often to his own detriment.

He has three goals in 2008 Championship minutes, and he’s still yet to score at Ewood Park since returning on a permanent deal, and has contributed just one assist, but are Rovers getting the best out of him?

  • Is he the heir to Danny Graham’s throne, the physical No.9 who can bounce centre halves around, creating space for those around him? He could be in time, but not on the evidence we’ve seen, albeit in fleeting appearance as an out-and-out striker.

Despite his size, heading isn’t Gallagher’s strongest suit. Of his attempted 298 headers this season, he’s won 159 and lost 139. Twenty of his 44 attempts at goal this season have been with his head, though there were signs of what he can offer as he bulleted home a towering header in the Carabao Cup defeat to Sheffield United.

Rovers aren’t blessed with wingers, and rarely swing balls in to the box from the wide areas anyway, but too often Gallagher isn’t in the positions required to score, should they arrive.

Of his 44 shots this season, only one has come in the six yard box, 22 of which have been off target, while 20 have been headers, nine of those coming from set plays. Whether that be a consequence of his position, a need for a greater hunger to get in to the six-yard box, or a combination of the two, it's something to address.

  • Is he the focal point of the attack, someone who can run the channels, for the team to work off, play in to his feet? His best work we’ve seen so far is when he’s facing the opposition goal, rather than his own. 

The first half at Preston remains his best attacking display in a Rovers shirt, the home win over Middlesbrough in August demonstrated his incredible workrate, but the goal (or two if you're Tony Mowbray) at Deepdale felt like a possible turning point. But that performance isn’t one he’s been able to build on.

His powerful running is his main threat, but too often he’s doing it from deep in his own half, and with little support.

  • Can he play the wide striker role that Mowbray likes? Well it’s one we’ve seen him most in. And to his credit, his workrate is exceptional, regularly seen tracking back to his own corner flag when sensing danger. But those aren’t the positions that will see him get the goals Rovers require, and on which he will be judged. Indeed, Gallagher has in fact attempted more tackles (45) than he has shots (44).

Mowbray regularly points out the fact that Gallagher hadn’t been blessed with a lot of football prior to joining Rovers.

Since his loan spell in 2016/17, he had played just 40 times, scoring seven goals, though time out injured has to be factored in. He’s also been nursing niggles throughout the course of this season.

Mowbray buys assets, and looks to mould them. With Gallagher, standing at 6’4, a willing worker and a powerful runner, those attributes are clear to see. He also has a jack-hammer of a right foot on him, one we saw more during his loan spell than this season (Wolves at home in October 2016 a prime example).

But with the margins in the division so tight, and Rovers just four points off the play-offs, even a handful more goals from their big-money summer buy could have been the difference.

The fact his two biggest seven-figure signings (Gallagher and Ben Brereton) are yet to fire are the biggest question marks hanging over Mowbray’s undoubtedly successful three years in charge.

The same can be said of Brereton, what is the long-term plan? Is he a winger, a No.10, or a striker? He wasn’t used off the bench when Rovers needed a goal most against Stoke, that despite some enterprising cameos of late, not least against Hull City when the subs did the trick as 0-0 became 3-0 in nine second half minutes.

Rovers are still trying to find a way to cope without the likes of Bradley Dack and Lewis Holtby, but solutions are needed on how to get the best out of their big-money buys too.