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[Blog] Hello Paul Jewell - Welcome to 2012!
Written by itfcjoe on Tuesday, 28th Feb 2012 13:49

What a difference a few weeks makes in football, six weeks back Jewell was a dead man walking and now he seems to have won round a number of the nay-sayers. However, I could rephrase the first part of that sentence to say 'What a difference a formation makes in football'.

Paul Jewell has embraced the in vogue formation of 4-2-3-1 since the Blackpool game and the performances and results have improved drastically - it is clear that this formation was forced on Jewell by the personnel but he has been brave enough to keep it, and leave the high wage earners on the bench, so credit where it is due.

The problem I always felt with Jewell is that he was stuck in the past with regards to football tactics. In the last 10 years, the playing area has grown dramatically in the game of football, not literally of course. With the rule changes with regards to offside, it is no longer possible to play a high line and a compact game.

Think back to Arrigo Sacchi's Milan where the forwards positioned themselves around 35 yards ahead of defenders at all times (if you're old enough to remember/sad enough to watch tactics on YouTube!). This now means that the distance between defenders and attacks is to vast to line four men across it, or to have a diamond where two players are effectively in the middle of where play happens and isolated.

If you were to try and note down what formation a team is playing, rather than the traditional 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 - there almost needs to be a fourth 'line of play' - 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1. Gone are the days of a midfielder that is good going forward and solid defensively, the heart and lungs man, the box to box midfielder etc. Football positions can now almost be split into the following four categories:

- Defenders - Defensive midfielders (ball winners, holding players, deep lying ball players - think Andrea Pirlo) - Attacking midfielders (Wingers playing on natural side, wingers who cut in, number 10s - those who play in the hole and create things) - Strikers

Any players who were traditionally an up and down midfielder need to really reinvent themselves and this is why I believe the inclusion of Lee Bowyer and Grant Leadbitter led to poor performances for the team earlier in the season, they neither get forward enough or back enough so are bypassed. I think Leadbitter can play a role similar to what Andy Drury has been doing for our current team so I wouldn't write him off yet - he is young enough and a good enough footballer to adapt.

I hope Jewell sees this throughout the rest of the season and his recruitment is more structured for next season. Last year there was a scattergun approach and in my view we recruited people who were 'good players' without any thought given to how they will fit into a system - and in reality, what system and style of play we would look to play throughout the season.

If Jewell makes the same mistakes this summer with regards to buying players who don't fit into our current system then the sack will be too good for him! Obviously we do need to be flexible but they still need to be 2012 footballers so no central midfielders who can't play in the positions stated above.

Brighton 3-0 Ipswich

I will try and tactically review every game I go to between now and the end of the season, apologies for being a bit slack but I kind of lost interest in it when we were on a bad run making same mistakes week in, week out - and have been busy at work since the run turned round. Also apologies that we have to start with a defeat since the good run!

First half

We lined up in the same shape we have since the Blackpool game, the energetic central three of Drury, Luke Hyam and Lee Martin where matched by Brighton, who lined up in an effective 4-3-0-3 - they played an exceptionally high front three and this caused us problems from almost the first minute.

The play was spread wide on a number of occasions and Will Buckley on the right wing, gave Aaron Cresswell a torrid time. Martin couldn't get on the ball and this was allowing their midfielders to pass from deep to the sideline hugging Buckley and Cresswell's lack of height was exposed. The third time this happened we were punished and went 1-0 down.

If I were in charge I would have slightly changed the formation to counter Brighton's threat, which was all coming from deep with balls for their pacey front three, by pushing Drury up and dropping Martin slightly so that more pressure was put on the ball in their defensive third to cut the supply chain off at source.

I think Hyam could have coped as a sole holding midfielder as they didn't produce much threat from their attacking midfield positions. We dominated possession for most of the half, but by them having a back four with three sitting fairly deep in front of them space was limited and we struggled to create anything of note other than a couple of long-ish range shots which the keeper saved.

What also didn't help us trying to get on top of Brighton was that Hyam had been booked so he wasn't able to be his normal combative self, he was also being dragged forward by the deeper lying Brighton three and this left us a bit out of shape for parts of the game.

Second half

We started the second half in the ascendancy and once again had a great deal of possession in threatening areas but couldn't break through. We didn't move the ball quickly enough and allowed them to get back into their shape and made it difficult to break down.

Some of the movement, especially down the left hand side, was a bit laboured and this was fairly easy to defend against and we struggled to create. Hyam was replaced by Leadbitter to add a bit more quality on the ball but before he had a chance to get into the game a dreadful kick by Arran Lee-Barrett was punished by Ashley Barnes to effectively kill the game.

After this, with Leadbitter's greater quality on the ball, and a reticence from Brighton to attack, we looked a little bit more threatening - however the ball didn't fall for us at any point in the box and it was really just one of those days. Jason Scotland replaced Daryl Murphy and joined Michael Chopra up front for the last 20 minutes but even he struggled to hold the ball up on what must have been a tricky pitch to play on.

The game petered out over the last seven or eight minutes and when a third Brighton goal was scored three minutes from time, I made a swift exit to get the train.


We didn't deserve to lose 3-0, and bossed possession against a good Championship side away from home. I think JET looked threatening on the ball and the team worked hard all game and had good energy.


There wasn't a huge goal threat and we were caught out the same way three times before a goal was conceded down our left. Damien Delaney needs to help Cresswell through the games and I have my doubts about him defensively away at good sides (not a criticism more an action point to improve on).

Some of the movement by Murphy and Chopra was a bit sluggish and they may be feeling effect of playing a lot of games recently. Hyam committed a rash challenge, which on another day could have been a red, and this yellow card affected his performance as couldn't harry and harass as much as usual - again, he's young and will learn and has been a revelation, so not a criticism.

Up Next - Bristol City (h)

I went to the return fixture and they were a very poor side, I hope Jewell sticks with the successful team from the winning run, with the possible exception of Tommy Smith. I rate Tommy and think he should be given a new contract, but after following his arduous journey on Twitter to Auckland (Ipswich-Heathrow-Bangkok-Sydney-Auckland), with a return flight this week he will be mentally and physically drained and will be an important player in the run in so we shouldn't risk injury.


Comfortable 3-1 victory.

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MaySixth added 14:28 - Feb 28
Nice blog.

MaySixth added 14:32 - Feb 28
We MUST drop ALB. A liability. Got away with it against Cardiff, didn't against Brighton. Always got a major mistake in him.

Sonko and McCarthy to return for Lee-Barrett and Smith.

Garv added 14:41 - Feb 28
Good read (of what I understood!).

Just one thing, you say the formation was forced on Jewell, was it? He could have easily said to Murphy sorry fella you're on the bench, put Martin on the wing and stuck Jason up top with Chops. Instead he stuck with Martin in the free role as we first saw at home to Derby, and I think that is where the success was based.

Also, despite playing well against Blackpool with said formation, he could have panicked after we lost to Leeds and changed it, but he stuck with it.

PJ_Needs_Duncan added 15:09 - Feb 28
Love the 4-2-3-1 was calling for it to be used for ages glad Jewell is using it. Its got the attacking capabilities of a 4-3-3 but the two DMs for stability and that allows wingbacks to go on runs.

wilnisfan added 16:03 - Feb 28
Nice blog, enjoyable read. Keep it up!

The relationship between the central three is key to controlling the game.

They all have different jobs to do. If our aim is to get a clear shot on target then creating space and time for any player to be able to do that requires flexibility in play and intelligence and quality in movement and possession. Not easy with players with limited experience at this level(our central three).

It will come with time I am sure.

I'd agree with the assessment that leadbitter quality on the ball improved for us, because if Martin and drury are crowded out by three opposition midfielders behind the ball and then looking to counter with a long ball to the corners, we need our defensive midfielder to be able to dictate the play an switch the play as necessary. Even come forward to attack if we are pressing back them enough.

Hyam is a solid midfielder but may not have the vision yet to be able to switch the play whilst keeping possession and dictate the pace of the game.

Drury also needs to balance between driving forward and denying space in midfield to adapt to opposition tactics, in this case he should undertand that a direct ball over his head cannot be stopped and the second ball will be swept up by hyam so he should lend support to attack.

Martin needs to play in a way that he can keep the play moving and keep the opposition defence and midfield guessing who should pick him up, while at the same time thinking about how he can manoeuvre edwards and cresswell into crossing positions, whilst ideally one or both of Murphy and jet are in the box together with chops.

eaii added 16:40 - Feb 28
Very good and interesting blog written by some one who seems to appreciate and enjoy football, this blog was refreshing and made a change from the usual 'know it all knobs' on this site! (I would love to stick some names up now but I dont fancy a ban).

"Defensive midfielders (ball winners, holding players, deep lying ball players - think Andrea Pirlo)" there has always been these kind of players and rather than Pirlo I was thinking McMahon or Reid or the best of the best at this position that Chelsea bloke a few years back Makalele.England was always strong in this position but I find today we (England) are lacking this kind of player same as Ipswich.

I find it remarkable not coincidential that Mr Hyam shows his face and our results seemed to have improved. Many on this forum called for this type of player 'a terrier' to help shore up and reinstate some confidence into our defence, this coupled with a more intelligent and modern approach to our tactics (as you have excellently shown)has worked wonders with our performances not always our results.

Time now to 'crack on' and kick Clegg up the a,,e who hopefully in turn will do the same to Evans and we might see some quality players at Ipswich after spending some money (sensibly) because if we buy cheapo's and reject's then we will always perform miracle's just to look 'OK'.

Surco72 added 16:48 - Feb 28
On saturday we needed Bullard to have replaced Hyam as the Brighton midfield was not pressing high thus giving the holding role player a lot of time on the ball and that is where Bullard hurts teams ,Leadbitter has not offered that in three seasons . Murphy and Jet were quiet which is why Carson on the bench would have been a much better option to add pace and close down further up the pitch .
The main thing is that formations change throughout the season and we cannot stick to one , Utd,City ,Spurs do not play the same way every game they vary formation and style depending on who they play going from one holding midfielder to two or even three and letting wingers and full backs fly up and down .
The diamond worked well for us for a while ,but we needed to adapt quicker than we did, but hindsight is an amazing gift

blrmy added 17:07 - Feb 28
A very different blog, and an enjoyable read, hope you keep them going.

Dalty added 20:46 - Feb 28
Good, interesting blog. I enjoy a lot of the opinion-based pieces on here, but its also great to see some thoughtful tactical analysis like this.

Whymarktonomarks added 21:07 - Feb 28
I remember reading last week that PJ realised , that after 4 wins ,the opposition might take us seriously , so therefore we would need a plan b ,or was it ,we now have a plan b .
From what I have read and seen of Saturday's game there wasn't too many changes ,as the game slipped away . ( Hyam yellow card scenario for one )Shame you weren't on the bench ,'ITFCJoe,' in a advisory capacity ,and perhaps we may have got that illusive draw that PJ keeps bemoaning .
I'm not going to 'Bash -the Jewell,' we all have our opinions ,but I've said it before ,and unfortunately ,I see no reason to change my view that when things don't go quite to plan ,it's 'cross your fingers' time and pray .
By his own admission , I quote ( -ish ) ,'Lee ( Martin ) seems to have found himself a nice position.' Doesn't really give the confidence injection we're craving ,does it ?
I've been eating the tastiest of 'Humble Pie' in recent weeks ,and long may it continue ,but ......the jury's still out ,but , I hope I continue to feast on it ,and that Saturday was just a blip .
Great blog , I'm sure if TWTD ever needs a coach for a charity 5 a side ,you'll get the call .

DutchTownFan added 19:31 - Mar 1
Really good read as I am very intersted in tactics/formations.
Keep it up!!!

whymark4lazio0 added 08:35 - Mar 2
Great blog. Please keep it going for the rest of the season. IMHO how a team performs is 1/3 tactics, 1/3 player ability, 1/3 player confidence. This is what makes football so unpredictable and endlessly fascinating. PJ could get every thing right and then 2 or 3 key players (ALB, Tommy and Chops for example) could have a dip in form/confidence and we would be back to square one. This creates virtuous and vicious circles. Virtuous (like recently) we get selection, tactics right, players confidence improves and we go on a winning run. Vicious- like earlier in the season- selection and tactics wrong, confidence slumps and we go on a losing run.
Long winded way of saying that tactics are only part of the jigsaw and therefore analysis will only give you partial answers.

In the Brighton game how quickly were you able to come to your conclusions? If you can do it within about 20 minutes of kick-off, then you should be working in the stands with a hotline to PJ!

Blue041273 added 22:07 - Mar 2
The beauty of football and its wide appeal is its unpredictability. Therefore there is no magic formula and the value of tactics can be overstated. Pre-emptive tactics may be hailed a success if the defending team do not cope adequately with them. Similarly defensive tactics which work may be deemed successful. In both cases however the measure of success is proved by results. Rarely can a losing team claim that their tactics have been successful. In the days of BFJ the overriding 'tactic' seemed to be to score more goals than the opposition whatever the number of goals conceded. No-one complained when we won, though there were inevitably complaints about his tactical nous when results went against us.

Thus tactics are fine in explaining what went right or wrong but football matches are so fluid and uncontrollable that fixed tactical formations arguably do more damage than good in the overall outcome. Still it creates the talking points that all fans love to debate.
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