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Top Six Might Be More Realistic With This One-Dimensional Squad and Stubborn Manager
Written by Pickersblue22 on Monday, 2nd Mar 2015 13:08

Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Norwich was both painful and disappointing. It is never nice to lose to your arch-rivals, especially given our recent record against them, but in many ways, this game re-affirmed what we already know about Town’s shortcomings.

There is a sizeable gap between Norwich’s squad and ours, contrary to what Mick McCarthy said after the game. We played exactly the same way from minute one to minute 90. That was to try and stifle their midfield creativity with a narrow four in the centre, and to knock the ball into the corners to try and force mistakes from their defence.

Both Norwich goals came from Wes Hoolahan bursting through and creating the chance, which shows how well our midfield did in stopping him, and with the ball, we used Daryl Murphy as an outlet, but Sebastian Bassong had the Irishman in his pocket all afternoon.

And yet we continued to play in exactly the same way. I don’t think this is the players’ fault; it is down to Mick that we only know to play one way.

For me this team simply isn’t quite good enough to make the top two. We can make the top six, but the hallmarks of our fantastic first half of the season seem to have disappeared. We have become inconsistent- just as we look to be getting form, we lose and have to build again.

Our problems start at the back. Bartosz Bialkowski has looked slightly shaky recently. Shot-stopping actually isn’t his forte as he is so tall that he struggles to get down to the ball. But he is comfortably the best goalkeeper we have, and that will keep him in the team.

The biggest problem we have in the defence is Tommy Smith. Smith is an excellent defender, but he has a mistake in him (think Derby and Fulham). I cannot remember the last time I saw him pass the ball to one of our midfielders. He either goes back to the keeper, passes to Christophe Berra to lump it, or he lumps it himself in the direction of Murphy.

Being a left-footer on the right-hand side, he has to go infield to bring the ball out of defence. One, there is never likely to be enough space in the centre of the park, and two, Smith is not comfortable enough on the ball to bring it away.

Luke Chambers playing at right-back is simply baffling. He was first put there because Mick didn’t rate Elliott Hewitt, and he did a decent job there. Now however, we have a good, solid right-back in Jonathan Parr, who would clearly do a better job there, and Mick persists with Chambers.

You want your right-back to be comfortable on the ball, and Chambers simply isn’t. He is nowhere near quick enough, his passing is not good enough, and neither is his crossing. I can’t believe that Mick thinks Chambers is better than Parr at right-back. It is madness.

The point of Chambers playing there was that the alternative was not good enough; now the alternative is easily good enough - we have already seen him play well at right-back. Mick now seems to think that Parr would do better at left midfield, just because he scored when he came on there against Millwall. Tyrone Mings and Berra are our best two defenders and are doing a great job at the moment.

In central midfield, I understand why Mick persists with Cole Skuse, as we miss him when he doesn’t play, but he brings absolutely nothing creatively, so you have to play a creative player with him, otherwise there is nothing from the midfield.

Kevin Bru is a lovely player, and has done fantastically, but I don’t understand why he was removed yesterday in favour of Skuse. Does Mick not realise that he can actually create, as well as break up opposition possession?

Teddy Bishop is a great talent, but he must be managed carefully as he looks worn out at the moment. He is a central player, so why Mick has played him on the right ahead of Paul Anderson is beyond me.

Anderson is quite possibly my favourite Town player. He works incredibly hard, but he actually has quality as well, and I really think he should start more games. Jay Tabb is similar to Anderson in that he works hard, but he has very little end product. He is never going to outpace his full-back, so why does Mick keep picking him there.

We have a natural left-winger who can’t even make the bench in Cameron Stewart. Stewart is exactly the kind of player we want in the team. He has real pace, unlike Tabb, but perhaps Mick thinks he won’t do his defensive duties. But so what? He isn’t in the team to defend. Of course he’ll track back as Mick will be stood a few yards away from him.

I find it infuriating that Parr comes on at left midfield and Stewart is not even on the bench. What must poor Stewart be thinking? He is what we are crying out for, and yet he is not near the team. Utter madness.

Chaplow has looked OK so far, but I think he will be more effective playing deeper in the Skuse role, breaking up play and keeping possession.

Up front, Daryl Murphy has gone three games without a goal, which either means that opposition defences are keeping him in their pockets, or he is feeling the pressure after being challenged to get 30 goals this season.

But we need someone to step up to the plate, and that could be Freddie Sears. He has looked really lively since he came in, but I have noticed that a lot of his best moments come when drops off the front and finds space to run at the defence.

I think he could be a threat on the left-wing, cutting in onto his right foot, and leaving space out wide for Mings to overlap. Sears has got the pace to get in behind a defence - he just needs the right service. He was by far our best player against Norwich.

David McGoldrick cannot come back soon enough. I fear that he might not be back for a while, hence the signing of Chris Wood. Before he was injured people, myself included, were berating his selfishness in front of goal, but he is almost our only player who can create things on his own. No-one else in our squad has his guile and quick feet. Like with Skuse, he is noticeable by his absence.

The signing of Chris Wood is an excellent one as he has scored lots of goals at this level before. But Mick must manage him properly. He should think about playing him, Murphy and Sears together. Wood is much more than just a target man- he has pace and is a natural finisher.

Quite why Luke Varney came on instead of him at half-time against Norwich is ridiculous, but we have come to expect that kind of thing from Mick. Varney will work hard, but he’s never been a natural goalscorer and he isn’t about to become one.

What we need is a Hoolahan. With McGoldrick injured, we have no-one to get between the lines and make things happen. We needed to sign Anthony Knockaert. That would have been a fabulous signing, as he was wonderful last season for Leicester, and would have made a massive difference to our team. Where’s Jonny Williams when you need him?

I think Mick is currently wasting some of his selections by picking players that are far too similar. We really don’t have more than one way of playing, which means it is very difficult to get promoted. Mick needs to release the shackles off this squad, and realise that he has some real talent in this group of players, which is currently not being used.

Mick seems to favour character over ability, which is all very well, but we can wave goodbye to promotion if that continues, because watching us smash the ball up the field for ninety minutes in the derby was painful. Surely Mick sees what the rest of us see.

So, to the rest of the season. Mick needs to realise that we have become inconsistent, and that is because teams are raising their game when they play us, and we have to find ways to counter that. Continuing to play long balls simply won’t work. We must be more flexible if we want to unpick the best defences in the division.

There is now the very real possibility that we won’t finish in the top six with Wolves and Nottingham Forest flying, and Brentford breathing down our necks. We have to accept that our current squad isn’t good enough for the top two, and we should try and consolidate our position in the top six. We still have to play six of the teams with us in the top nine, more than anyone else, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Perhaps not finishing in the top six will force Mick to realise that to get promoted we need more quality in the squad. He should be looking for quality and not for characters that he likes. A manager like him should be able to deal with egos and strong personalities. At the moment it seems that he is not able to. The squad needs work, but let’s get behind the boys for these last 12 games of the season.

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ronnyd added 14:38 - Mar 2
Good blog Pickersblue22. Can,t really disagree with any of that.

groovyASH added 14:42 - Mar 2
Agree with the points regarding our lack of consistency. As I mentioned on the forum yesterday we have a 50% loss ratio in the last 10 games which indicates our form is more than a blip, it is our 2nd half of the seaaon so far.
Think we would all like to see some of the starting 11 changed and freshened up. Our change of fortune after August's derby defeat saw a change in personal and formation which led to our best run in years. It gives fringe players a chance to impress and the more established players under performing a thing to think about.

In terms of adding quality I think Mick would if he could, but quality costs and we simply cannot ever have a match 18 like Norwich due to this.

bluesince84 added 15:17 - Mar 2
cant add to that, a perfect article. If we dont make top six this term i agree it may force Micks hand about our tactics and type of player, but i disagree with the fact mentioned here a few times (in other blogs) that we only need a couple of signings to make a successful next season. If we dont go up its not a question of who we add but who we lose. Mdgoldrick will surely go, mings i think will go, and Daryl is getting older, just hope we keep these guys if the worst happens. However i sayt it in everything i write, doesnt matter the result, how we played in the last game etc, Tabb will always start and defenders played out of position. Oh and of course always always always 442.

alfromcol added 15:28 - Mar 2
Spot on blog, good analysis of our current problems. Can't understand why MM and TC can't see it.

bellazzurri79 added 15:55 - Mar 2
I disagree with the part about Anderson ... He is Mr ' no end product' I'm afraid

naa added 16:05 - Mar 2
Yep, a very good blog.

The section regarding the defence is particularly obvious to me too. Smith has been excellent for us, but it currently isn't working. Strangely, Smith was actually playing better when he was dropped earlier in the season (with some success I thought at the time), so why he won't drop him now I've no idea.

We aren't a graceful, ball-playing team, but in December we were actually playing some nice stuff, and not just humping it hopefully up the pitch. But yesterday we looked to be totally without a plan. After a half of humping to no effect Mick brings on Varney, so we can hump it up to him instead! That was deeply upsetting.

We obviously need some midfield quality. I agree with your point about Skuse completely, but we have to have some creativity too. I'd play Bishop back in the middle personally.

Can't agree about Anderson though. He puts in 110% every game, but often very little comes of it.

dannyrr added 16:39 - Mar 2
I agree that the back four need to be the strongest we can have which gives the rest of the team the confidence to push forward. Tommy unfortunately isn't being helped by playing out of position and don't want to criticise him too much as he has scored more goals this season than all of the midfielders together. By playing him in the wrong position he is uncomfortable and as he only has one predominant foot and has a turning circle of a battleship so before he gets closed down has to pass back to the keeper.

Anderson on a good day unfortunately like Big Frank puts in 110% but rarely makes any difference. There will be the time that occasionally he will do something that will make a difference. Instead of playing the favourites I'd like to see some others get a chance to change it about. Darren Ambrose hasn't had a bad game yet. I have seen very little of Cameron Stewart but what I have seen is he can make a difference. Tabby and Anderson when used as impact subs make little or no impact. We will win games by score goals - attack. Use Woods Sears Murphy McGoldrick. We have options in the team and on the bench let's use them - who's to say we might just win - Fortune favours the brave. Let's see us consolidate our position in the top six. COYB

bedsitfc added 16:48 - Mar 2
Our keeper is a good shot stopper as showed when Jerome was 1 on 1 with him.
Our problem is pace we are just too slow they had better central midfielders and they were quicker that combination proved our undoing.
Mick is working to a budget he can't have everybody he wants he has to make do with what we can afford.

therein61 added 18:36 - Mar 2
the first choice back 4 is unbalanced to say the least the fall guy has to be Smith or Berra to move the skipper in the middle to give us 2 capable get forward full backs but it has to be said Chambers is not performing and is looking jaded(rest him then) as are a few others(small squad large problem!!) all of a sudden we have more midfield & striker options while the solid dependability at the back which has served us so well this season is looking knackered and to an extent been found out(Chambers at right back!?) who comes in to freshen it up?

therein61 added 18:41 - Mar 2
Adding to my previous post we are still in a position to push on and without doubt have the best season in a helluva long time COYBS

Vizslaraner added 18:54 - Mar 2
Spot on and can't disagree with anything you say. Yes mm is working on a budget but he should try putting square pegs in square holes and do away with the round ones. I appreciate all what mm has done but if he continues to favour the likes of skuse and tabb we won't go anywhere. If Tommy plays he should left centre half and chambo has to go right centre half. Then the most baffling one, you have parr who can operate comfortably at either right or left back playing midfield! Utter lunacy. We were at our best at 433 with the right back four. As for tabbs set pieces, where is variety or perhaps try whipping in a fast hard cross for a change. All to predictable

tractorgrl added 19:08 - Mar 2
Good blog well done, in the absence of a like or agree button,i like and agree, mostly! Anderson has good points but is not an impact from the bench player so would probably start in my team. Love tommy but agree with all of your comments,we must play football on the deck not hoofball,we must tighten up our tackling/shooting/marking. We also seem to be afraid or are not allowed to change things to plan b.

MattinLondon added 19:24 - Mar 2
I know that MM is on a strict budget of not-a-lot and I am not expecting Ronaldo type of players but the skill levels of some of the squad baffle me. All professional footballers should be able to control the ball, bring it down and pass to someone in the same colour shirt. That's the absolute minimum I expect from a player. If they can't do that then they should not be professionals. I only played Sunday league but I could do that...couldn't do much else, but I could do that. On numerous occasions this season some players seem unable to do that. 'Oh no I have the ball', panic...let's hoof the ball into touch.

I don't think that MM is all that pragmatic. We chooses to play workmanlike long ball football out of choice rather than necessarity. MM has done a fantastic job and his reputation hasrobably increased since he has been here. But the limitations of hoofball is all to apparent at times.

This leads me to wonder what the team do in training. Practice long punts into touch.

essex57 added 19:43 - Mar 2
Excellent blog disagree with the mcgoldrick bit dont think hes been to interested in the last few months would not suprise me if he departed think theres more to the injury issue than meets the eye also Mings dont know if hes the same or if he cant hack the pressure.
Thought MM looked Jaded today aswell.

WindsorBlue added 20:32 - Mar 2
I agree that Smith needs "a rest", he looks very nervy at the minute. Ando does give his all, but you're correct his end product is sometimes lacking, and I don't think he commits himself to tackles and times, and wimps out a bit. Skuse is fantastic, some games are better than others, but on the whole he performs very well.

I do think this piece comes across as anti-Mick, what we must remember is what he has done so far. Taken relegation certainties to playoff contenders in two-years. This is on very a limited budget. We did try and get quality in Knockaert, but he decided he wants to earn a crust warming a bench. If you want creativity it costs, to get these players we as fans need to take responsibility and fill the stadium. The two are inextricably linked with FFP. I think ME pumps enough money in each year just to keep us going, it is not unreasonable for town fans who stay away to buy more tickets. Surely Mick Mills dulcet tones are enough to bore people into coming! For what its worth I have a sneaky suspicion that we wont see McG again, but hope I am wrong. I love this football club irrespective of playing style. I could easily watch Chelsea/Arsenal each week more easily than Town and enjoy free flowing exciting football, but thats not, and never will be the main reason I go to football. Mick is long enough in the tooth to know the score, he is with the players daily, and I trust he is picking the best team and playing to our strengths. My job is to support the club, and trust Mick to do our job. We as fans should be happy with incremental improvement, and we have definitely seen that. Even if we finish 7th or 8th, we are a better side than last year. I have no doubt we will be promoted under MM within the next 5 years, and that will secure this football club....even if we are direct, and not the prettiest.

bluefeast added 21:41 - Mar 2
if players dont play in their best positions its nobodies fault but the manager pure and simple. Your match day starting 11 need to be experts in their role , thats what gives balance ,confidence and so on. MM is in a managers dark hole ,many go there. Is he brave enough. Personally i think we are destined for 8th place.

rickw added 23:46 - Mar 2
I agree with your analysis of our squad except for Anderson - I haven't seen signs of his quality....

I would like to see Mick change players a bit until we can get that consistency back which I believe we can, but that might involve him dropping favourites such as Smith, Skuse, Tabb, Anderson and trying out Parr, Ambrose, Chaplow, Stewart, Varney & Wood until we find that winning formula again!

ernie added 09:07 - Mar 3
You had me until you said Anderson was your favorite player

JimmyJooJarJee added 11:07 - Mar 3
This blog is quite simply ridiculous. The author seems to imply some miraculous incisive insight over McCarthy in players by watching them a maximum of 90 minutes a week and declaring Mick McCarthy an ignorant dinosaur who works with these players day in day out.

McCarthy has already shown he knows how to get the best out of a limited squad and playing effective football to get results. Let him do the managing.


paulthebluealien added 11:27 - Mar 3
Anybody who thinks McCarthy isn't / hasn't done a good job at Ipswich is either both delusional or stupid.

Or both.

Mind you, I understand what this blog is aiming to achieve - I just disagree with some points - though Smith does need a rest.

Pickersblue22 added 13:01 - Mar 3
RE JimmyJooJarJee I am not knocking the job McCarthy has done- I just think he is not making the be best use of the squad he has at his disposal. This group has done a great job but we are stuttering, and I think Mick should rethink some of his selections. I am not saying that I know more than him. He has worked wonders since he came in.

rugbytomc added 13:21 - Mar 3
Good blog, really good

I'm with those who rate smith but still think he should be dropped to give the back 4 more balance. I also think it's a chance to rest him then bring him back and rest either chambers or Berra as last year those 3 basically played all 46 league games and looked knackered by the end of the season-maybe why mistakes creep in.
What I wouldn't give for us to have got Henderson in as goalie!
We lack wingers and mick tried to get one in but there's no many available out there. Don't k ow why Stewart isn't getting a look in but would hope he or connoly would get a chance soon. Tabb and Anderson try hard but just aren't that good and if we want to go up we just need better players that that.
It's a shame we don't have the finances but that's life and isn't about to change!

tractorintheloft added 16:13 - Mar 3
Short memories - think back to the end of Jewell era. No squad - mainly loans, no cash - already spent on expensive journeymen who were paid off. £1.5m on Taylor + large contract.

MM & TC have had to cut their cloth accordingly. Given the resources available they have done an amazing job. Do i like watching it - not really. Will I be chuffed if we make the playoffs for the first time in years - absolutely. We have no alternative. We don't have the finance to build a squad that can play expansive footie - those players cost a premium and our owner has got fed up throwing good money after bad.

This appraoch gives us our best chance of going up. When we go up we get some cash. Then we rebuild. ME gets some dosh back. Everyone's a bit happier until the gravy train stops again.

dalianwasexciting added 08:44 - Mar 4
Well there is little, if anything to add to what is quite simply the best blog I have seen in a very long time. I believe it sums up the thoughts of a fair percentage of the Town following. Tractorintheloft makes a good point regarding the work MM and TC have done after the wasteful and downright frustrating years the Clegg/Keane/Jewell era, however MM and TC do have it in their gift to make just the odd tweak. If we are going lose playing defensively, then it galls that we do not go for it and run the risk of losing by attacking, and that is clearly illustrated by the lack of opportunities for Cameron Stewart.

We have over achieved thus far this season, and exceeded pre-season expectations, but I and not doubt others, can see where points have been dropped, often through over cautious team selection. If we are to be a defensive side who break then we need the pace and quite frankly the usual starting 11 do not have that in abundance.

rickw added 11:10 - Mar 4
There are people on here who get very critical to anyone who dares say something negative about Mick McCarthy. I think most fans appreciate the job he's done just now we're stuttering everyone has their own views on what tweaks need making to get us back on the consistent winning path again.

Yes we all remember worse times, but every fan wants to see their team at their best and we aren't currently there.
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