|Mick, What is Your Next Move? Or Are You Out of Ideas?|
Written by Pickersblue22 on Thursday, 13th Oct 2016 15:40
Ipswich Town are facing a defining period. We thought last season was bad. It was, but it looks good in comparison to this one. We may only be 11 games in, but the signs suggest that things will get worse before they get better.
The Championship is becoming a second Premier League in terms of the money being thrown around. I have no wish to get into the arguments surrounding Mick McCarthy and finances as we have been there and done that. We have no real idea what our transfer budget is, but we do know that it is nothing compared to other clubs. Either that, or Mick doesn't fancy spending big for fear of giving fans another stick to beat him with. Unlikely, but you wouldn't put it past him. But as I said, I am not keen to go down the finances road.
I would rather talk about the players Mick does have at his disposal. This week Mick sunk to a whole new low when he said that the 'versatile' Conor Grant was being kept out of the team by Cole Skuse and Jonathan Douglas, who have been 'playing so well'. A statement which is utterly ridiculous on so many levels.
I do not know what games Mick has been watching, but for him to say this sums up everything that is wrong with the way he is running our club. For me, the fact that Skuse and Douglas are ever even on the pitch together is a joke.
Poor Teddy Bishop has been wrapped in the thickest layer of cotton wool in existence and is yet to be released. Kevin Bru is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his role in the team.
It is safe to say that Skuse, or Luke Chambers, for example, would not be afforded the same cotton wool. But this is just confirming what we already knew. Mick has his favourites. You could argue that this is not a new low, just a continuation of what has gone before.
The Championship is evolving at a rate of knots, and Mick is in real danger of dragging us away from the business end of the table for the foreseeable future. It takes a simple look at the top half of the table to see the kind of manager needed to be successful. Nine of the top 11 clubs have young, exciting, innovative leaders - Wagner, Neil, Johnson, Rowett, Smith, Stam, Carvalhal, Heckingbottom, and Monk. The exceptions being the Champions League winning Rafa Benita, and Chris Hughton, who has recruited superbly at Brighton.
Not to put too fine point on it, we have a stubborn, arrogant manager, who seems to have run out of ideas. This league will not wait for those who do not adapt, but unfortunately I cannot see Mick adjusting his methods, such is his stubborn streak.
It is especially galling, given that we have an exciting generation of young players at the club, who have no chance of getting a look in, because Mick has his teacher's pets embedded in the team.
Josh Emmanuel has been fortunate to get a chance, as he wouldn't have got near the team if it hadn't been for the injuries to Tommy Smith and Adam Webster. A man-of-the-match performance against Brighton will probably be enough to see him replaced for Saturday. After all, Chambers is completely undroppable. A great way to boost a young man's confidence. We shall see what happens there.
Mick said that Monty Patterson isn't near to challenging for the first team. Can he really know? Why not throw him in? New Zealand have, and are seeing the rewards.
It has only taken the best part of 10 months for Freddie Sears to be dropped, although Mick will undoubtedly be searching for a chance to put him back in. It is easy to sympathise with Sears at being put on the left wing, but a goal drought of that length is very poor even for a winger.
That is the problem with consistently picking the same players with no regard for performance - after a while their level will naturally drop. They know that they will be selected however well they play. Mick has actually literally confirmed this with Chambers. No one can say he has played well this season, yet his place in the team is guaranteed. No player can be undroppable. Our team has too many of them.
The Huddersfield game typified another area where Mick is massively at fault. He was spot on after the game when he said that we were poor on the ball in terms of creating chance. He said we had creative players on the pitch, which is true - we had Grant Ward, Kevin Bru and Tom Lawrence playing.
After 57 minutes, he replaced Ward and Bru with Sears and Bishop. He took off two creative players and put two different ones on. What about Skuse and Douglas? Why not put more creative players on the pitch? I know we were playing the league leaders, but in those substitutions he has not made the team any more creative, he has just changed the players.
In the 86th minute, on comes Luke Varney. This is a last throw of the dice. But off comes Lawrence. Surely Lawrence should be one of the players creating the chances for Varney? But no, Skuse and Douglas can't be touched. I don't know how Mick expects us to start scoring and winning games when his strategy remains the same.
I admit that we are having a tough time with injuries. The real time to judge how we are going will be when David McGoldrick and Jonny Williams are fit and firing, not just getting through 60 minutes. Although keeping them fit will be another challenge altogether. We do have a strong squad, and I believe that if the manager's job became available, there would a huge amount of interest.
The players are there, they just aren't being used in the right way. We will eventually benefit from selling Daryl Murphy as Leon Best is not on his level, and is not an adequate replacement. He should not start for us when the other options are available. We will be forced to play with the ball on the floor, but the right players have to be on the pitch to carry it out. Then with those players on the pitch, they have to do the right things. There is no point having creative players on the pitch if the ball is going to sail over their heads. There have been signs of a new approach but it cannot be cast aside.
My team with everyone fit would be this-
Bialkowski - a no brainer.
Emmanuel - The best and only right-back we have.
Skuse - Toss up between him and Douglas, just as long as they don't share the pitch.
Bishop - Ward has dropped his level, but is great option from bench, Teddy is the future of ITFC.
McGoldrick - When fit, an absolute handful, would need support up front on his own.
Subs - Gerken, Smith, Douglas, Bru, Ward, Sears, Best - creativity, solidity, variety.
I think this is an exciting, well-balanced team that is flexible, with good options off the bench. You may well ask what the point of picking that team is, as there is little chance of Mick ever starting with that XI on the pitch, but I think it emphasises the quality we do actually have. There is enough depth for players to know that if they don't perform consistently, they don't keep their place.
For Mick to come out after the Huddersfield game, and arrogantly say that he doesn't need to justify his selection is symptomatic of how he is alienating more and more fans. If we pay the money to come and watch the team, we want to know why players who are plainly not playing well keep being picked. He treats us like idiots, by lavishing praise on them a la Roberto Martinez.
It is nearly four years since Mick took over at Town. To me it has been two and a half years of very good, one and a half of backwards steps. The trip to Newcastle will be Mick's 200th game in charge. As he has said, this is his toughest period of his time here. It is also probably the toughest the league has been since he arrived.
The key for Mick is to work out what will bring fans back into Portman Road. He is always insisting that it is solely winning games that will do it. I don't completely agree; I think there is a way to win that will excite supporters. Mick rarely shows signs of having a Plan B. There is Plan A, and if that doesn't work then he makes his usual subs - Bishop for Bru, Varney for Sears usually, without really changing the tactics, and then he hopes for the best.
In a game of cat and mouse between the managers, Mick is always the cat. He will almost never make the first move, instead he will wait far longer than necessary before acting. One of his more infuriating habits is adapting his formation to match the opposition's. I understand the logic behind this, but why can't we let them do that to us?
There is no doubt that there is a lot of work to be done to win back the vast swathes of fans who have become disillusioned with the way things are going at the club. Mick hasn't had a great relationship with the fans for a while, he almost never comes over to applaud in the way the players do - it is important to reestablish that connection off the pitch as well as through the players on it.
Mick has a lot on his plate. He has credit in the bank, but the sands of time are running thin. It is now make or break time.
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