McKenna: Great Options at the Back Now
Friday, 10th Nov 2023 15:51
Town boss Kieran McKenna believes he now has really good options at the centre of defence, Axel Tuanzebe having made his league debut for the Blues at Rotherham in midweek, but admits his side have conceded more goals than he would have liked in recent games.
Tuanzebe joined Town on a free at the start of September having been released by Manchester United and, after working on his fitness - the 25-year-old joined the club with a back problem - played for the Blues for the first time in the Carabao Cup defeat to Fulham before making his opening Championship appearance at the New York Stadium.
“We've got great options there now, I have to say,” McKenna said. “That's where we need to be all over the pitch, to be competing at the level that we're competing at.
“We want to have those options and that strength in every area. All four of the senior centre-halves now, obviously Axel's still building his way up, but now certainly you can say fit and getting stronger and Luke [Woolfenden] and Cameron [Burgess], who've played mostly games in the league, both performing really well.
“George [Edmundson] has performed really well this season and Elkan [Baggott], of course, underneath that has been excellent when he's had his opportunities.
“So we're in a really strong position in those areas and we're going to need that over the course of the season, and it's a good marker for where we want to get to.”
While Town have been free-scoring at one end, they have conceded rather more than they would have wanted at the other having shipped two in each of their last three league matches and 13 in their seven home fixtures, a total only surpassed by second-bottom QPR.
Asked if the number of goals conceded is something which is being assessed or whether it’s just a natural consequence of the front-foot manner in which McKenna wants his side to play, he added: “We analyse everything to be fair and we certainly want to be a positive, aggressive team and that means that times you have to defend big spaces if you want to be aggressive against the ball.
“But we never take any goal that we concede lightly and we never just accept that we're going to concede. We want to keep a clean sheet in every game, that's the base, but we've conceded a few more goals than we would have wanted. We’ve scored four more goals than anyone else in the division.
“You can't be perfect, certainly not in our situation. Not everything's going to go well all the time. I think before last Saturday we’d conceded two goals in seven away games, then we conceded two goals twice in two away games - an own goal, a wonder strike in the 91st minute. Birmingham's first goal had a big slice of fortune really with a mishit shot.
“We got caught cold in the goal in the first minute [at Rotherham], sometimes things just happen. We had it last season and sometimes you go through spells where teams shoot and things fly in the top corner or take deflections, or own goals go in.
“And then you have other spells where we've had great runs of clean sheets and the ball doesn’t go in our net for eight or nine games and if you asked what we were doing differently in those spells, the answer would be probably not very much.
“We're operating at a higher level with better players and better opposition and we're still trying to play a very brave style, so we're probably going to concede more goals than we did in League One.
“But sometimes football can be pretty random and you can not concede having given away quite a few chances and you concede goals in games where, such as in the last two, where I don't feel like we've given up very many chances, but we've conceded a few more goals.
“Sometimes these things come in cycles and we look go into the next game as we do every game, trying to be really good on and off the ball and keep a clean sheet and score more goals than them.”
Reflecting further on the last two matches, 2-2 draws at Birmingham and Rotherham, asked his overriding feelings after those games, he added: “I think that we have had Saturday and Tuesday away games in tough conditions with things going against you in the games as well, conceding from early moments in the games.
“There are huge positives to take there from the way that we stuck to it in both games and got a point in both games. Could have been more, in another world, it could have been less, but that's football.
“So I think big positives to take and we're looking forward to being home now and playing in front of a full Portman Road in the last game of this block, I think our sixth game in the last 18 days, and giving it a real push to try and get a performance tomorrow.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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