Chaplin: Role Hasn't Changed Too Much, Despite Teams Trying to Reduce Space
Friday, 8th Dec 2023 11:09
Conor Chaplin has dismissed the idea that he is a similar player to Blackburn Rovers’ Sammie Szmodics, currently the Championship’s leading marksman with 14 goals this season – twice as many as the Town man.
Chaplin said: “I don’t think I am in the same mould, to be honest. It think it depends on the way the manager wants you to play and I think Szmodics, it’s definitely not the same role I play for Ipswich – definitely not.
“He’s probably playing a lot closer to a number nine, at least that’s how I see it from watching Blackburn play this season and they create a hatful of chances, they’re really good in possession, good patterns, really good structure and he’s reaping the rewards from that with some very good finishes as well. Doing really well.
“I probably wouldn’t say that, to be honest. I think we’re two very different players in terms of our own qualities, so I probably wouldn’t compare us in that way.”
Chaplin, who was League One’s top scorer last season alongside Jonson Clarke-Harris of Peterborough on 26 goals, also picked up the fans’ Player of the Year award as he helped to win promotion back to the Championship, where he has looked at home alongside his Blues’ colleagues.
Asked if his role in the Championship was any different to last season, he added: “No, it hasn’t changed too much. It has changed, probably, from game to game sometimes. I do feel like the opposition are trying to nullify my space quite a lot more now, but with that being said, in some games I won’t be as influential than in others.
“Some days it’s about finding a way but other days it’s just about doing the right thing. If they’re going to work that hard to nullify space for me then Broady [Nathan Broadhead], Leif [Davis] or Wes [Burns] is going to have a lot of space. I’ll take that on the chin all day long if it’s for three points.”
Chaplin also talked about his friendship with Burns, which started long before the pair became colleagues at Ipswich in the summer of 2021. He explained: “The only reason we knew each other was that we had the same agent and that’s going back years and years.
“We knew each other because of that and played against each other. Portsmouth-Fleetwood we played against each other, Coventry-Fleetwood as well potentially, so from that as well.
“But since we’ve been in the same building has come on more just in terms of having minutes together and we really understand one another now.
“It does take time, probably the most understanding I’ve had with another player is with Wes, I would say that in terms of knowing each other’s games really well.
“We both know what we want to do when I’m on the ball or he’s on the ball. We know what each other likes, quite clearly now.
“That just comes from time, that just comes from playing together on the pitch, training every day, working on things and, hopefully, we can continue to bring imagination, bring patterns that help the team, week in, week out.”
Looking back at Burns’s outrageous goal against Coventry last week, Chaplin went on: “That technique is tough, especially to put it in the top corner like that. It’s impressive, a really, really good finish.
“There are some really good players in world football who use the outside of the boot more than others. Everybody knows who they are.
“It’s a difficult skill but like I said, generally it’s one he practices and it’s one he likes. He’s comfortable with that finish and he likes it when he’s coming inside to use that finish, even one on one he’s used that finish.
“He used it against Charlton at home two years ago, last game of the season. He was through one on one and used that finish rather than his left foot. He’s comfortable with the outside of his right.”
Town, as well as Burns individually, have earned a huge amount of credit from a goal that lifted fans off their seats after a series of quick-passing moves, starting with goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky, saw the winger cut inside and net with the outside of his right foot, the ball curling over the dive of Coventry keeper Brad Collins and flying into the top corner just inside the far post.
Chaplin said: “We’ve scored some really good team goals, some really goals that we work on in training and it’s nice to see them appreciated from outside.
“We do that routinely throughout the week. There are things that we work on, patterns of play that we work on, messages throughout the week where there are spaces to attack.
“We do work on that genuinely, so it’s nice for it to be appreciated but at the same time, it’s one goal, it doesn’t mean too much in the grand scheme of things if it’s a tap-in or a worldy team goal like that, it’s the same outcome.”
Chaplin declared himself unconcerned that Burns’s goal having beena huge hit on social media that it might also act as a scouting aid for opposition managers. “No, not in this day and age,” he said.
“If other clubs are not watching our games and seeing our goals, then they’re not doing the prep that they should be doing. I don’t think they have to go on Twitter to do that.
“Clubs are very diligent with their work these days and you have to be because everyone’s really well coached, you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to know what you’re coming up against. It’s a big thing in the modern game, that tactical battle between managers.”
When the talk turned to the forthcoming East Anglian derby against Norwich at Portman Road on Saturday week, Chaplin was less keen to be drawn on the subject. He said: “I couldn’t tell you about that yet, we’ve got two games before that comes so it’s generally something I’m obviously aware is coming up.
“You wouldn’t be living in Suffolk if you didn’t know that game was coming up. But I’ve got Saturday-Tuesday first and, especially this time of the season, you can’t look that far ahead. You can’t look to Tuesday before you’ve got your Saturday game. Definitely can’t look two games ahead, so that’s not something I’ve thought about at the moment.
“The best part about football is the rivalry, the love for your football club, the passion for your football club. It’s probably the best part about football, probably why most of us fell in love with football for one team or another.
“It means everything, it’s something I can’t wait to be involved in. I can’t want to experience. But, like I said, that’s two games away so I don’t really want to talk about it too much now because my focus isn’t really there.”
Chaplin said he was delighted to feature in a picture, which was mocked up in conjunction with the marketing campaign to promote Town’s new white and black change strip, which the club have confirmed will be worn by the players at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
The picture shows Chaplin between Town legends John Wark and Paul Mariner, with another two leading figures in the club’s history, former manager Sir Bobby Robson and ex-skipper Mick Mills, and the current favourite admitted: “I didn’t know anything about it until it came out, it was a really cool picture, I saved it on my phone for the purposes of being able to look back on it.
“I think it’s a really nice picture, it’s obviously nice to be in a little draft picture with legends of Ipswich and it’s good marketing for the kit.
“The kit’s lovely and a big favourite of mine. It’s just a shame that we don’t get to wear it too much throughout the season, similar to the black one, I think it’s a really nice kit.”
Finally, looking ahead to Saturday’s match at the Riverside, Chaplin added: “I’m expecting a really tough game. Good players, really well-coached team. Obviously had a lot of success last season in terms of coming up the table. So strong, making the play-offs.
“They’re a good footballing team and Michael Carrick has done a great job there. Hopefully, it will be a good game of football, a good game for the neutral and it’s one we are all really looking forward to.
“They’ve lost three or four of their key players from last season and when that happens it’s tough to come out of the blocks at the start of a new campaign when you’ve got a completely new team in terms of key men and guys that are featuring every week.
“They lost a lot of goals from the side when Chuba Akpom, who got 28 in the Championship, was sold. They’ve replaced that.
“They’re probably more spread out now, the goals, throughout the team, whereas he was a big focal point in terms of goals. They lost a couple of really successful loanees from last season as well.
“So I think it was not to be expected as such, but you can understand why they’re getting to grips with that and finding their feet again and they’ve been a really impressive team.”
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