Confidence crisis or minor blip?

This season, for Ipswich, has been one of over-achievement; entering 2015 in an automatic promotion place, with many fans truly believing that this was the year where the longest-serving Championship side would finally not only gain promotion, but even challenge for the title.

Good spirits over Christmas saw the Blues embark on a terrific run of games, with a unbeaten record stretching back three months – the Boxing Day performance against Brentford and the following victory against Charlton exhibited a side which were well drilled, organised, hardworking and most importantly, gelling excellently as a unit. For me, this was a luxury – Ipswich have, and had, no right to be challenging the likes of Bournemouth, Middlesborough, Derby for the automatic berths. Yet with solid defensive displays and tireless work from the midfield and attack, there they were.

Yet, on the horizon was a hiccup – A loss against Derby, followed by a replay against Premier League Southampton proved a stumbling block and Ipswich now find themselves with just 1 win in the last 5. So what’s gone wrong? In this post, I’m going to compare the shots taken by Ipswich in *that* run in December vs the last 5 games.

Shot dominance is a good indicator of profligacy, as the more shots that a team takes shows the amount of ‘chances’ created. I’ve also looked at the locations of the shots, but not included screencaps. It’s worth looking at the dashboards on WhoScored by clicking the scoreline or match report for more detail of each fixture.

Delightful December

December was a key run of games for Ipswich, with the British festive period busy given the packed schedule; against Leeds, Bolton, Middlesbrough, Brentford and Charlton. The Tractor Boys ended December with 13 points from a possible 15.

leedz

Despite going down to an early goal, Ipswich picked up their game and began to dominate after pulling a goal ahead.

botlo

Ipswich really should have won this game, but from memory, Andy Lonergan had an incredible game in goal from Bolton. Quite notable is the fast starts after half-time but also after kick-off.

boro

The game against Middlesbrough was one of the most assured and organised games I’d seen Ipswich play. From the off they quelled the Boro attack, and only from corners did the Northerners look dangerous.

brentfor1

This was a massive advert for Championship football. Two teams flying high, and Ipswich were 3-0 within half an hour, with Murphy scoring a fantastically fast goal. Slight stagnation after the third goal in terms of  shots taken, which Brentford capitalised on but a great win with the best scoreline in football.

charlton

This game saw a huge attendance turn out under the lights at Portman Road, as many of the returning faithful saw Charlton stifled, again through organisation, assured football and good finishing. Another game with almost 20 shots taken, but in this game, efficiency of chances taken was key.

Faltering February

I’m not quite sure what the issue has become – is it confidence? Are key players struggling with the mentality and exhaustion of the excitement and buzz of the new year? 2015 has not started well at all for Ipswich, and in a key run of games, the Tractor Boys have found themselves missing that final slice of talent, luck whatever you want to call it in the home straight.

Reading

This game, for me, was ridiculous. Reading scored fairly early on, and Ipswich seemed to respond well. However, there were far too many pot shots from range, and the calmness and patience that we had seen (for instance vs Charlton) somehow disappeared. Deserved more, but quality was not on show.

bham

I questioned the Ipswich run of form before the Birmingham game, and though that pre-Norwich, this was a good omen. Another very fast Town start, assured dominance, scored again, then again, then again but Birmingham still responded (which would not have helped the Blues’ goal difference) Unfortunately, this seems to be a ‘port in the storm’ – Ipswich took more than 20 shots again.

nodge

I was in Munich for this game, and didn’t catch much, just the final 10 minutes – Which was enough. Norwich had already decided they’d had enough, and were keeping the ball as the Town midfield chased shadows. I compared this to the Norwich home game earlier in the season. The games were remarkably similar, in terms of the Canaries’ dominance as well as the shots from range from Ipswich.

leeds

This was a strange game. Ipswich took a long time to get going, and the game turned into a flurry of goals after the 65-70th minute. A missed penalty from Murphy cost ITFC a point.

Brentford

And finally, Brentford. A much more even game than some let on; Brentford had quite a few breakaways in the second half, and deserved the goal in the first half an hour. Ipswich could have tucked the three points away through Murphy, but the Irishman will pick himself up.

Shot locations + Dominance

For me, I think that the locations of the shots that are taken is an issue; build-up play is often rushed, and the team is trying to score in different ways than the way Ipswich set up in the first half of the season. There is definite talent in the team and it’ll find it’s way to the fore.

Next steps

There are a lot of fans who have blamed Tommy Smith, Jay Tabb et al for the woes of Ipswich, bemoaning the lack of Paul Anderson, Teddy Bishop. But Tyrone Mings has dropped off in my eyes, as has Berra. I think that the workmanlike abilities of Tabb are missed when he’s not in the team, than when he’s in. David McGoldrick’s injury (which might come out the wrong way) came at a good time for him. He’d dropped off in terms of goalscoring, and looked devoid of confidence. I understand his role as foil for Murphy, but the acquisition of Sears, N. Hunt etc in my eyes pushed McG down the pecking order. The challenge is to pick himself up and make himself indispensible to the team – as the much maligned Cole Skuse has done.

The run in for Ipswich is amongst the hardest, and the team will need to rally together and embody the graft, hardwork and cohesive organisation which has shone throughout this campaign, and I think there is a huge opportunity which remains to gain promotion this season.

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