Yesterday was an excellent day on #ITFC Twitter.
Kicked off with a million ‘See, Mick’s doing what I said!’ tweets, the introduction of Jonny Parr for Jonas Knudsen was further fuel to the ‘I-told-you-so’ crowd. For me, my only relief was Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing in a midfield, and I was merely satisfied with Bru alongside him – Either one of Coke or Douglas would have worked for me. All three are able to do the same job of the ‘go-between’ central midfielder. I like Pitman, so I would have included him from the start instead of Sears or Murphy, but both seemed to be impressive today.
On the subject of Murphy, I felt he had his role to play and did it extremely well. Tracking back on the left hand side, playing others in and being the brick wall he has been up front. My argument to those who say he is lacking ‘confidence’ is that he may be asked to play differently than he was last year; shades of it were seen when Sears joined in the winter transfer window. The introduction of Sears meant Murphy’s role was not to simply shoot and score, but to have a more expansive role as well. For me, his age and output was always going to regress to his norm – And perhaps MM (maybe not in those exact words) knows this, especially through his years of management.
I’m a public sceptic of Dean Gerken – I worry whenever he leaves his line. I also feel Bart may be a better goalkeeper but am not sold on the idea. I am certain however that I wholly trust a coaching team who are lead by the likes of Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor who have been doing this for a while. I think having a consistent back 5 has been the goal since McCarthy took over, but he has played around with it when necessary (see, the 5 at the back at the end of the 13/14 season). Though I could understand Gerken being taken out of the ‘firing line’, I am also a backer of putting faith in a goalkeeper who has good reflexes and is very vocal with his backline. He made some good saves yesterday, against, and I must stress this a team who has taken the most shots in the league this year (224) – 174 key passes and 8 assists make 182 chances created, which is far greater than Ipswich’s 166 shots and 129 key passes with 9 assists.
Forest are shot monsters; they got 18 shots away to Ipswich’s 9 and were arguably on top for much of the game until the Ipswich goal, which was a huge slice of luck from Jonny Parr. After that, Murphy and McGoldrick both had chances to double our lead, but were unable to finish. Had these gone in, the post-mortem on the Ipswich performance wouldn’t exist. I’d argue that this was one of our better performances, and that the balance that Niles and Bru brought to the midfield allowed the front 3 to just go play.
This is the touchmap for the Ipswich players yesterday – Notice three things here – One, the importance of the left-hand channel. This has been a trend since Cresswell/Mings. Two, the distinction between midfield and attack. The 4-3-3 is almost visible within this image. And three, Kevin Bru. 90 touches, more than any other player on the pitch.
For the next game, I would replace Murphy with my personal favourite Pitman – Pitman’s energy and defensive work-rate helps the midfield, and being a jack-of-all-trades having a good passing ability, aerial ability and shot frequency, I’d like to see him in the team. I feel the back 5 pick themselves, and Douglas is a like-for-like switch for Skuse. For those wondering why Douglas isn’t the barnstorming midfielder (was he this at Brentford) that he was at Brentford – the Irishman is now 32, his technical abilities and leadership (the man is very vocal and loves to intelligently point to where players should be) are the skills he brings to the Ipswich midfield.
Do I think that things are going wrong? Not at all. Last year, as I’ve heard Mick say, were Ipswich better than the other 18 teams in the league? Not really. Were we extremely lucky to finish in the play-offs? Being 2nd was a mass over-achievement, but by that measure, yes that play-offs were par.
The big question for me, however, is this – Had we been somehow promoted, how hard would we have been slapped in the face by the top 8 Premier League sides? This team and squad is so far away from the Premier League. But if the management team are allowed time to build and develop the talent whilst being relatively competitive (I’m talking top 10), I feel that there could be something awesome on the cards in a year or two.
But there’s no chance any fanbase, let alone the bored-tired-and-exhausted-of-the-Championship Ipswich fans wanting to wait that long for glory; But I think luck and opportunity are fuelled by timing – Would Berra have joined Jewell’s Ipswich? Would Keane have overseen the explosion of Daryl Murphy we witness last year?