Season Preview Part 4 31/07/2013Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
Yes, still in Ethiopia as you read this. No, won’t have updated with big signings over the last few days. Whatever I’m doing now, it doesn’t involve thinking about Ipswich.
INS: Paul Anderson (Bristol City, Player Exchange), Jack Doherty (Waterford, Undisclosed), Christophe Berra (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Free), Dean Gerken (Bristol City, Free), David McGoldrick (Nottingham Forest, Free), Daryl Murphy (Celtic, Free), Cole Skuse (Bristol City, Free), Jay Tabb (Reading, Free), Frederic Veseli (Manchester United, Free), Ryan Tunnicliffe (Manchester United, Six Month Loan)
OUTS: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (Bristol City, Player Exchange), Michael Chopra (Blackpool, Free), Andy Drury (Crawley Town, Free), Lee Martin (Millwall, Free), Arran Lee-Barrett, Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds United*, End of Loan), Aaron McLean (Hull City, End of Loan), Guirane N’Daw (St.Etienne, End of Loan), Richard Stearman (Wolverhampton Wanderers, End of Loan)
OUR EX-BLUES: Reece Brown, Alec Chamberlain
THEIR EX-ORNS: Scott Loach
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: The first Town win over the ‘orns in eons at the start of the campaign, arguably the season’s lowest point (and also Town’s last win for two and a half months), and a return to form with a routine win at Portman Road in February
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Hewitt Chambers Smith Cresswell
Anderson Skuse Hyam Tabb
VERDICT: After a succession of inept managerial appointments, Ipswich finally made a sensible-looking decision in appointing Mick McCarthy to the hotseat in November as Paul Jewell’s side nosedived towards League One. They had won only one of their opening thirteen games – a game which had proved misleading for both of the sides involved. McCarthy’s impact was immediate and decisive, dragging Town into a solid mid-table finish. Buoyed by this, and by a summer of typically pragmatic McCarthy signings, Town fans are looking upwards rather than downwards, excitedly clinging onto the knowledge that from the new manager’s arrival to the end of the season their side had one of the best records in the division (fourth, according to a messageboard – I’ve not checked. Not the best record from the start of November though, we know whose that was…). Ipswich certainly have a stronger squad, options throughout and a lot of the flaky guff has been offloaded; much as when QPR appointed Neil Warnock, McCarthy’s approach might be just what Ipswich need. Not enough though, for me… not enough to challenge anyway. If next season’s division is anything like as tight as last’s then everyone’s got a shout of at least a play-off place, of course, and Ipswich certainly fall in that category but upper mid-table feels more likely. Impressive as Ipswich’s run was, a momentum-fuelled run of form, albeit over half a season, isn’t the same as sustaining it for the duration. Tenth.
INS: Luke Murphy (Crewe Alexandra, £1,000,000), Noel Hunt (Reading, Free), Matt Smith (Oldham Athletic, Free)
OUTS: Patrick Antelmi, Paul Connolly, Monty Gimpel, Patrick Kisnorbo, Sanchez Payne, Paul Rachubka, Jordan Snodin, Davide Somma, Steve Morison (Millwall, Season Loan), Habib Habibou (SV Zuilte Waregem, End of Loan), Leigh Bromby(retired)
OUR EX-WHITES: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: Nigel Gibbs (Assistant Manager), Neil Redfearn (First Team Coach)
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two memorable games for different reasons… a 6-1 demolition as we took advantage of Leeds’ reduced numbers at Elland Road and a heartbreaking defeat at the end of the regular season when we gave up for half an hour and paid the price.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Peltier Lees Pearce Byram
VERDICT: In what has been a relatively static transfer market in the Championship this summer (barring the odd exception), Brian McDermott’s predicament at Leeds looks particularly awkward. The Leeds boss took over in April and would probably have wanted to take a broom to a rather old, stale looking side… but the eleven listed above isn’t a world away from the team that ended an underwhelming and slightly flattering thirteenth – seven points from both play-offs and relegation. The manager has confessed that future transfer activity is dependent on shipping players out, surely a move to invite offers for the considerable amount of dross left on the playing staff… but Leeds fans will be concerned that a move from the vultures circling around exciting left back Sam Byram is more likely (and certainly more profitable). Pre-season has seen McDermott fielding a narrow midfield diamond that ought to make the most of the players that he has in the centre of the park – only the injured El Hadji Diouf and the universally unpopular Luke Varney offer any width – but the formation asks a lot of the full backs and hasn’t looked successful in pre-season. The squad is physically strong and powerful, I can’t see Leeds being bullied out of too many games, they won’t be facing relegation… but they’ll be further than goal difference from the top half of the table this time around.
INS: Zoumana Bakayogo (Tranmere Rovers, Free)
OUTS: Jermaine Beckford (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Joe Jones (Yeovil Town, Free), Conor Brennan, Jide Maduako, Steven Smith, Karlton Watson, Richie Wellens, Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur, End of Loan), Will Keane (Manchester United, End of Loan)
OUR EX-FOXES: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: Danny Drinkwater
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Suffice to say that our recent record of exciting clashes with the Foxes, particularly at Vicarage Road, shows no sign of letting up.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
de Laet Whitbread Morgan Konchesky
Knockaert James King Dyer
VERDICT: A side that we became all too familiar with towards the end of last season have undergone a quiet summer with the side expected to start the campaign looking very similar to that which we faced three times in April and May. The outcome of the play-off semi-final could scarcely have been tighter… but whilst Leicester were tough and competent, they were unspectacular. We were quite comfortably the better side over the three games, whatever the drama of those last few seconds. Nor are City invulnerable to injuries, with the quality of the cover questionable in several areas. Another pitch at the play-offs isn’t impossible but City’s form wasn’t fantastic for much of the second half of last season and mid-table – with the potential for managerial upheaval that this might entail – seems more likely. Ninth.
INS: Dean Whitehead (Stoke City, Free), Jozsef Varga (Debrecen, Season Loan)
OUTS: Nick Bailey (Millwall, Free), Scott McDonald (Millwall, Free), Stephen McManus (Motherwell, Free), Julio Arca, Andre Bikey, Kieron Dyer, Merouane Zemmama, Christian Burgess (Hartlepool United, Six Month Loan), Sammy Ameobi (Newcastle United, End of Loan), Josh McEachran (Chelsea, End of Loan), Ishmael Miller (Nottingham Forest, End of Loan)
OUR EX-BORO: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: None
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Defeat at home in October as Boro came from behind in the wake of Matěj Vydra’s ultimately overturned red card, the striker scoring both goals as the Hornets grabbed an important win as Boro began to slide in January.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Varga Williams Woodgate Friend
Carayol Whitehead Leadbitter Ledesma
VERDICT: There’s something a bit Eeyore about Middlesbrough. Something so miserably resigned to it’s lot that anything resembling excitement only lasts as long as the first major setback. Before we dug in to secure an excellent win at the Riverside in January Boro were fourth with a game in hand, ostensibly in with a decent shout… but it was no huge surprise that their form disappeared over the edge of a cliff. They would go on to lose ten and win just three of their final sixteen games from that point, and were probably grateful that the campaign didn’t last a week or two longer. For all Tony Mowbray’s craggy, likeable candour the place had an air of desperation about it even then.
The summer shuffling has so far seen a fair number head for the exit, including the highly salaried McDonald and McManus, the last debris from Gordon Strachan’s disastrous spell in charge. Coming in… precious little so far – the forward line, as with so many, looks particularly short – although with Boro as ever having a fair few kids bubbling under you’d still fancy them to have enough, if not to impress then at least to just about muddle along.
How like them (he added, after a long silence).