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Season Preview – Part 4 06/08/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Broken the back of this now.  Downhill to Saturday…

IPSWICH TOWN

INS: Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County, Undisclosed), Balint Bajner (Borussia Dortmund, Free), Kevin Bru (Levski Sofia, Free), Alex Henshall (Manchester City, Free), Jonathan Parr (Crystal Palace, Free), Cameron Stewart (Hull City, Free)

OUTS: Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United, Undisclosed), Carlos Edwards (Millwall, Free), Scott Loach (Rotherham United, Free), Frederic Veseli (Port Vale, Six Month Loan), Paul Green (Leeds United, End of Loan), Frazer Richardson (Middlesbrough, End of Loan), Johnny Williams (Crystal Palace, End of Loan)

OUR EX-BLUES: Reece Brown, Alec Chamberlain

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A ship-steadying 1-1 draw at Portman Road in Beppe Sanino’s first outing in December, and a 3-1 triumph at Vicarage Road dominated by Daniel Tözsér

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Gerken
Hewitt     Chambers     Smith        Parr
Anderson            Skuse          Hyam               Henshall
McGoldrick      Murphy

VERDICT: The coming season included, Town have only spent two of the last twenty campaigns out of the second tier and there’s little reason to believe that they will be leaving it in either direction in May.  Defensively they look very solid, despite the loss of Cresswell whose attacking contributions might be more sorely missed.  The midfield, however, does not scream “promotion” at you…  in Adam Henshall, who has impressed pre-season, and Cameron Stewart McCarthy has added wide options that the team perhaps lacked, but these are still punts and maybes rather than a promotion-looking squad.  As you were, then;  plenty solid enough to earn enough points to stay up, not enough magic dust to maintain anything but a theoretical challenge.

LEEDS UNITED

INS: Gaetano Berardi (Sampdoria, Undisclosed), Tommaso Bianchi (Sassuolo, Undisclosed), Marco Silvestri (Chievo, Undisclosed), Stuart Taylor (Reading, Free), Zan Benedicic (AC Milan, Season Loan), Souleymane Doukara (Catania, Season Loan)

OUTS: Ross McCormack (Fulham, £11,000,000), Tom Lees (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed), Michael Brown (Port Vale, Free), Paul Green (Rotherham United, Free), Lee Peltier (Huddersfield Town, Free), Danny Pugh (Coventry City, Free), Luke Varney (Blackburn Rovers, Free), Marius Zaliukas (Rangers, Free), Jamie Ashdown, El-Hadji Diouf, Adam Drury, Jack Butland (Stoke City, End of Loan), Jimmy Kébé (Crystal Palace, End of Loan), Cameron Stewart (Hull City, End of Loan)

OUR EX-WHITES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nigel Gibbs (Coach), Dave Hockaday (Head Coach), Neil Redfearn (First Team Coach)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 3-3 draw at Elland Road in December in which we lost a two goal lead and claimed a late equaliser, and a comprehensive win over a shambolic Leeds side prompted by Almen Abdi’s remarkable first goal of the season.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Silvestri
Byram           Wootton        Pearce          Warnock
Cook
Austin                                      Bianchi
Murphy
Smith                 Doukara

VERDICT: What the bloody hell, honestly?  I mean…. really.  Just nonsense.  Chaos.  Mark Twain once famously observed that it is no wonder that reality is stranger than fiction, since fiction has to make sense.  Leeds United haven’t been the most stable football club over the last ten years or so; the relatively recent introduction of the authoritarian Cellino, the bizarre appointment of David Hockaday as head coach merely accelerate this process, as if the soap opera had been awarded a new director with a brief to pep things up a bit in pursuit of waning audience figures.  It’s hard not to be sceptical, but the reality is that we don’t know much about the imports that Cellino has brought in (and failed to send back).  What we do know is that Leeds were far from impressive for the second half of last season – their visit to Vicarage Road in April was pathetic – and since then they’ve lost not only their captain and best player but a good deal of experience besides.  The defence is fllimsy, the midfield narrow and not suited to supplying the intimidating Matt Smith, described as the only one of last summer’s signings that really “worked”.  Thus far Cellino’s investment appears quite frugal, given which Hockaday will be doing well enough to match last season’s fifteenth place.  A relegation scrap looks inevitable as it stands.

MIDDLESBROUGH

INS: Kike (Real Murcia, £3, 000,000), James Husband (Doncaster Rovers, Undisclosed), Emilio Nsue (Real Mallorca, Undisclosed), Tomas Mejias (Real Madrid Castilla, Free), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea, Season Loan)

OUTS:  Marvin Emnes (Swansea City, Undisclosed), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Burnley, Undisclosed), Curtis Main (Doncaster Rovers, Undisclosed), Matthew Dolan (Bradford City, Free), Jayson Leutwiler (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Stuart Parnaby (Hartlepool United, Free), Frazer Richardson (Rotherham United, Free), Jake Fowler, Birger Meling, Cameron Park, Lewis Sirrell, Matthew Waters, Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea, End of Loan), Danny Graham (Sunderland, End of Loan), Jozsef Varga (Debrecen, End of Loan)

OUR EX-BORO: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 2-2 draw at the Riverside in November courtesy of the concession of one of them there last minute goals, and a 1-0 victory in February which featured two remarkably stupid red cards.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Mejias
Bennett        Ayala       Omeruo        Friend
Whitehead           Leadbitter
Nsue                   Tomlin                    Adomah
Kike

VERDICT: Another one that’s kinda hard to call, with Boro public about still having work to do in strengthening a squad that lost a number of significant players (particularly loans) at the end of last season.  A right back and a striker are deemed priorities to replace Jozsef Varga and Danny Graham, whose situation has, writing on Sunday afternoon, gone rather quiet… and it’s an open secret that Boro will continue to exploit Aitor Karanka’s relationship with Jose Mourinho by taking further loans from Chelsea in addition to centre-back Kenneth Omeruo.  Difficult to judge the quality of the signings, too… although you’d have to say that a lot is being asked of Kike, the stand-out striker in the squad, as it sits at the moment.  Significant, too, that whilst Karanka made Boro a lot more solid this has not been a team that creates a flood of chances;  prior to Karanka taking over Boro’s games had featured 3.2 goals on average, under Karanka this dropped to 2, tighter at both ends with a significant improvement in fortunes only evident in a strong finish that saw 6 wins in the last 8.  There’s quality in the Boro squad, but with the earlier caveats about squad building a given it’s hard to see them challenging.  The side is lopsided, lacking cover in key positions and overloaded in others… and there’s little evidence of flexibility in Karanka’s approach if his preferred 4-2-3-1 isn’t working.  Mid-table without threatening would be my bet, with the potential for another management change if things aren’t going well mid-season.

 

MILLWALL

INS: Lee Gregory (Halifax Town, £250,000), Matthew Briggs (Fulham Free), Carlos Edwards (Ipswich Town, Free), Ricardo Fuller (Blackpool, Free), Magaye Gueye (Everton, Free), Byron Webster (Yeovil Town, Free)

OUTS: Liam Feeney (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Andy Keogh (Perth Glory, Free), Shane Lowry (Leyton Orient, Free),  Jack Smith (AFC Wimbledon, Free), Liam Trotter (Bolton Wanderers, Free), DJ Campbell (Blackburn Rovers, End of Loan), Ryan Fredericks (Tottenham Hotspur, End of Loan), Owen Garvan (Crystal Palace, End of Loan), Steve Morison (Leeds United, End of Loan)

OUR EX-LIONS: Lloyd Dyer

THEIR EX-ORNS: Matthew Briggs, Danny Shittu

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A remarkable 4-0 victory on Boxing Day in Beppe Sannino’s first home game, helped along by a Danny Shittu red card, and a 2-2 draw at the New Den in April – thanks to another last minute goal

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

  Forde
Edwards     Webster      Beevers      Malone
Bailey        Williams
Martin            McDonald           Woolford
Gregory

VERDICT: Holloway knows how to do this, you’d have thought. It took him a while to have an impact at Millwall…  the appalling run that prompted Steve Lomas’ removal (culminating in the Lions’ shambolic defeat at Vicarage Road in Boxing Day) didn’t really abate until the closing weeks of the season, but four wins and four draws in their last eight games pulled them clear of trouble.  They’d been bottom at the end of March.  So now…  now Holloway is in charge of a squad with one of the smaller budgets in the division, perfectly placed to foster the backs-against-the-wall nobody-fancies-us thing that he’s done before.  Not to challenge I don’t think… not yet, anyway.  And not so secure that a bit of bad luck couldn’t land them in trouble.  At the time of writing they look horribly precarious up front, relying on a thus far ineffective Scott McDonald, veteran Ricardo Fuller and Lee Gregory, plucked from non-league with Halifax.  Gregory could prove a find, but you wouldn’t want to have to rely on him as much as Millwall seem to need to at the moment.  Telling that Holloway is desperately talking McDonald up, as if he knows that he’s not much choice but to rely on a striker who only netted three times for the Lions last season.  Nonetheless, the players coming in look largely sensible – not players who will transform the squad, but players that will help keep the Lions up.  Probably.

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