Ipswich FanZoner Adam Keeble is confused by Paul Jewell's recent tactics... and he isn't the only one!
The pressure is mounting on the Ipswich boss
At the end of the Watford match, things seemed to be on the up. Two pretty good performances from the Town and 4 points, in two (on paper at least) difficult games. The team were passing the ball, dominating possession, and the young players were exciting to watch.
There were some frailties in central defence and possibly a lack of cutting edge up-front, but we could see the areas which needed improvement and perhaps a couple of signings could shore things up. The main thing was, there seemed to be some progress since last season.
After 90 minutes against Charlton, how things have changed. The youthful midfield has been split up, the passing from the back seems to have been abandoned and morale has gone through the floor. In addition to that, we still have frailties at central defence and still lack a cutting edge up-front.
The promising midfield quartet of JET, Luongo, Hyam and Carson that started the season has been split up. As far as I can see, JET should be on the bench, as this season he is clearly off form and it may take a little while to regain it; he is a young player and this is to be expected. However, Luongo, Hyam and Carson have done well.
Carson may have lacked a final ball early in the season, but at the moment it seems that it is a toss of a coin whether he plays on the left or right wing and this cannot help a young player when they are clearly trying to improve their game. With JET on the bench, Martin drops back into midfield and that is the obvious selection. Carson - Luongo -Hyam - Martin.
Jewell started the game against Charlton with Martin - Luongo - Drury and JET in midfield. We know that Luongo and Drury do not combine as well as Luongo and Hyam. Drury is a no-nonsense style player and I am not convinced that he is suited to central midfield, where playing neat passes and keeping possession is paramount. As a consequence, our central midfield struggled to dictate the game, particularly as Charlton pressed. JET was off-form and it showed.
Murphy, having started up-front was pushed to the left wing, with the tactics clearly changing to "lump it to Murphy and hope he wins a flick on". I had seen enough of this last season to know that the percentage chance of Murphy flicking it on to a striker inside to bear down on goal was remote - most of the time it just goes out for a throw in or back to the other team. It took Jewell most of the match to realise that putting Carson on, to get behind the other team (albeit on the right with Martin moving to the left) was a better option.
So we finished with Carson - Drury-Luongo-Martin across midfield. Swap Drury for Hyam and I believe that is how we should have started.
The addition of Daryl Murphy is a curious one. He has been at Town before on loan and returns again (incidentally, after Jewell concluded that a team half full of loan players is unlikely to bring success). He is effective in the air, although in my view not a clinical finisher. There is therefore a problem to solve: do you play someone with trouble finishing up front, where winning a header or a decent flick-on will create a goal or do you play him on the left wing, where he rarely get a chance to miss a chance, but any flick-on is unlikely to result in a real opportunity? Or do you perhaps cancel the loan deal.
The real problem with Murphy on the wing is that for the defence, and also for Loach, the first option now is to whack it up to Murphy rather than move the ball through midfield. It is an ugly way to play and unfortunately often results in the other team getting possession back straight away.
Moving players all over the place (switching wingers after fifteen minutes and moving your striker to the left wing when one or two chances go begging) is not good for player confidence. It tells a player that he is failing in his current position. Also, when that player has prepared mentally for playing on the left, right or up-front, to switch him after fifteen minutes or one mistake cannot help them mentally.
When Manchester United slipped behind in their European Cup run in 1999, they got back into matches by sticking to their game place. We never saw Beckham being moved to the left, Giggs up front and Cole to the right wing after going a goal down.
JET was hung out to dry. He was dropped for poor form and then re-selected, presumably because there were no other options. Martin started well on the left, with JET on the right, and it was almost as if Jewell thought that this was because Charlton's right back was duff, so he immediately moved JET over to the left.
When an off-form player starts on the right wing and is moved to the left after fifteen minutes, this obviously is not going to help them. He gave it a shot, but when full backs would rather run the length of the pitch to put a cross in, rather than play the simple pass inside to an unmarked winger, you know there's a problem. He was hauled off at half time, but what was the point in it all?
In the closing minutes against Charlton, Jewell brought on our new on-loan defender Higginbotham to act as a target man up front. This was calculated to mess up the other team's marking assignments and generally create some confusion, so that either Scotland or Ellington would find some space to create an opportunity.
Now, one would expect a defensive player to go off to accommodate this system, but Jewell took off Tommy Smith, a centre back, who was equally well equipped to play this role. Smith had earlier in the game perhaps been slightly at fault for Fuller's goal (giving him too much space to shoot) and with Higginbotham arriving at the club is probably going to be benched for a while, but to haul him off with seconds to go just seemed pointless. If I was Tommy Smith it would have annoyed me and it was unnecessary.
So, Jewell is now under pressure and what can he do to improve things?
We shall see and I wish him all the best. After years in charge, the fans just want to see consistent progress and a desire to play football, not regression and hoofed balls forward. This is why the local press are on his back and certain fans are calling for his head.