With last season becoming a distant memory and the excitement (as much as we can with COVID) of a new season starting with so many new faces, we can start to look at what our new squad looks like for the new campaign.
I am basing these tactical thoughts on the hope we get to hold on to our stars but I still hope we can bring in a Ben Gibson type to help out. (As it’s transpired, we have indeed brought in a Ben Gibson type – Ed).
I have seen a lot of people say we need a new goalkeeper to push Tim Krul, I don`t think that will happen with Michael McGovern here and the emerging Dan Barden. But there is always the case if the worst happened (and let’s hope it doesn’t) that we can use the emergency goalkeeper signing rule that allows us to sign one outside the transfer window.
I think we can all agree on comparison so far to last season’s squad and this one is miles apart. Last season we barely had a Plan A let alone a Plan B. If you look now we can set up and rotate players for specific opponents and home and away games.
Firstly is this team in my thoughts process:
Now we are back in the Championship we will face teams that, because they are at home, will try to dominate and push us back.
With this being Daniel Farke’s preferred formation, setting up as a counter-attacking team and utilising the pace of Placheta and Hernandez could be key, while also having Buendia in the central role where he can make things happen between our two wingers and Hugill.
Also, by having a central midfield of Skipp and Sorensen it adds that extra layer of protection. We all know what Sorensen is about just by looking at how many yellow cards he receives, but while Skipp is good defensively he is also good at moving the ball. With these two in the middle, it offers that physical presence in and around Buendia.
This also favours the long diagonal balls we have seen from the likes of Hanley, Godfrey, Klose and Zimmerman, trying to get in behind the opposite full-back.
We saw this in the recent friendly against Dresden; both the left-sided centre-back and left-back delivered balls that appeared too long until Placheta somehow not only made up the difference but accelerated past his opponent.
This led to the opening goal of the game – Placheta getting on the end of a long ball then turning his man and laying it off to Quintilla, who delivered a pinpoint pass to the foot of Pukki for the finish.
Add in the side the likes of Hugill, who looks to be your perfect away striker. He’s good in the air, can hold up the play and will bring in the likes of Buendia, while also having zero problems getting into the physical side of things with the opposition centre backs.
This set up is ideal against teams who play attacking football, which involves pushing their full-backs high – hitting a counter against them by putting the ball in behind could get us a lot of joy, especially if you can get one on one with the full-back or slide the ball between the centre-back and full-back.
We have always struggled against teams that shut up shop and who ask us to break them down, but this gives us a way of combating that style.
You could, against a so-called weaker side, drop one of the central midfielders and put in a Vrancic or McLean for a more attacking threat, but in the Championship midfield is key. If we control it that means the opposition is most likely to start taking the long ball route to try and relieve some pressure, which most centre-backs are happy to deal with.
The Buendia role can also be played by either Cantwell or Dowell, so we have depth in that position as well.
The second formation:
This formation works (theoretically) for home games where we expect to have a lot of the ball.
Skipp and Sorensen are, again, in the middle, acting as a shield to free the attacking three of Cantwell, Dowell, and Buendia.
Having Pukki instead of Hugill here is a better option as he, along with the attacking three behind him, thrives off the one-twos and little layoffs. We have all seen from our promotion season how well Cantwell, Pukki and Buendia read each other’s game, and I see no reason why Dowell won’t be able to do the same.
We also have a front four here who press the opposition relentlessly and have the best technically gifted locksmiths at our disposal to try and find those killer passes.
In addition to these two teams, we still have young Josh Martin, who did very well on tour, Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann, Kenny McLean, Xavi Quintilla, Sam McCallum, Bali Mumba, Sam Byram, Grant Hanley, Timm Klose and Alex Tettey, all of whom are ready to step in and try to take any chances through injury and suspension.
On paper we have the tools to compete this season and arguably have a better team than the one that won the league in 208/19.
An extra dimension that looks to have been added this season is a battling temperament among in the recruits. While that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s something we badly needed last season.
The likes of Skipp, Sorensen and Hugill are not averse to sticking up for themselves and their teammates, something the latter relayed in an interview after the Dresden game, talking of ‘leaving one’ on the defender that took out Pukki in the first half.
Next season, because of its compressed format, will likely mean the likes of Mumba, Martin and Idah all get game time, and there is no doubt they will all be targets for opposing teams. So having this type of spirit is a good thing as long as it’s used in the right way to shut anything down.
The players look happy and relaxed and we just have to hope that there is no hangover from last season. We need to get that first win quickly before doubt starts to set in to their minds on when they can next win a competitive game.
Everyone has their own opinion on what the starting XI should look like. Let me know below or on Twitter what your starting eleven would look like.