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Silly Season: Round Pegs for Round Holes?


Super_Danny_Allsopp
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The off-season is a special time for many football fans. The first week is a novelty, but many of us begin wondering what exactly we do with our Saturdays now the Euros have finished. 

Such boredom drives inevitable speculation; who's off-contract, who's sought after, who are we linked with. In the era of social media and the internet, there are vast swathes of people demanding that the players who bedazzled in the league last year be signed up instantly, the galacticos of the non-league, if you will. The thirst for these type of signings are encouraged by the endless stream of anonymous, 'in-the-know', accounts, largely on Twitter these days, who mainly throw enough mud that eventually one will stick; cue the many incorrect predictions being quickly tidied up. For those football manager fans, my personal approach was to go heavy on the scouting, sign the best players, regardless of position, knowing they'll be good enough, or decent enough, even if not entirely in the position they like best. Reality is somewhat different.

'Philosophy' or 'club culture' are the latest buzz-words for a rather simple thing - how does the club prefer to play football. It's relatively new for us here at Notts, as our style used to change in synchronisation with our manager - roughly every 6 months (or less). More than most clubs, the Notts pendulum used to swing from one side to the other, with out so much as a pause to think about exactly what we are doing and where we are going. Derry: defensive, rigid, direct - to Moniz: attacking, fluid, reckless. Without diving down the rabbit hole of why and how this all happened, the inevitability is that with such drastic and instantaneous changes in style, you will find yourself with players that simply don't suite the new one. 

 

It seems that tide has turned, however. A change of manager has brought in a change of tactics and play, but the style is largely similar. There's no players that were well-suited to the previous manager that couldn't have done a similar job with the new one. This brings in a new factor to consider for our transfer policy - do we target players that are the best we can attract, or do we target the best players in the positions and roles that we need?

Sonny Carey. Brilliant player. Ripped us apart when we played KL. If you ignore the fact he has gone higher up the leagues, the next question is, where would we play him, or more importantly, who would you drop to play him? If we are sticking with 3-5-2, there are two striking positions and three central midfield positions. Assuming one of those strikers will be Wootton, who plays close to him? Roberts? Rodrigues? If they're both playing, one of them (probably Rodrigues) will be the advanced man in that central 3. You'd be very exposed if 2 of your central 3 were pretty much attacking midfielders, should you incorporate a Carey, or Carey-like player. Another name that came up regularly was Rhys Oates; primarily a winger. 

We've made 3 signings so far and they all convey to me the same message - we know the type of player we wanted and we've got what we think will be a good fit. A summary of what we were missing, prior to these signings:
 

  • A Michael Doyle. Left-footed, central midfielder who can dictate the game through his passing ability. Capable of the killer ball.
  • A left-sided CB, ideally left-footed, who can step out and play with the ball at his feet.
  • A left wing back who can attack. Chicksen is solid and technically gifted, but not a winger type. We needed a more attacking LWB to replace Miller.

The three players we've signed, so far, seem to be role and positionally ideal (at least theoretically). 

The next question that naturally springs to mind is then what to expect from the further signings? For that, it's best to analyse what we have:

lineup (3).png

 

Noticeable is the scope for interpretation. Does 3 at the back mean this is how we line-up? Certainly not, but I've gone with more or less how we featured at the end of last season. Secondly is just how attacking or defensive this formation varies hugely with personnel, start JOB instead of Rodrigues, Chicksen at LWB and we all of a sudden look quite solid. Change that up and have Rodrigues, Roberts and Wootton as a quasi-front 3 with Taylor running from the wings, then we start looking dangerous, albeit a bit open. It can be assumed, I think, that those positions and players can be flexible depending on opposition or scoreline. 

For the future signings, I'm not expecting any attacking midfielders or wingers. My personal thoughts are:

 

  • Defensive-minded, or tenacious central midfielder who can still play. Neal Bishop type would be perfect.
  • All-round central midfielder. No special leanings one way or the other. Reeves loosely could be pigeon-holed in this category.
  • A striker to compete and at times partner Wootton. Doesn't necessarily have to be the same type as Wootton.
  • A RWB that attacks. Brindley and DKE are solid at this level, but neither are ones to unlock defences.
  • A backup centre back. While Brindley and Chicksen performed amicably last season, playing a back 3 with only 3 established CBs is a big risk. 

Discuss this feature. 👇🏻

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Defensive-minded, or tenacious central midfielder who can still play. Neal Bishop type would be perfect.

All-round central midfielder. No special leanings one way or the other. Reeves loosely could be pigeon-holed in this category.

A striker to compete and at times partner Wootton. Doesn't necessarily have to be the same type as Wootton.

A RWB that attacks. Brindley and DKE are solid at this level, but neither are ones to unlock defences.

A backup centre back. While Brindley and Chicksen performed amicably last season, playing a back 3 with only 3 established CBs is a big risk

👏👏👏 @Super_Danny_Allsopp

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Very detailed thoughts, which I agree with.

I do feel a winger is warranted, but more someone who can play across the field as we don't have anyone other than Joel Taylor who can play further up the field and be a specialist on the left side.

I think Jim O'Brien will be playing a CM role.

So, if that is correct Notts would need another more attacking minded player. Jim could play further up, but I think someone able to drift on the wing with pace would put the fear of god into the opposition. All of our attacking players deem to be man marked and this means most will have at least two players on them. I can't see Wootton being marked by a single striker, he usually has three players around him.

The point made by @Super_Danny_Allsopp, Notts had to be tactically aware of how the signings fit in and adapt to our plans - not the other way-a-round.

For the first time in years, it seems that we have a manager who is paying full attention to the whole squad and not buying too many defensive or attacking minded players. All seem to be capable of adapting to the plans and fit the vision Ian Burchnall has set.

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The good thing I feel from the transfers in, is the players are able to play with their left foot.

With Vincent, Taylor and Cameron all being players who strengthen the left hand side of the team, a bit more creativity in the middle and a striker, the depth will be there no doubt. Next player in will hopefully bring confidence that we have more capable players of scoring goals.

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Yes, a lot more thought seems to be going into the signings and not just where they're from.

To be fair, under the Reedtz brothers the recruitment has been a lot better and we have to remember that Neal Ardley would have the final say. Ian Burchnall seems to have different ideas about how we should be playing and what players are best to achieve that.

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Going off this:

lineup (3).png

GK: Slocombe, Brooks and Kean

CB: Cameron, Rawlinson, Lacey, Brindley, Chicksen

LWB: Taylor, Chicksen

RWB: Brindley/DKE

CM: Vincent

AM: Rodrigues, O'Brien, Roberts

ST: Wootton, Sam, Palmer

-

A young CB could signed who could develop into a first team player in time.

RWB seems an area to explore as I think Brindley will revert to a role similar to what Walker does for England.

CM needs at least two more players that are different, a runner who is calm on the ball and someone who is a bit more of a risk taker/creative.

A player that could hold the ball up like Wootton, but has a turn off pace and distribute the ball into the wider areas of the pitch would be ideal for an incoming AM.

ST natural goal scorer who offers pace and technical ability.

That would mean six players are needed to have a good depth within the squad. We could get away with the RWB, if a good CB comes in to allow Brindley to take this role. Still some work to plug the gaps but I wouldn't skip on the centre of midfield as we tend to get punished in this area.

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On 13/07/2021 at 23:39, Super_Danny_Allsopp said:

 

  • Defensive-minded, or tenacious central midfielder who can still play. Neal Bishop type would be perfect. ✅ 
  • All-round central midfielder. No special leanings one way or the other. Reeves loosely could be pigeon-holed in this category.✅✅
  • A striker to compete and at times partner Wootton. Doesn't necessarily have to be the same type as Wootton.
  • A RWB that attacks. Brindley and DKE are solid at this level, but neither are ones to unlock defences. ✅
  • A backup centre back. While Brindley and Chicksen performed amicably last season, playing a back 3 with only 3 established CBs is a big risk. 

 

2 pending for me. 

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I think the signing of the backup striker is going to be quite pivotal. We can't assume Wootton remains fit all season, and there will be points he needs a rest. For me, Sam isn't up to the job of filling that Wootton role, so we need a striker in who is dependable and steady; he doesn't have to be a superstar (although Tshimanga would be nice!), but a decent performer at this level. Scott Boden, or somebody similar, would probably fit nicely. 

We made a big mistake last season in banking on Sam being a roaring success (which IMO he wasn't/isn't) and thinking Knowles would be adequate backup. We tried to paper over the cracks by signing Effiong, who just wasn't really very good. That mistake can't be repeated again this season. 

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17 minutes ago, Super_Danny_Allsopp said:

We made a big mistake last season in banking on Sam being a roaring success (which IMO he wasn't/isn't) and thinking Knowles would be adequate backup. We tried to paper over the cracks by signing Effiong, who just wasn't really very good. That mistake can't be repeated again this season. 

I still believe that Elisha Sam can come good, sometimes it takes a player a full season to adapt to a new league. I get that some will dismiss my views as excuses, yet it's expected that Leciester City's midfielder Boubakary Soumare is expected to need time to adapt to the Premier League.

Sam arrived last season clearly unfit, his confidence could perhaps require a boost - which would naturally assist him.

Perhaps with a proper pre-season under his belt, a little more support and actual game time - he might start to improve. As he's here already, I don't feel it's in the clubs best interested to allow him to sit on wages. Ian Burchnall needs to attempt to get the best out of him, as he does Lewis Knight.

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