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ARLukomski

ARLukomski: How might Notts line up this coming season?

We've made a lot of signings this week. Six, to be precise. And now Notts have stepped up their recruitment drive, the question on everyone's lips is, how are we going to line up against Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday?

There may be some difference in opinions in the formation that we use throughout the season, but I'm going to stick with 4-4-2 as we used that nearly all of the time last season when Nolan took over.

Starting in goal. Adam Collin seems like the obvious choice and whilst most of our fans don't like him much, it's hard to see Fitzsimons or Pindroch replacing him just yet.

Matt Tootle has the right-back spot sewn up sweetly. If he avoids the injury problems he had last season he could play every league game. I don't expect Jordon Richards or Nicky Hunt to start much at all this season.

The left-back spot is easy. Dan Jones will easily displace Carl Dickinson. The ex-Stoke man was very error-prone last season, especially when he consistently allowed opposition players into the box unchallenged. It was obvious we needed a new left-back and he needed to have pace, something Jones has and Dickinson doesn't.

Centre-back has plagued us for a few seasons now. The last two especially where we conceded 83 in 15-16 and 76 in 16-17. For me Shaun Brisley has to start. He played in the Peterborough team that reached the League One playoffs a few years ago and we're crying out for stability at centre-half.

Richard Duffy has been a lot better since Kevin Nolan came in. For me he beats Hollis to that first team spot alongside Brisley. Duffy, for me, was better under Nolan in the second the half of last season than Hollis was and is just a better player in my opinion. I would like to see Pierce Bird play a few games this season. He seems like a good prospect and someone who I think definitely has potential.

Onto the wingers and for me it has to be Jorge Grant and Lewis Alessandra. Grant showed last season he is a quality player, especially for this level and has an abundance of creativity. He could very easily hit 10-15 goals for the 2017-18 season. Alessandra has much needed pace which Notts have been begging for, for a few seasons now. I think Nolan can get the best out of the former Hartlepool man.

This pushes Terry Hawkridge to the bench but I still see him playing a key role in creating chances for the Magpies. There is also the option of playing these three together behind a lone striker. I don't see Elliot Hodge featuring regularly unless key players pick up injuries. Sam Osborne has great potential but isn't ready yet and a loan spell out to gain first team football is what he needs.

Moving into the centre of the park, there are several options to choose from. Rob Milsom, Elliott Hewitt, Liam Walker, Curtis Thompson and Ryan Yates. It's obvious we will miss Michael O'Connor. As captain he led by example and played a massive part in Notts climbing the table. He formed a great partnership with Milsom and in my opinion, Milsom should keep his place in the starting eleven. He is good at pressing teams and is a neat and tidy passer and very calm in possession of the ball.

In my opinion, Liam Walker should start alongside him. Walker is more of an attackive minded midfielder and his long shots and set pieces will be a danger to opposition teams. Elliott Hewitt is getting better by the day. He looks at home in the centre of midfield and moving him there from his right back slot could prove a solid decision. Ryan Yates is more of a box to box midfielder and when played, could be very useful in linking defence to attack. I don't see Curtis Thompson playing many games this season and his persistent injury problems haven't helped him at all. Alex Howes is a another player who I see getting loaned out to gain more first team experience. I don't expect a permanent central midfield pairing. I think Milsom, Hewitt, Walker and Yates will all have their turn in the starting XI.

Finally, we move into the final third. Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi signed new contracts in the summer and unless we sign a striker before opening day then it will be them two starting up front. As a strike partnership, they have shown they can be effective but not spectacular.

Ameobi is a very good player for holding the ball up and this can help bring other players into the game such as Grant and Alessandra as well as Stead. Despite being 6'3, Stead likes the ball more to his feet and Nolan is the first manager, since the ex-Huddersfield man joined Notts, to realise he isn't a target man. He has done very well to score 25 goals in the last two seasons but he is 34 and Ameobi is 35 and it's clear we need someone younger up front who can take us further up the table than my current prediction of 10th. For me we still need a striker if we're going to break into the play-off places.

Jonathan Forte can be an asset but breaking into the first team next season will be difficult for him especially if we sign another striker. I prefer him as a striker to a winger but was utilised more as the latter last season but still managed 10 goals. Whilst he only scored 2 in 23 at Crewe, Callum Saunders looks like one for the future. I've heard that his movement is very good but he needs to work on his finishing.

My starting XI for Coventry: Collin, Tootle, Duffy, Brisley, Jones, Grant, Milsom, Walker, Alessandra, Stead, Ameobi

Squad

GK - Adam Collin, Ross Fitzsimons, Branislav Pindroch, Joe Searson-Smithard
RB - Matt Tootle, Jordon Richards, Nicky Hunt
LB - Dan Jones, Carl Dickinson
CB - Shaun Brisley, Richard Duffy, Haydn Hollis, Pierce Bird
W - Jorge Grant (RM), Lewis Alessandra (LM,RM), Terry Hawkridge (RM,LM), Elliot Hodge (RM),
Sam Osborne (RM)
CM - Rob Milsom, Elliott Hewitt, Liam Walker, Curtis Thompson, Ryan Yates, Michael O'Connor (INJ), Alex Howes
ST - Jon Stead, Shola Ameobi, Jonathan Forte, Callum Saunders

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Edited by Joe Jones



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