So with the season over, survival guaranteed and now Jackett’s resignation, it’s time to move on somewhat reluctantly and plan for next season. There are untold lessons to learn from this season, but I’m going to try and focus on positive changes that can be made rather than just slag off what has happened in the past. This was originally started back in March but has obviously been hastily re-written this morning:
The Managerial Position:
It had been an undeniably difficult year for Jackett and it appears some dressing problems have taken up a lot of his energy. I think that is probably key to his decision. I’ve not been happy with his management this season but I would not have been unhappy if he was given another season. It is clear that Jackett had been trying to change our style of play for two season but he had struggled to make it work. Now is that because he lacked the ability to translate his ideas to the players or because the players are too stupid or stubborn to make the ideas work? Either way, I don’t think it would do any harm to bring in a more technical manager and coaching team rather than a shouter to improve the development of the players skill sets and implementing the tactics. I think players need a new voice to gee them up. Whatever happens and whoever applies we need to get the position sorted quickly. A long drawn out process will leave us struggling at the start of next season.
Pre-season and Conditioning:
One thing that has been noticeable at the start of the past couple of seasons is how off the pace we have looked. This year in particular we looked several weeks short of match sharpness in the early fixtures, with some players blowing out of their arses after 70 minutes. When we are on such a tight budget it is always about making the best of your resources. We might not be the richest club in the league but there is no reason why we cannot be the fittest and best prepared. Playing a host of non-league sides maybe isn’t the best of preparation. It is obviously difficult to organise decent friendlies but surely we could get games against some of the stronger league one sides? A good start can shape your season (look at palace) and we need to hit the ground running, especially after this season. A slow start could kill us.
Jackett always favoured a certain style of play and a certain formation (despite the various attempts to change). We have played a direct, counter attacking style of football, based on a solid defence. The formation has been a 4-4-2 than often changes easily into a 4-5-1. When it has worked best is when we have had a strong, mobile centre forward (Wood, Morison and Kane) who is able to make all the other components click. I liked the experiment with 4-3-3, but ultimately it didn’t work as well as it could because of the lack of a big mobile centre forward to chase, hold up the ball and bring others into play. And that was the biggest flaw in Jackett’s style. It was based on finding a type forward that is like gold dust in modern football. How many clubs want a forward who can run the channels, win everything in the air, hold the ball up, create chances and put them away?
The new man coming in will have his own ideas, but I don’t think we need to re-invent the wheel. The key to building on the teams previous strengths and evolving into a more footballing outfit is getting more energy and pace in the side, particularly in midfield. Look at the impact Taylor and Chaplow had, busy box to box players who can support the forward (or forwards) and contribute goals. Our midfield to date has been very pedestrian with the exception of Abdou, but he offers nothing apart from defensive qualities. With more energy and attacking intent in the midfield it take the pressure off the strikers, we create more chances and if they miss the odd one, it doesn’t matter as much. When you are isolated and only get a couple of half chances a game it increases the pressure. With a more vibrant, attacking midfield it also makes the recruiting of forwards easier. We don’t need a Chris Wood, just players with the ability to fit into our style of play and with the same pace and energy.
All of Jackett’s wheeling and dealing over the years have left us with a pretty strong defensive unit. When fit and on form, the likes of Forde, Beevers and Lowry are as good as anyone outside of the premier league. The rest of the squad, with a couple of exceptions, is nowhere near as strong. In an ideal world I’d like to see the following restructuring of the squad:
Squad to be retained:
Forde, Dunne, J.Smith, Lowry, Beevers, Shittu(if he signs), Osborne, Goodman, C.Taylor(if he signs), Henry, Keogh
Jury is out:
Robinson(will he recover from his injury?), Malone(will he be given a second chance?), Abdou(Will his family issues force a move back home?)
Players to move on/might leave anyway:
M.Taylor, Trotter, Feeney, J Wright, Racon, Woolford, Batt, N’Guessen, Marquis(I think he has been hard done by but needs to move on)
It would be great to get a fee for the likes of Trotter and Feeney, but I think you have to accept that there is little value in that lot and we just cut our losses. I really cannot see the point of having players that clearly aren’t good enough sitting on the bench and padding out the squad. However, any new manager is likely to resist too much change early on, so we may have to wait until January for a proper cull, if any at all.
As stated earlier, I think we need a bit of youthful energy injected into the squad. In my opinion we are need of new back up keeper, right sided defender, four or five midfielders and at least three strikers. Ideally I think they need to be permanent signings and then they can be augmented by the odd loan signing if the necessary quality becomes available. As previously stated, this list was originally put together in early March, with a few names added in the last coupe of weeks. All the players are either coming to the end of their contracts or would be available for minimal fees. I don’t expect us to spend £2m on one player, but maybe £1.5m on three or four is not out of the question.
Sam Walker – Chelsea – Had some league experience now and no chance of a first team place at Chelsea
Jamie Jones – Orient – Steady keeper who has always impressed me when I’ve seen him
Neil Etheridge – Fulham – third choice at Fulham
Jed Steer – Norwich – one of a clutch of decent young English keepers at Norwich
Yusuf Mersin – Liverpool – has been back playing a few U21 games, could he fulfil his potential?
Baily Wright –Preston – 20 year old Australian, can play all across the back four
Lee Hodson – Watford – highly rated right back who has lost his way a little bit.
Luke Ayling – Yeovil – Ex-Arsenal prospect who has bounced back at Yeovil
Jordan Clarke – Coventry – England U-20 defender
George Francomb – Norwich – can play right-back or right midfield
James Hurst – West Brom – probably the most unlikely signing of the lot. Very highly rated U-20 international
Jack Baldwin – Hartlepool – Essex boy, originally a defender but has been a revelation since being played in midfield
Luke James – Hartlepool – attacking midfielder, highly rated with an eye for the spectacular
Harry Forrester – Brentford – former Villa trainee, can play wide or through the middle.
Conor Thomas – Coventry – Highly rated former U-18 international, would have joined Liverpool a couple of years ago but for injuries.
Adam Barton – Coventry – Former Ireland U-21 international, another box to box midfielder
Dean Hammond – Southampton – Experienced head, although probably wanted by bigger clubs than us
Richard Chaplow – Southampton – was great on loan, probably more likely to end up at Reading
Jay Tabb – Reading – converted from winger to ball winner, good on the ball. More likely to join Ipswich after loan spell there though.
Liam Kelly – Bristol City – Scottish prospect one of the few players to emerge with any credit from City’s season.
Tom Adeyemi – Norwich – Break through season on loan at Brentford. Another who can play wide or through the middle.
Korey Smith – Norwich – Part of Norwich’s promotion squad but has lost his way a little bit.
Andre Gray – Luton – Quick, tricky, something we’ve missed for a few seasons now
Matt Smith – Oldham – If we want a target man, they don’t come much bigger. Has a touch of the Duncan Fergusons about him.
Gary Madine – Sheff Wed – would have signed earlier in the season aside from a caught case hanging over him. A more mobile target man than Smith.
Paddy Maddin – Yeovil – Will be dozens of clubs after him, creative striker who can drop of the front man
Will Grigg – Walsall – see above.
Martyn Waghorn – Leicester – Surplus to requirements at Leicester
Simon Church – Reading – was surplus to requirements at Reading, might change now though.
Steve Davies – Bristol City – left sided striker, ideal for the 4-3-3 but a bit injury prone
Jake Cassidy – Wolves – quick, mobile forward. Might be central to Wolves plans now though.
There are a couple of older heads there, but I really think we should be looking to younger players who we can develop, and potentially sell on. I don’t think there is a future in loaning older players. The list above is not designed to get us promoted next season it is about establishing ourselves in this league and establishing a self sustaining future for the club. Developing or buying cheap and then selling big is really the only way forward for a club of our financial means.
Obviously all of this is dependent on Berylson and the board. With the events of this season and now with Jackett’s resignation, I wonder if he has the appetite to rebuild the playing side of the club. If we’d had the same end of season league campaign but that had been balanced with a positive experience at Wembley (not a win, but a positive media result) I think it might have been enough to keep him committed to moving the club forward. My worry now is that with Jackett going, one of Berylson’s key links to the club has gone and so will his enthusiasm. Coupled with the off field problems, I wonder if this summer will see a slow reduction in investment and the re-positioning of the club ready for relegation next season.
Whatever happens this summer I hope everything can be sorted out quickly. The last thing we need is months of inertia. If we are not appointing a new coach until July/August and have to rely on the same playing squad I think we are in for a very painful next 12 months. The resignation of Jackett could see the next positive phase in the rebuilding of this club. If it is handled badly it could see us waste the last five years good work.