Five reasons behind Ipswich Town’s downturn in form
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town won 10 of their opening 14 games, but their record since then reads P15 W3 D6 L6. Stuart Watson takes a look at the reasons behind the slump.
Ipswich have now played 20 league games. Eight players have started the bulk of them in Tomas Holy (15), Luke Chambers (16), Luke Woolfenden (16), Luke Garbutt (14), Cole Skuse (19), Flynn Downes (16), Kayden Jackson (17) and James Norwood (15).
If you take the cup competitions out of the equation, the average number of changes from league game to league game is three - not a ridiculous amount. A run of six cup games in eight between November 9 and December 10 saw a high turnover of players though and badly disrupted momentum.
MORE: North Stander: Sorry, Paul, but the criticism is justified. This is a 'slump', not a 'blip'Jackson and Norwood, to use just two examples, both started just two games in little more than a month.
Town's team telepathy has weakened at a time in the season where rivals are starting to really gel and become greater than the sum of their parts.
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Look back at the results and Town's current slump coincides with the start of that 'cup period'.
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Very quickly after Kane Vincent-Young's £500k arrival from Colchester we were talking about how the Blues had finally found the right-back that had been lacking throughout the entirety of the 2010s.
His pace, trickery and lung-bursting recovery runs gave Ipswich's play a completely different dimension.
MORE: 'We're just being careful' - Vincent-Young on his injury progressResults when he started: WWDWWWWLW. The sole loss in there? That was Rotherham at home, when the flying full-back clearly wasn't fully fit with the groin problem that had forced him off at Fleetwood.
Town have won just twice since Vincent-Young underwent surgery. Janoi Donacien has been solid but lacks the same attacking impact, Gwion Edwards is really a winger (who'd rather be on the left), while Barry Cotter's marauding runs can leave the team defensively exposed.
SWITCHING OF SYSTEMS
The wins at the start of the season may not have been swashbuckling, but they were built on solid foundations. A good old-fashioned 4-4-2 with players working hard was behind Town quickly shaking off the relegation hangover.
Vincent-Young's dynamism was probably a big factor in a switch to wing-backs towards the end of September, then a loss at Accrington, where Town were overloaded down the flanks, saw a return to 4-4-2. That back-to-basics approach was behind the wins against Southend and Rochdale.
MORE: Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: No more excuses, Lambert needs to get a tune out of this squadSince then, during this fallow period of victories, we've seen a constant chopping and changing of systems - 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 3-5-2. The formation has regularly been adapted in matches too.
Vincent-Young's absence means playing with wing-backs has been less effective, but it's still often been preferable to 4-4-2 due to a lack of in-form wide men. Lambert's been caught between a rock and a hard place.
In fact, 4-4-2 has been used from the start just once in the last 10 games - and that was for the 2-1 home defeat to Coventry in the FA Cup. Town were over-run in midfield that night and all of a sudden the 'safe' system has been put firmly on the back burner.
The power of confidence and momentum cannot be underestimated.
Things might - I stress 'might' - have been different had luck been on the Blues' side in the back-to-back home games against Blackpool and Wycombe at the end of November.
MORE: 'I'm here to for the whole year and I'm here to play' - Norris not expecting Wolves recall in JanuaryLuke Woolfenden's header looked to have crossed the line in the topsy-turvy 2-2 draw with the Tangerines, but in the absence of goalline technology nothing was given. Then, in the goalless top-of-the-table clash with the Chairboys, the officials managed to rule out a perfectly good Luke Chambers goal.
Did Town deserve more from those two games on the overall balance of play? Possibly not. But had the big decisions gone in their favour then you never know what sort of subsequent boost that would have given.
GOALS HAVE DRIED UP
Town scored 28 goals in their first 14 games across all competitions - they put five past Bolton, four past Tranmere and three past Shrewsbury. In the subsequent 15 games they've found the net just 14 times.
Of primary concern is that the chances being created have dried up. Plenty of possession with little punch has been a recurring theme.
If you're going to play with three in the middle, at least one of them needs to produce goals and assists regularly. Unfortunately, Cole Skuse, Jon Nolan, Flynn Downes, Emyr Huws and Andre Dozzell all do their best work from deep.
MORE: Sunday Snap: Lambert's quiet word with Toto, Norwood caught red handed and Holy's 'Elf' momentSince the last league win, 1-0 at Rochdale, Ipswich have produced an average of 2.5 shots on goal per game. And when the chances have been created, the Blues have been guilty of profligacy.
Town really should have buried Coventry during a dominant first half display, but didn't. James Norwood, whose early season form was disrupted by a groin niggle, has lost his shooting boots, while Jon Nolan has squandered some golden chances.