Balancing act – clean sheets have dried up, but more goals are being scored
Sheffield Weds v Ipswich: The clean sheets may have dried up, but Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy will not attempt to curb his side’s new-found attacking freedom at Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon.
It was a case of needs-must when the Yorkshireman took over the rock-bottom Blues in November last year, with ‘organisation’ and ‘hard work’ the buzz phrases as a workmanlike side ground out the results which steered them away from the Championship relegation zone.
Now that the threat of relegation has been lifted, Town are playing far more expressive football at the start of this new season – and the stats back that up.
The Blues finished last season as the division’s lowest goalscorers with a paltry 48 goals from 46 games, but already they have found the net 17 times from their opening 10 league fixtures – only Burnley and Watford have scored more.
On the flip side of that, having kept 14 clean sheets in McCarthy’s 33 games at the back end of last season – including five 1-0 wins and four goalless draws – there has been just two shut-outs so far in 2013/14.
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“The brief last season was ‘stay up’,” said McCarthy. “Kick, bite and just stay up. There had to be a bit of that because I’d have looked a bit of chump if I’d had come in and tried to play great football straight away and ended up even more points adrift.
“I’ve always played with two wingers and played good football though; look at my Sunderland and Wolves title-winning sides.
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“It was always going to be a progressive thing here, slowly allowing them to play the football they want to play.
“Do you know what though, I’d settle for playing like we did last year if it got the results which get us in the top six.
“We’re not approaching games any differently last year, we always had two up top. We are controlling games more now though, definitely. (Cole) Skuse has helped with that and we’re trying to get the full-backs further forward.”
Blues centre-back Christophe Berra said: “Obviously as a defender you want clean sheets, but sometimes you have to sacrifice that. We’ve scored more goals this year.
“I wasn’t here last season, but it sounds like the boys were grinding out a lot of results in some backs-to-the-wall performances. Now we’re playing with a bit more freedom and creating more chances.
“Some of the goals we’ve conceded have been disappointing though, especially from set-pieces. The team that makes the fewest mistakes normally wins in this division.”
– See today’s EADT for full match preview. Follow @Stuart_Watson on Twitter for live match updates.