Five key dilemmas for Jewell
WITH four days to go until Ipswich Town start their Championship campaign, Paul Jewell has plenty to consider before picking his side for the opening day clash at Bristol City.
The biggest talking point from Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Wolves arguably had nothing to do with the seven new signings or indeed potential for more. Paul Jewell’s decision to pack the central midfield with a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation was in many ways a massive success. Wolves were largely unable to play through the home side and when Messrs Kennedy, Bowyer and Leadbitter were not breaking up attacks, they were setting the likes of Lee Martin on their way and, in the former Birmingham man’s case, getting their name on the scoresheet. Town were ironically more solid against their Premier League opponents than they had been in any previous friendly against the lesser lights. The one big problem with the formation is ensuring lone frontman Michael Chopra doesn’t become too isolated. This didn’t always happen, see Bowyer’s goal, but there were times Chopra was fighting a losing battle. Jewell must decide what formation will get the best result at Bristol City, while mindful of supporting his main goal-getter.
JET AND CHOPS
Linked with the ‘formation’ dilemma, the Town boss must decide what to do with his enigma – Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. The big man has made it clear he wants to play behind Chopra rather than the left wing role deployed by Jewell on Saturday. He certainly had an indifferent game against Wolves, only occasionally showing his undoubted talent. Likewise, he was largely used on the wing at Cardiff last season and promptly failed to impress. Then there is the other former Bluebird, Michael Chopra. For all his willingness at the weekend against a sea of gold, Chopra will always perform better with a partner alongside him. And preferably someone who can provide an aerial presence while Town’s biggest threat plays off the last man. Jewell will be seriously considering two up front against a Bristol City side who are still searching for defenders with the new season just days away.
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It is still unclear how important Jewell sees the man with the armband, and it is certain he will be looking for leaders all over the park. The likes of Lee Bowyer and Ivar Ingimarsson will clearly lead from the front and a recent poll among fans called for the former to be made captain for the season. With defender Damien Delaney another option, Jewell has largely gone with Bowyer’s midfield partner, Grant Leadbitter, to lead the side out. While not a big, booming voice on the pitch, Jewell is hoping Leadbitter lets his football do the talking following an indifferent 2010/11 campaign. It would be a big surprise if he does not continue as skipper.
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In terms of a single position, this is probably the biggest dilemma facing Paul Jewell’s selection on Saturday. Does he go for the experience and leadership of Mark Kennedy or the youthful exuberance of Aaron Cresswell? The former could of course find himself in the middle of midfield. But if it comes down to a straight shoot-out for the left-back berth, Cresswell might just get the nod after improving steadily since his move to Suffolk. While still learning, the former Tranmere defender has started to show signs of why Jewell took a chance on him and his performance against Wolves might have just tipped the balance in his direction.
The Championship might be kicking off on Friday night, and Saturday afternoon for the Blues, but Jewell has made it clear he still wants to bring in a few more signings, with Blackburn’s Keith Andrews and another centre back the likely two. Certainly most fans would like to see another defender brought in, although those who watched Saturday’s friendly would have been impressed by an assured display by Ivar Ingimarsson. If Jewell does snap up a new signing or two before the visit to Ashton Gate, he will have to decide whether to start with the new men who would have only been at the club for a matter of days.