Some starters are nailed on... but it’s time for others to claim their place as Hammers come to Town
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town are in pre-season friendly action against Premier League West Ham this afternoon (2pm). ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the game at Portman Road.
We know all about the Ipswich Town system now and how Paul Lambert and his coaching staff are striving to implement a firm identify this summer. And that’s great to hear.
We know Plan A is going to be a 4-3-3, we know Lambert wants his side to pass the ball slickly, move it wide and for his wide players to attack from the flanks while supporting the central striker. And that’s been great to see.
So far we’ve seen completely different XIs play the two games at Colchester and then the two halves at Tottenham, with those sides each including players who would expect to be nailed on starters.
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So it will be interesting to see which way Lambert goes in this game. Will he split his squad in half again or will we begin to see a first XI taking shape?
He used 23 players at Spurs, with James Norwood, James Wilson, Oli Hawkins and Emyr Huws all sat in the stands and Idris El Mizouni an unused substitute.
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That’s a lot of mouths to feed so, at some point, we’re going to see players falling away and others standing strong.
Where things stand
So, who are those nailed-on starters I just mentioned?
For my money, there only four players I would 100% stick my neck out and say with confidence they will be in Lambert’s side on the opening day.
Those four are Kane Vincent-Young, Luke Woolfenden, Stephen Ward and Flynn Downes.
There are others who you would expect to start – namely Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse – but with Lambert regularly stating their battle with father time is one the experienced duo won’t have the better of forever you can’t be completely sure.
Then there are others who have put their hands up during pre-season but have more to prove.
It looks like an open battle between Tomas Holy and David Cornell for the goalkeeping spot, while you would expect Wilson, Toto Nsiala and Corrie Ndaba to have a job on their hands to oust Chambers in the middle of defence.
Midfield is a head-scratcher as, with Downes surely one of the three starters, Skuse, Teddy Bishop, Huws, Jon Nolan, Alan Judge, Andre Dozzell and El Mizouni are all fighting for the other two spots.
Freddie Sears, Gwion Edwards, Jack Lankester and Armando Dobra have all had good pre-seasons so far in their battle for the two wide spots.
Then there’s the central striker. Kayden Jackson and Aaron Drinan are the two to have played, while we’ve yet to see what Hawkins and Norwood have to offer this summer.
So many questions still to answer. Hopefully we get a few clues today.
Are you ready yet?
So, when are we going to get a look at Hawkins and Norwood?
Both trained with the first-team yesterday, with new-signing Hawkins still a little behind having spent the summer training alone following his Portsmouth release and Norwood battling back from groin surgery. If the latter is able to play, it will be good to be able to talk about his performances on the pitch rather than transfer speculation off it.
Both could be involved today, though Saturday’s game at an as-yet unnamed opponent is probably more realistic.
Wilson should be ready to make his first pre-season appearance, though, so it will be interesting to see which of the four centre backs he takes minutes from when he eventually reaches the field.
Huws could also return, adding another complexity to the midfield selection process.
It’s going to be a busy day for West Ham, with David Moyes’ side in action at Ipswich and Wycombe simultaneously.
These will be the Hammers’ first pre-season outings so minutes in legs will be the order of the day, meaning Moyes is likely to split his senior players between the two games. How that split works out remains to be seen but, either way, Ipswich will have another tough test on the heels of their loss at Spurs.
Moyes can’t be in two places at once, of course, so it’s entirely possible the West Ham team may be taken by either former Norwich coach Alan Irvine or Kevin Nolan, who now works as part of the Hammers’ staff.
The Premier League side have yet to make a signing of note this summer, only making the loan of Czech midfielder Tomáš Sou?ek permanent, but do include former Ipswich full-back Aaron Cresswell and ex-Town loanee Mark Noble in their ranks.
From an Ipswich perspective, midfielder Downes is from a family of West Ham fans while Norwood will be desperate to make his first appearance of the summer against the club he supports.
Freddie Sears started his career with the Hammers, making 58 appearances for the club before departing in 2012. His most memorable moment came in March 2018, when he scored a dramatic winner on his debut against Blackburn.