The Ipswich Town players who could force their way into Cook's thinking during cup break
- Credit: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town have two cup games this week before League One action resumes. Andy Warren looks at the players who could take chances against Arsenal Under 21s and Barrow.
The task at hand
Whenever Ipswich Town’s season breaks for cup action, we find ourselves asking this same question – are there any players who can take their chance and force their way into the league side?
It’s been a difficult job so far this season, with very few players managing to complete the task at hand.
Three players – Janoi Donacien, Louie Barry and Armando Dobra – started at Burton after coming into the team for the Carabao Cup clash with Newport. All three of those started that subsequent League One game due to injuries, though, with Toto Nsiala, Conor Chaplin and Wes Burns all ruled out.
Tom Carroll kept his place from the Papa John’s Trophy clash with West Ham for the visit to Lincoln before starting again against Sheffield Wednesday a week later. He’s not played since due to injury, though.
Conor Chaplin’s goal-scoring display at Gillingham in the Trophy was enough for him to start Town’s next five league games, while Sone Aluko kept a starting place from the FA Cup replay at Oldham for the visit to Sunderland, only dropping out of the side from there due to the death of his father. He was back in the starting XI for Sunday’s victory over Crewe.
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The other player worthy of mention here is Bailey Clements, who came off the bench against Colchester in the Trophy and has started all five Ipswich matches since.
So it can be done, but it’s certainly not a path well-trodden.
Manager Paul Cook will undoubtedly make changes for the Wednesday night clash with Arsenal’s youngsters in the Trophy and will surely go a little stronger when Barrow visit in the FA Cup.
Doors could be opened for a few, though. Here’s a look at who may be able to make a chance.
Striker Joe Pigott tops this list.
Macauley Bonne’s relative cold streak in front of goal, which has seen him net just once in eight games after a red-hot start to the campaign, has provoked discussion about whether Pigott coming into the side in his place should be in Cook’s thinking.
The former Wimbledon man can feel a little hard done by this season. He started the season as Cook’s leading man but, following Bonne’s rapid start, dropped out of the side and has never won his league place back since.
He’s only started three games since the end of August, netting in the Trophy clash with Gillingham but failing to take his opportunity in games with Colchester and Oldham of late. It’s also important to note Pigott recently lost his father, which is of course extremely difficult for anyone to deal with.
On the pitch, the striker can rightly feel it’s difficult for him to show what he can do, given how few minutes he gets – only 46 in the league from his six substitute appearances.
It’s a vicious circle. How can he produce on a regular basis if he isn’t getting the chance? But how can Cook pick him when he’s not finding the net?
Bonne is still getting in positions to score, as proven by his three opportunities which went missing against Crewe, and he rightly has plenty of credit in the bank. It’s tough to turn away from a man who has proven his worth so often this season.
So it may just be that Pigott needs to take a chance which comes his way this week to apply any kind of pressure. Maybe then that vicious cycle can slow down a little.
Even in the likely event he can’t push past Bonne this week, the Blues could certainly benefit to having Pigott up-to-speed and use him as a more-viable bench option.
The flying wing-back
Pigott may top this list, but Kane Vincent-Young may just have the best opportunity to actually force his way into Cook’s team.
As the scale of the summer clear-out became clear, the fact Vincent-Young was immune from it made a lot of sense. He’s everything Cook wants from a marauding, athletic and intelligent wing-back.
But it hasn’t worked out that way, with injury playing its part.
He’s back involved now, though, and is a regular on the bench. He’ll surely start at least one of these cup games.
Donacien’s been solid on the right side but doesn’t have the attacking ability of Vincent-Young, while the Town left-side is a little bit in flux right now. What's clear, though, is that Town aren't getting as much from these positions as Cook would like.
Both natural right-backs Vincent-Young and Donacien have played plenty of football on the left, so could a decent display or two this week force Cook into a rethink there?
There’s also Matt Penney to factor in here. Cook’s cagey with his comments regarding availability, so we don’t know why he didn’t make the bench on Sunday at a time when many would have brought him back into the starting XI.
He can prove a point this week, too.
The midfield men
Sam Morsy is a nailed-on starter in Cook’s midfield. So was Lee Evans, until Scott Fraser took his place on Sunday.
Those three head the queue when it comes to those looking to start in the Town engine room, but there are three more who will be hoping to push their case this week. Pushing for a start in the league may just be beyond all of them right now, though.
Idris El Mizouni has done his reputation no harm at all this season, forcing his way into Cook’s thinking at a time when it looked as though he would be sitting right on the fringes or possibly going out on loan. He’s earned himself a new contract in the process.
He’s impressed during his six appearances to date this season, notably netting in the FA Cup replay at Oldham to take his side through to face Barrow. There’s every chance he will start against Arsenal and will make the bench at least against Barrow, so he’ll want to serve a reminder of what he can do before January rolls around. A loan exit for him at that point isn’t impossible, given the amount of players available right now.
Tom Carroll had shown plenty of positive signs during his brief Ipswich career to date but injury has kept him sidelined since September. He played for the Under 23s last week and will want senior minutes this, as he bids to avoid become an after-thought at Ipswich. He’s too good for that status when fit, but he is only on a one-year deal for a reason.
Then there’s Rekeem Harper, a mainstay of the side prior to Morsy’s arrival but now a young player struggling to find a role.
Can he sit in one of Cook’s deeper roles? It appears not, with the Town boss seemingly removing him from consideration there.
Can he operate in a more advanced position? The reviews on that are mixed – he was promising from the bench in that role during appearances in September and October but was anonymous at Oldham from the start.
The frozen-out full-back
Myles Kenlock’s task is a little different to the others.
The left-back is out in the arctic when it comes to League One. He can’t play due to the fact he isn’t registered in Town’s league squad, so even two man-of-the-match performances this week will do him no good when it comes to next Tuesday’s visit to Charlton.
Given left-back is an area of need right now, due to the fact the injury status of both Penney and Hayden Coulson is unknown, Kenlock could possibly have been turned to had he been available.
But, following a period firmly in Siberia, he was given a surprise run-out at Gillingham in the Trophy and started again against Colchester before going off due to illness. He made the bench for the FA Cup replay at Oldham, too.
These two games are the final chances for Kenlock to be involved at all until the January transfer window opens, at which point Town’s squad can be tweaked.
There may just be a slight possibility he can force his way into that squad, in the short-term at least. It’s a real long-shot, though.
Cook says he gave Kenlock some minutes as a reward for ‘not being a moment’s problem’ following his summer exile. It’s admirable, but that kind of thing can only get you so far.