Who replaces Edmundson and Morsy? The ITFC injury debate
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town's 2-0 home win against Lincoln on Tuesday night was slightly dampened by a string of second half injuries. STUART WATSON looks at how Kieran McKenna may have to shuffle his pack .
REPLACING GEORGE EDMUNDSON
Edmundson came off with a badly swollen ankle and, almost certainly, won't be fit for Saturday's crunch home clash with Portsmouth. If there's ligament damage, then it could be several weeks on the sidelines.
The obvious replacement for him is Town's only other fit senior centre-back - CAMERON BURGESS.
Stylistically, it's not a like-for-like swap. Burgess is certainly less mobile. The 26-year-old did play on the left side of a back three for former club Accrington Stanley though and will add some extra aerial threat at set-pieces.
Don't forget, Burgess started out in midfield for Fulham. Maybe McKenna can unlock something in him when it comes to using the ball more productively than what we saw under previous boss Paul Cook.
"He's been somebody I've spoken about a few times recently because he genuinely has been training to a really high level," said the Blues boss.
- 1 Man dies after being found unresponsive in Sudbury river
- 2 14 players that could solve Town's left-sided problem
- 3 'We're blown away' - Classic car show visits care home after roadworks setback
- 4 Ipswich Town installed as early League One title favourites
- 5 Historic former pub with permission to convert into homes set for auction
- 6 Homes destroyed after blaze breaks out in terraced housing
- 7 5 new places to eat and drink in Woodbridge this year
- 8 Man left with head injury after attack in seaside town
- 9 GALLERY: 'Stunning' turnout as Hadleigh Show returns after enforced break
- 10 Motorists stopped for speeding during enforcement checks
"He's been contributing in meetings, been driving and leading training sessions and waiting for his opportunity. He's done everything he can to prepare himself to step into the team."
REPLACING SAM MORSY
This is going to be tough. Morsy has been leading by example in recent weeks, playing with the box-to-box drive and determination of a man on a mission.
With Lee Evans already sidelined, the Blues are now without their first-choice central midfield duo at a crucial moment.
Town have faced this situation before though. At the back end of January, when Morsy was suspended and Evans was injured, McKenna tried two different midfield combinations.
In the 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon, it was TYREEQ BAKINSON and TOM CARROLL. For the subsequent 1-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday, it was Bakinson and IDRIS EL MIZOUNI.
Bakinson, who is really starting to find his feet after a January loan switch from Bristol City, appears to be in the box seat. But who will partner him?
Carroll brings Premier League passing pedigree, but strength and stamina are not his fortes. El Mizouni brings far less experience, but would be the closest thing stylistically to Morsy when it comes to playing with a physical edge. Word is he has an Achilles injury though.
If it's Carroll, then Bakinson will be freed up to get further forwards. And the 23-year-old has shown he is capable of goals and assists.
Another option would be for Bakinson to sit deeper and to play either BERSANT CELINA or SONE ALUKO alongside him.
Celina has played central midfield for Swansea, Dijon and Kosovo. He was tried there by McKenna at Fleetwood last weekend. Yes, the 25-year-old's best work in that game came once he was moved further forwards towards the end, but he showed enough in that first period to suggest it's an experiment worth looking at again.
Aluko, who was Town's man of the match in the 2-0 win against Lincoln on Tuesday night, also possesses the qualities to operate further back. He may actually be better suited for that role than Celina given his off-the-ball work rate is better.
Deploying either Celina or Aluko deeper would, of course, then allow McKenna to get another attacking player on the pitch. James Norwood, Macauley Bonne, Joe Pigott and Conor Chaplin were all on the bench in midweek.
I'll finish with a wildcard option in CAMERON HUMPHREYS. The 18-year-old is shining for the U23s and has a number of Premier League clubs tracking his progress. The door (even if for a spot on the bench) may now be ajar for him.
*IF* LUKE WOOLFENDEN IS OUT
Woolfenden was, quite rightly in my book, named Town's February Player of the Month before Tuesday night's kick-off.
The ice cool 23-year-old has found a lease of new life under McKenna and is making football look easy at the heart of that back three.
He did, however, look to be moving a little awkwardly during the second half against Lincoln. Fingers crossed it's a minor knock he will soon recover from. But if it's not then McKenna has some thinking to do...
With just two fit senior centre-halves, would it best to switch to a back four? Not for me. Town are looking a well-oiled machine with this 3-4-3 system.
So who could play out position at the back?
Were he fit, then I would have advocated Evans. But he's not.
An alternative would be BAKINSON trying to replicate the Woolfenden role. He's got the calm ball-playing qualities to do so. Defensively, there would be bigger question marks though. And, as we've discussed, he's needed in a depleted midfield anyway.
So next best option, in my mind, would be moving DOMINIC THOMPSON onto the left side of a back three and shifting Burgess (though not ideal) to the middle. Kane Vincent-Young or Matt Penney fill the left wing-back void in this scenario.
The wildcard option here is ELKAN BAGGOTT stepping up from the in-form Under-23s. The 19-year-old Indonesian international is tipped for a bright future.
*IF* WES BURNS IS OUT
Losing Burns would, arguably, be the biggest blow of all.
The Welshman terrorised Lincoln on Tuesday night, scoring the first (his 11th of the season) and helping set-up the second with a surging run.
Janoi Donacien would normally be in consideration for playing further forwards, but he's required at the back.
Kyle Edwards, if fit, would also be very much front and centre of the conversation. But he's not.
KANE VINCENT-YOUNG, stylistically, would therefore be the closest thing to a like-for-like Burns replacement. When fit and firing, he is capable of getting bums off seats with his driving runs and stepovers.
Could any of the forward players play the advanced right wing-back role? Of all of them, I'd make the strongest cases for CONOR CHAPLIN and KAYDEN JACKSON. Both work hard, can deliver a cross and know where the net is. That would be an extremely bold move though.
Powerful 18-year-old EDWIN AGBAJE, who impressed during Town's run to the FA Youth Cup semis last season, plays right wing-back for the U23s. It's probably too soon for him to step up.
*IF* DOMINIC THOMPSON IS OUT
It's a bit more straight forward here.
The aforementioned KANE VINCENT-YOUNG and MATT PENNEY wait in the wings.
Penney hasn't featured since he was taken off in the 2-0 loss at Bolton on January 15. He was on the bench for the recent 2-0 win at Fleetwood.
Vincent-Young hasn't started a game since his late red card in the win at AFC Wimbledon back on January 25. He came on for Thompson in the recent 0-0 home draw with Cheltenham.
It's hard to know which of these two would get the nod.