Assessment of Ipswich Town's squad now the window's shut

ITFC quintet George Edmundson, Macauley Bonne, Christian Walton, Wes Burns and Sam Morsy

George Edmundson, Macauley Bonne, Christian Walton, Wes Burns and Sam Morsy will all be key men for Ipswich Town during the second half of the season. - Credit: Archant

The transfer window 'slammed shut' at 11pm last night. STUART WATSON assesses the options now at Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna's disposal.

Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton makes a fingertip first half save.

Ipswich Town signed keeper Christian Walton permanently from Brighton in January. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

GOALKEEPERS

Signing Christian Walton on a permanent basis from Brighton is, without question, Town's best piece of January business. It shouldn't be forgotten how big a coup that was.

The 26-year-old has been one of the team's stand out performers so far this season, commanding his box and pulling off a series of impressive saves. Already proven at Championship level, his prime years as a goalkeeper are yet to come.

Vaclav Hladky is a very good back-up option. Yes, the Czech may have had a sticky start following the step up from Salford City but he's shown good character on the odd occasions he's returned to the team.

Tomas Holy departs with everyone's well wishes. The gentle giant may have joined League Two club Port Vale on loan, but it's effectively a permanent exit given his contract expires in the summer.

That leaves youngsters Antoni Bort (U23s), Bert White (recalled from a loan spell at non-league side Gosport Borough) and Nick Hayes (re-signed from Hemel Hempstead) vying for third-choice status.

Wes Burns celebrates scoring during the second half at AFC Wimbledon

Wes Burns celebrates scoring during the second half at AFC Wimbledon - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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RIGHT WING-BACK

No ins or outs in this department.

Wes Burns, with eight goals and three assist to his name, has that starting spot nailed down.

Kane Vincent-Young looks to be the man who would step in if Burns' Achilles/hamstring issues strike again.

Janoi Donacien, enjoying his football in a back three, could also play further forwards if needs must.

George Edmundson battles to go beyond Carl Winchester.

George Edmundson battles to go beyond Carl Winchester. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

CENTRE-BACK

George Edmundson is arguably the pick of the bunch when it comes to the 19 players recruited by former boss Paul Cook last summer.

The ex Rangers and Derby defender has produced some outstanding performances and, at 24, looks someone who will go on to play at a higher level - hopefully with Town.

Luke Woolfenden has had a lease of new life under McKenna. The 23-year-old academy graduate has added a rugged edge to go with his calm game-reading qualities. He's another with the potential for a big future.

Donacien, meanwhile, continues to be Mr Consistent. He thoroughly deserved his contract extension last November.

There's only one senior player backing those three up though and that's Cameron Burgess. The big Scot is strong in the air but doesn't necessarily looked suited to McKenna's play-out-from-the-back approach.

Could Town be left short following Toto Nsiala's move to Fleetwood? Corrie Ndaba is out on loan at League Two side Salford City, leaving Under-23 players Elkan Baggott, Levi Andoh and Albie Armin on the fringes.

New signing Dominic Thompson at Hillsborough.

New Brentford loanee Dominic Thompson made his debut in last weekend's 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

LEFT WING-BACK 

Incredibly, seven different players have started at either left-back or left wing-back for Ipswich this season. Things will hopefully settle down in that position.

Dominic Thompson, who has recently arrived on loan from Brentford, now appears to be the man in possession of the shirt. The 21-year-old experienced League One football with Swindon last season and has started two Premier League games for the Bees. Fingers crossed he can do the business.

His arrival allowed for three departures.

Myles Kenlock joined Colchester on loan and is out of contract in the summer. The writing was on the wall for him when he didn't make the cut for the registered 22-man league squad. 

Hayden Coulson's loan spell from Middlesbrough was terminated yesterday. Injuries, sadly, restricted him to just six appearances. It'll be interesting to see if he stays fit at new loan club Peterborough.

Bailey Clements, who had a surprise run of starts back in November, has joined League Two club Stevenage on loan.

That leaves Matt Penney as Thompson's competition, while there's potential for Kyle Edwards to play at left wing-back too.

Have Town levelled up in a problem position? Time will tell. Some streamlining was definitely required in this area of the squad though.

Sam Morsy is chased by man of the match Harry Pell at Accrington Stanley.

Ipswich Town skipper Sam Morsy, left, is available again after serving a four-game ban. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

CENTRE-MIDFIELD

Tyreeq Bakinson has arrived on loan from Bristol City to compete with Sam Morsy, Lee Evans and Tom Carroll for the two central midfield slots.

Jon Nolan's contract was terminated by mutual consent after a year on the sidelines through injury, while Rekeem Harper has joined Crewe on loan.

With Morsy suspended for two more matches, Evans having missed the last two games with a groin problem and Carroll having had his injury issues, the Blues opted not to loan Idris El Mizouni out after all.

Ultimately, Kieran McKenna decided he'd got enough options in this department and made the call not to push for Fleetwood's Jay Matete. He ultimately ended up joining Sunderland.

Has Town's engine room got enough depth and diversity for a promotion push? Again, time will tell.

Bersant Celina celebrate his wonder goal just before half-time.

Bersant Celina celebrates his superb goal against Crewe last November. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

WINGERS/NO.10s

Sone Aluko has looked a classy player, Bersant Celina's mercurial talents are well known, while Conor Chaplin is on eight goals for the season... With those three all able to play in the No.10 slot, McKenna decided to sell Scott Fraser to Charlton.

It simply didn't work out for the 26-year-old at Portman Road. Just three of his 14 league starts came in his favoured attacking midfield role. It was hard to see where he fitted and so, in the end, Town took the chance to get their money back.

We'll never know if the silky Scot would have thrived under McKenna's one-touch brand of football.  

Has Fraser's departure weakened the squad for the coming months? Given his last league start was back at the start of December, it's hard to say he leaves a gaping hole. Whether he goes on to be a success at The Valley and leave Town with 'what ifs' remains to be seen.

You could argue that what this Blues squad lacks is wide forwards for when McKenna goes with a spread out front three. Aluko, Celina and Chaplin all like to play centrally. James Norwood and Kayden Jackson have fulfilled that role, but are central strikers. Kyle Edwards, who is a more traditional winger, has slipped down the pecking order. Louie Barry saw his loan spell from Aston Villa cut short due to a lack of game time.

Town did make a late enquiry about Manchester City starlet Morgan Rogers, after he was recalled from a loan spell at Bournemouth, but the 19-year-old did not want to drop to League One.

Macauley Bonne celebrates at Gillingham as Ipswich go 3-0 up during the first half.

Macauley Bonne (right) and James Norwood are among Kieran McKenna's striker options. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

STRIKERS

New managers always tend to want to bring in a striker of their own to liven things up, but McKenna ultimately decided he was happy with what he's got.

Macauley Bonne and James Norwood have been labelled the 'bash brothers' by the Northern Irishman. They have 17 goals between them this season.

We wondered whether Kayden Jackson, out of contract in the summer, and/or Joe Pigott, restricted to just five league starts, might be moved on. McKenna started Jackson at AFC Wimbledon recently though and has insisted that Pigott, a proven goalscorer at this level, has still got a part to play.

With Tyreece Simpson back from his 11-goal loan spell at Swindon Town too, there are more than enough striker options.

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Hillsborough.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna has explained the club's approach in the January transfer window. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

VERDICT

Fraser aside, it's hard to argue against any of the nine January departures. Town's squad was far too bloated and now the fringe has been trimmed accordingly.

Could/should it have been strengthened more to maximise the chances of a promotion charge? Possibly, but January's a tough time to do business. So often you see clubs do deals for the sake of it. I'm quite glad there was no panicked last minute trolley dash. Act in haste, repent at leisure, as they say.

McKenna inherited a strong squad and still has a plethora of options that most managers in this division will envy - just look at the bench in recent games. Town have, lest we not forget, won four of their last six.

Sometimes it's got to be about getting the best out what you've got rather than always looking for answers outside the building.