Jewell might not play 4-4-2 after all

PAUL Jewell would love to play 4-4-2 – he just doesn’t feel he has the players to do so.

The Blues boss will decide on his starting line-up for Saturday’s Championship opener at Bristol City tomorrow and he looks set to employ a five-man midfield formation.

That was the system he played at the weekend to such good effect when Premier League visitors Wolves were made to work hard for a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at Portman Road.

And with Town now closing in on the loan signing of defensive midfielder Keith Andrews from Blackburn Rovers, it seems set to stay that way.

“I would like to play 4-4-2 but we have to be adaptable,” said Jewell.

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“At the moment, with the personnel we’ve got, the system we played on Saturday (4-1-4-1) probably suits us that bit better.”

That revelation will come as a surprise to many Town fans who, having seen Jason Scotland isolated as a lone striker for most of last season, were expecting Jewell to switch to the more traditional two up front system he has favoured throughout his managerial career.

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“I’m still not settled on my starting line-up and formation yet by a long shot. Probably Thursday we’ll make that decision, but we’ll have to see how the week pans out. There might be injuries or people coming in yet.”

A few weeks ago you would have bet your bottom dollar on Town starting the season with a 4-4-2 formation.

The traditional system, with flying wingers supplying the ammo for a telepathic strike duo, was exactly what got Bradford and Wigan promoted to the top-flight under Jewell.

And there was no reason to suggest that he wouldn’t do the same at Portman Road.

Yes, the Liverpudlian continued Roy Keane’s preference for a holding midfielder and lone striker when he took over at Portman Road last January but the feeling was he didn’t want to make disruptive changes in the middle of a campaign.

The real revolution was always going to happen in the summer and the fact that he went out and quickly signed two out-and-out front men in Michael Chopra and Nathan Ellington supported the notion that a change in formation was on its way.

However, after 4-4-2 was deployed for the opening three games of pre-season, it now looks like the Blues will start a second successive Championship campaign with five in midfield.

It was played to good effect against Wolves on Saturday and the expected arrival of defensive midfielder Keith Andrews on loan from Blackburn seems to show that’s the route Jewell will now be going down.

He argues that the personnel currently has at his disposal suits the system. At first that seems bemusing considering that Chopra has already stated that his best football comes when he plays alongside a strike partner and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas prefers operating in an advanced central role.

There is certainly not a lack of options up front, the problem is that JET is probably going to be required on the wings due to a lack of widemen, while the central midfield pairing of Grant Leadbitter and Lee Bowyer will undoubtedly benefit from the freedom an extra shielding player will give them.

In addition it’s a more flexible set-up. A more solid defence when the team does not have the ball, it can quickly turn into a 4-3-3 on the counter-attack as wingers bomb on.

It could yet be that 4-4-2 is the formation of choice at home. The fact remains, however, that – for all the transfer comings and goings at Portman Road this summer – Ipswich could well be starting a second successive season with five in midfield.

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