Paul Jewell’s summer stregthening must focus on back five

ANOTHER summer of rebuilding at Ipswich Town is on the horizon – and the statistics show where manager Paul Jewell will be focusing his attentions.

Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion has left the Blues heading towards yet another disappointing mid-to-lower half finish in the Championship. And ahead of what will be their 11th consecutive season in the second tier it is clear where improvements need to be made if Town are to once again be seen challenging at the top end of the table.

Scoring has not been a problem for Ipswich this season, their 50 league goals only bettered by six teams in the division at present – four of them currently in the top five.

It’s their defensive record which has left them stuck in the lower reaches for much of the campaign, with their 60 league goals conceded eight worse than anyone else in the Championship. Only relegation-haunted Wycombe (League One) and Northampton (League Two) have leaked more.

The most shocking statistic of all, however, is that three goals or more have been conceded in a third of matches since Jewell took over last January – last weekend’s defeat on the south coast the 19th time it has happened in 57 games.

As the Blues boss rightly points out, that responsibility falls upon the team as a whole – not just the back five.

The increased work-rate of the midfield and forward line certainly played it’s part in back-to-back clean sheets against Portsmouth and Cardiff recently.

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Ipswich still lack a serious strength in depth defensively though.

Carlos Edwards is the club’s only right-back option at present, with many still unsure as to whether that’s the attack-minded Trinidadian’s best position.

And while there have been nine different centre-back partnerships this season, there are just a trio of senior players at the club in that position at present, in the form of Ibrahima Sonko, Damien Delaney and Tommy Smith.

Three of the aforementioned quartet – Edwards, Smith and Sonko – are all rapidly coming to the end of their contracts too.

Meanwhile, the goalkeeper gloves also look up for grabs, with current incumbent Arran Lee-Barrett having come in-and-out of the side this campaign around short-term options such David Stockdale, Richard Wright and Alex McCarthy.

The search has already begun.