Fraser's exit will split opinion... a waste of talent or the right call?
- Credit: Archant
Scott Fraser has left Ipswich Town for Charlton for a fee of around £500,000. Andy Warren looks back at his time in Blue.
Scott Fraser’s Ipswich Town career is going to split opinion.
Have Town dispensed with a creative force’s services too soon? Or have they quickly and sensibly cashed in on a player who never found his spot in Suffolk?
There’s compelling evidence on both sides.
We know he can create and score goals. He arrived having netted 14 for MK Dons last season and also carried a reputation for supplying his team-mates, too.
And we saw that in flashes at Ipswich. He’s as comfortable on the ball as any Town player has been in recent years. He uses it sensibly, can pick up clever positions and links up well with others. He loves a one-two on the edge of the box.
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He felt like a marquee signing when he arrived, at a time when Christian Walton, Sam Morsy and Bersant Celina had yet to land in Suffolk, and started 11 of the first 12 League One matches.
The first five came wide on the left and included a debut goal against Morecambe, before a shot in the middle arrived in match six against MK Dons. He kept his spot for the Wimbledon draw but was back on the left once Celina came into the team.
He never really looked comfortable there and, after dropping out of the side after picking up ‘a little injury’, he never really got back in it. He started just three more League One matches between the middle of October and his eventual exit.
Those niggling injuries didn’t help, with another meaning he never featured under Kieran McKenna, but he never found his place, either.
He was tried as a deep central midfielder once by Paul Cook, against Colchester in the Papa John’s Trophy, but was never going to oust Morsy and Lee Evans there under either the former or current Ipswich manager. Tom Carroll, Idris El Mizouni and Tyreeq Bakinson would all be in front of him in that position.
Celina, Wes Burns Conor Chaplin, Sone Aluko and Kyle Edwards were all obstacles in Cook’s three attacking roles, with Fraser certainly not able to operate in the wide wing-back roles now favoured by McKenna.
So where does he fit in? Under McKenna, it would have been as a No.10 or nowhere. Celina, Chaplin and Aluko all stand in his way. Fraser certainly hasn’t shown enough to convince a manager to switch formations in order to accommodate him.
Talented? No doubt about it. But he only showed flashes of it and never made himself undroppable, even if you accept a significant part of that is down to not being given enough of a chance in his favoured positions early on.
He was no doubt frustrated by his lack of football over the last few months. He moved to Ipswich to take his career to the next level, not to sit on the bench. Or not even make it, in some cases.
That’s a shame, because there isn’t any doubting his technical ability.
But you can certainly argue recouping a good fee on a player with no obvious spot in the side is sensible business. Maybe it will help McKenna strengthen in the summer.
Fraser’s value would certainly have depreciated, had he sat on the bench for the next four months before a summer exit. That scenario would have been helpful to nobody.
There’s certainly two sides to this one. Time will tell if Ipswich have made the right call.
What went well
Fraser’s Town career couldn’t really have started much better, as he fired home on the hour-mark of the Blues’ opening-day draw with Morecambe.
That goal is everything we hoped Fraser would bring. A clever one-two with Chaplin, bright movement, a stride into the box and a sweeping finish which brought back memories of former Town favourite Tommy Miller.
Sadly that proved to be the high point of a Town spell which began with so much promise.
As already noted, we saw plenty of examples of the Scot’s footballing ability and brain along the way. His touch is great, his close control can help his team out of tight areas and he has the intelligence to move into positions to drag opponents around the field.
There’s a reason Charlton were so keen to sign him, after all.
What went badly
In terms of on-field incident, the missed penalty at Burton certainly didn’t help things. Had he converted from the spot against his old club, as he had become so accustomed to doing, would his Ipswich career have shaken out differently? Could Town’s poor start to the season been avoided?
We’ll never know.
But much of Fraser’s struggle at Ipswich is down to positioning and traffic.
He played wide left, wide right and deep in midfield. But never, certainly not consistently, anyway, centrally behind the striker. He didn’t play on the left of a central midfield three, either. Those are the positions he felt most comfortable and had performed so well in in the past.
Fraser needs the freedom to roam from midfield and drive at the box. The central two in Cook’s system didn’t allow for that. Playing wide in the attacking three meant competing with Burns, Chaplin and Celina for starts. You could argue he doesn’t have the pace for those positions, either.
Maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, too? Of the 11 players who started that opening game against Morecambe, only three are regular starters now. Luke Woolfenden, Burns and Lee Evans have nailed down roles. A fourth, Chaplin, has been in-and-out of the side.
Of the other seven, three aren’t at the club now (Fraser, Toto Nsiala and Rekeem Harper) and the remaining four (Vaclav Hladky, Joe Pigott, Matt Penney and Kane Vincent-Young appear to be bench options.
So maybe Fraser’s association with Town’s poor start to the season and the need to change things hasn’t helped him, either.
What the future holds
In joining Charlton, he moves to a side who have similar goals to Town as they bid to get out of League One.
That looks unlikely to happen this season, given they sit in the bottom half of the table and face as tough a task as the Blues, though.
But Fraser may just find he fits into Charlton’s system better than he did the Blues’. The Addicks use three central midfielders, which suits the Scot well, while Addicks boss Johnnie Jackson may see a fair amount of himself in his newest addition.
That always helps.
Charlton visit Portman Road on the final day of the campaign.
How important a game will that be for Ipswich?