What Ipswich Town's January transfer window 'reshuffle' could look like
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
The January transfer window opens today. STUART WATSON looks at what new Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna could do with his squad.
'WE'LL BE ACTIVE'
At McKenna's unveiling, Town CEO Mark Ashton was asked about plans for the January transfer window.
"From my perspective I’m hoping it’s not as busy as the summer, that’s for sure," he laughed, the Blues chief having signed 19 players and moved on 23 during one hectic window under Paul Cook's management.
“But, yes, I fully anticipate that we will be active in the January window. Kieran will be backed, he will be supported."
McKenna said: “For sure the club will be active. I’ve handed in some recommendations in terms of personnel and positions in terms of what could be useful for us."
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Speaking at a Supporters' Forum in November, Ashton used the word 'reshuffle' when discussing the January window.
The Blues are currently operating at the limit when it comes to squad size (22 senior outfield players) and loanees (they have five, the maximum number that can be named in matchday squad).
It's likely that Town are towards the upper end of Salary Cost Management Protocol restraints too (60% of annual turnover can be spent on player wages).
Discussing all the above on the Kings of Anglia podcast, Ashton said: “There’s a squad diagram on the wall. It’s like a chess board. If we move piece A then there is going to be a consequence to piece B. Are we confident in the consequence of bringing that player in, both on that player there, on the squad, on the budget, on the financial fair play numbers? It is a moving chess board.
“There’s an absolute plan that we step through. We always know that when we make a decision there will be a consequence and we always assess how comfortable we are with that consequence."
Christian Walton, Macauley Bonne, Bersant Celina, Hayden Coulson and Louie Barry are all halfway through season-long loans.
“There are recall options in some contracts, there are not recall options in others," explained Ashton. "We knew exactly what we were getting into when we signed the players."
More on each of them as we now look through the squad...
There were national reports last month that Brighton will recall goalkeeper Walton in order to sell him.
Walton responded by saying: "I don't really have a say on that and don't really know my situation. All I know is I'm playing for Ipswich Town and I'm really enjoying my football here."
If Walton were to depart, would Town look to sign another keeper? Or would summer signing Vaclav Hladky be given his chance with Tomas Holy in reserve?
If Walton stays, there's every chance that Holy - who had a seven-day emergency loan at Cambridge United in October - moves on. He's out of contract in the summer.
George Edmundson, Luke Woolfenden and Janoi Donacien have started the last two games as the new-look back three.
Other options for those roles are Toto Nsiala and Cameron Burgess (both have recently been out with Covid). Might another central defender who is comfortable in possession be added? I wouldn't rule it out having watched the way Town played against Wycombe last weekend.
Nsiala is due to be out of contract in the summer.
Wes Burns has this role nailed down. Back-up man Kane Vincent-Young could be well-suited to a dynamic wing-back role too.
The fear, of course, is that both have had their injury set-backs.
If McKenna wants to eventually operate with a back four, a right-back will be on the agenda. Whether that addition comes this month remains to be seen.
Injuries have restricted Coulson to just six starts - the last of which was back at the start of November.
McKenna revealed recently that the 23-year-old went back to parent club Middlesbrough for treatment but is now back in Suffolk. If he can't get himself back into the reckong over the next couple of weeks, then this is an area of the squad that needs strengthening.
Matt Penney, Bailey Clements and Myles Kenlock have all played at left-back this season. Kyle Edwards may be looked at on the left of a 3-4-3 when he's recovered from Covid.
It's an area of the team that can undoubtedly be levelled up.
Sam Morsy and Lee Evans dove-tailed well last weekend. Tom Carroll, who McKenna worked with at Tottenham, was the first midfielder used off the bench.
In addition, there's Scott Fraser, Rekeem Harper, Idris El Mizouni and Jon Nolan.
Town look well-stocked in the middle of the park, especially if it's going to be a 3-4-3 system.
If there's a specific centre-midfielder McKenna wants then some thinning may be required in this department.
Nolan is closing in on a return to fitness - could he move on prior to his contract expiring in the summer?
A loan spell for El Mizouni perhaps?
Fraser, who signed a three-year deal in the summer, has struggled to find a role this season. There's been speculation that he could be reunited with his former MK Dons boss Russell Martin at Swansea.
Sone Aluko and James Norwood played either side of Macauley Bonne in a front three during McKenna's first game in charge. Conor Chaplin replaced Aluko for the final 20-odd minutes, while Joe Pigott came on for Bonne and gave food for thought with a lively late cameo.
There's Bersant Celina and Kyle Edwards to come back into the mix once they've recovered from injuries and illness too.
That's a good array of options, but McKenna may just want to freshen things up a bit in an attempt to really kick the campaign into life.
Obvious candidates for departure would be the soon to be out-of-contract Kayden Jackson and Aston Villa loanee Louie Barry give their lack of game time.
Less likely (but not impossible) departures would be Bonne or Norwood.
Boyhood Blues fan Bonne has said he will be 'angry' if QPR recall him. R's boss Mark Warburton responded by saying: "We’ve had some injuries to our strikers. If it’s the right thing to call Macauley back then absolutely we will do."
The fact he has now gone 10 games without a goal might mean that both clubs will be happy to revisit this situation in the summer.
Norwood is scoring goals and wants to stay. He is out of contract in the summer though and the club's hierarchy may still stand by their view that his time is up.
Gamble on selling him to a League One rival in order to free up the funds/space for a striker that McKenna has his eye on? We'll see.