‘Always play 4-3-3? That’s funny... I’ve played 4-2-3-1 twice’ – Lambert on formations and obsession with possession

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert and assistant Stuart Taylor talk tactics during Tuesday night's 3-0 home to Hull Ciuty.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert and assistant Stuart Taylor talk tactics during Tuesday night's 3-0 home to Hull Ciuty. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert says his obsession with possession will not stop.

The Blues boss has spoken a lot about his side have dominated the ball this season, though a lot of the passes have been between the centre-halves and in non-dangerous areas.

Indeed, the ‘expected goals’ stats, which give a flavour of the quality of chances teams create and concede, indicate the Blues are not performing as well as their current place of fifth in the League One table suggests.

When all of the above was out to Lambert, he replied: “I think we get in really good areas and then it comes down to individual decision making, whether it’s playing one-twos or getting good crosses into the box or shots on the goal. That’s decision making.

“We spoke to the guys aboout that risk factor, because we’re working the ball into really good areas. The other night (in a 3-0 home loss to Hull) we got into some really good areas to deliver really good balls, but that comes down to individual decision making. They have got to recognise that themselves.

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“The great thing is that the guys recognise it. They recognise what’s been missing.”

The Blues boss, whose side host Charlton in a League One top-six clash tomorrow, continued: “There’s no problem with confidence at all. Even the game the other night, we lost a goal early but after that we dominate the game. Then we lose a crazy goal just before the half. But taking the ball and passing it, absolutely no problem.

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“That’s one thing I will never tell them to stop doing, because for their own careers, you have to take the ball and pass it. If you want to get to the top level you have to take it and pass it.

“They are all better players for it without a doubt.

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“The message is keep going, keep doing it, don’t turn away from it. Don’t just go to a long ball team or anything like that. Don’t do that. If you can take the ball in areas where maybe before you were reluctant to take it, you’ll become a better player. It’s about bravery. Just keep doing it and don’t turn away from it.”

He added: “We’re really nice on the eye, we play some really good football, but you’ve got to be ruthless in both boxes. That’s the game. But football-wise, I’m really happy with how we play football.

“The guys recognise that themselves because we asked them. Their opinion is the same, which is good. If everybody is singing off the same hymn sheet then you’re not too far away from fitting really.

“We’re three points off second place with a game in hand. And there is a hell of a long way to go. We’re in a really good place at the minute. There’s no stress really.”

Asked how much emphasis he puts on stats, Lambert said: “We loom at all that. I’m not a big stats man, but what I do know is that we’re dominating games. That’s where the ruthlessness needs to come in. They’re getting balls across the box, we’re getting good play around about the box, but you have to take risks and take chances.

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“And when the ball comes into your box you have to defend it. When you have so much dominance of the ball you have to be ready for a team to hit you on the counter or a team trying something different.

“It’s both boxes and the lads recognise that.”

Meanwhile, Lambert was asked about his comments on Tuesday night regarding formation. When asked if he had ever considered switching to two up front during the game, he replied ‘no, because we’re useless with two up top’.

Does that mean, even at a time when he is low on central midfielders and has strikers returning to fitness, he doesn’t envisage a time when he might go with two up front – even as a Plan B?

“Well, it’s funny, because one of my staff told me this morning that people were having a go saying ‘it’s always 4-3-3’,” laughed Lambert. “That’s funny because I played 4-2-3-1 against Crewe and I played 4-2-3-1 against Gillingham! So that’s a good observation there!

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“I flip it between the two of them. I can do that, I can rotate. They all move around in the middle of the pitch.

“The problem I’ve got is that the midfield options are right down and the forward guys are all coming back. We’ve got four centre forwards. We’ve got two wide guys out in Gwion (Edwards) and Freddie (Sears). Young Jack (Lankester) has done great to get back playing, but we’ve got to watch him.

“We have to keep on improving, keep trying.”

But, to be clear, he doesn’t see any scenario where he’ll play two up front?

He replied: “Well we done that the other night because Kayden (Jackson) came on (out wide) and Oli (Hawkins) came on, so...”

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