Lambert has a host of players itching to start as selection conundrums intensify - notes ahead of MK Dons clash
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town are back in action at MK Dons this evening. Andy Warren looks ahead to the action.
A source of pride
It wasn't pretty, but the Blues' 0-0 draw with Doncaster Rovers on Saturday extended their unbeaten league run at the start of the season to seven games.
Whichever way you look at that, it's extremely positive.
Paul Lambert's men are keeping good company, too, with Ipswich one of only six teams to have avoided defeat in any of England's top four divisions. Liverpool, West Brom, Coventry, Doncaster and Exeter are the others.
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Furthermore, only Championship leaders Leeds United have conceded fewer than the four goals Ipswich have allowed this season, with the Doncaster draw ensuring Lambert's men have notched three-successive clean sheets for the first time since the 2013/14 season.
While talk of unbeaten season is certainly fanciful and unrealistic, the fact the Blues have not been conquered as of yet should certainly be a source of pride.
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That run will certainly be tested at MK Dons this evening, though, as they face a side who won 3-0 away at Blackpool.
The two big debating points coming out of Saturday's draw - is a tactical tweak required? And what should Lambert do with Alan Judge?
The answer to both questions impacts the other to a degree.
We already knew the Irishman is not, and probably never will be, an orthodox left midfielder in a 4-4-2 and Saturday's game only served to prove that.
But we also know the quality he possesses when deployed in the centre of the field, behind the striker(s). He's a better player than what we've seen this season.
So logic surely goes that if we want to see Judge at his best then a switch is required to create a No.10 slot, which could mean the wing-backs or 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 systems we've seen this season get a second airing.
But the latter would mean splitting up the strike partnership of James Norwood and Kayden Jackson, which has yielded nine goals already this season.
That's the dilemma Lambert faces as he bids to find the formula which will take Ipswich back to the Championship.
We perhaps saw the limitations of a 4-4-2 during Saturday's game as the visitors had more of the ball and made things difficult for Ipswich in the middle of the pitch, so it will be interesting to see his response this evening against a side who like to possess the ball and deploy three central midfielders in a wing-back system of their own.
Regardless of whether there's a switch in formation, Lambert is likely to make changes for this evening's game as they play their second of three games in eight days.
Anthony Georgiou says he is ready to make his first Ipswich start and, if his wish is granted, he could take Judge's place on the left given the Irishman played twice while on international duty. That would ensure his legs are fresh for Saturday's visit to Gillingham.
Will Keane also feels ready to start his first game of his second Ipswich spell, although Lambert has suggested the former Hull man my not be quite at that stage just yet.
Jon Nolan came off the bench on Saturday and is another pushing for his first league start of the season. He could give ever-presents Flynn Downes and Cole Skuse a rest in the centre of a 4-4-2 or potentially be the third central midfielder if Lambert does indeed opt to switch his shape.
Then there's Emyr Huws, who missed out on the bench at the weekend due to illness. He could return, too.
We know a few players who won't be involved, too. Toto Nsiala, Idris El Mizouni, Armando Dobra and Jordan Roberts all played for the Under 23s in their loss at Burnley yesterday, meaning they will almost certainly sit this one out.
The fact El Mizouni, Roberts and Dobra were all involved suggests Danny Rowe may well have recovered from the ear infection which kept the winger out at the weekend.
Luke Garbutt was a notable absentee from Under 23 duty yesterday, so it's not impossible he could return to the fold too as a further example of the weapons Lambert possesses.
If Skuse takes to the field for Ipswich Town this evening he will do so for the 250th time.
The veteran midfielder has been a mainstay for the Blues since being signed by Mick McCarthy in the summer of 2013 and has been in terrific form at the start of this season alongside Flynn Downes.
He's due a rest at some point under Lambert's rotation policy but is showing no sign of tiredness, having started all seven league games to date.
His 249 Ipswich games have yielded just two goals, with yesterday marking the two-year anniversary of his last, against Bolton.
What chance he can celebrate with goal No.3 tonight?