Can Ipswich Town escape relegation? Here are seven reasons to be positive
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town are five points adrift of everybody else at the foot of the Championship table. STUART WATSON outlines seven reasons why the Blues can escape danger under new boss Paul Lambert.
The improvement in team performance on Saturday was vast. Town looked more confident, more organised and played with more tempo, fight and identity than they have done all season.
If that’s what Paul Lambert can achieve after just a week with his players, then it bodes well for what can be achieved over the coming months.
The experienced Scot has already spoken about how standards cannot simply raise for a handful of games due to ‘new manager bounce’ and then slip back again.
Temporary target man
Town do not have the personnel for 4-4-2 at the moment – mainly because most of their midfielders look better suited to a three. They don’t have the personnel for 3-5-2 either – mainly because there aren’t two players good enough for the demanding wing-back roles.
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So the only other option is 4-3-3, or a variation of it, and for that to work you need someone suited to the lone striker role. That looked a problem once Jon Walters and Ellis Harrison got injured.
Step forwards Jordan Roberts. The 24-year-old was a surprise selection against Preston, but he did a remarkable job playing out of position on his full Blues debut. He may not have been clinical, but he led the line strongly and brought others into play.
Realistically it’s not a long-term solution, but it’s provided a quick fix that may just allow Town to stay in touch of safety until the January transfer window comes around.
That’s both on the pitch and off of it.
Forget the national narrative which has grown since Mick McCarthy’s departure, Town fans are a very fair and patient bunch. They have proven time-and-time again that they will get behind the team at the first hint of encouragement.
That’s why it was sad to see the atmosphere inside Portman Road slipping back into a state of apathy for the games against Middlesbrough and QPR. As Lambert astutely observed himself ‘it’s like they had given up – they didn’t even boo’.
Now they have something to get behind again. There were officially 14,725 Blues fans in attendance at the weekend but they made the noise of double that amount. The role of the proverbial 12th man cannot be underestimated.
Regarding the mood in the dressing room, it might be a long time before we get the full story of how things were under Paul Hurst and Chris Doig’s management. It’s clear many players didn’t like the duo’s blunt words and running/gym-based training methods.
Lambert very quickly realised he needed to inject a bit of fun into the camp and relieve the pressure on his players.
Captain Luke Chambers pointed out that this is a clean slate for everyone after ‘judgements’ had been made by the previous regime.
The sight of Roberts starting and Danny Rowe stepping off the bench at the weekend will have left everyone in the squad believing they have a chance.
These are players who have not been tainted by the recent confidence drain on the pitch. Involving them could be a masterstroke.
Money in the pot
Probably not as much as the £10m which has been reported nationally, but it’s pretty clear that Lambert has been given assurances by owner Marcus Evans there will be money to spend in January.
Paul Hurst raised close to £10m in player sales over the summer and spent around £5.8m of that. Yes, there will have been loan fees spent on top of that, but the wage bill will have dropped significantly too.
January is not a good time to buy, and persuading players to join a relegation battle won’t be easy, but Lambert will hopefully have the contacts and resources to strengthen the squad.
One or two experienced players could make the world of difference.
Long way to go
There are still 30 games left. That’s 90 points to play for.
Bolton stayed up with as few as 43 last season. Peterborough went down with as many as 54 in 2012/13. On average, it takes 49 to secure survival in the Championship.
Using that figure, Town need 39 points from the next 30 games (call it 10 wins and nine draws). For context, they’ve claimed 25 points from their last 30 league games (five wins, 10 draws). So the question is, can Lambert find an improvement of 14 points?
Turn four draws into victories, three losses into draws and flip one defeat into a win and you’re there. That doesn’t sound out of the realms of possibility.
Been done before
Statistically, based on the last 10 years of the Championship, 53% of teams in the bottom three after 16 games end up going down.
Town, it should not be forgotten, have beaten those odds twice before – both in 2012/13 after Mick McCarthy’s arrival and in 09/10 when Roy Keane turned things around after a draw-ridden start.
Teams that have been bottom at this stage have stayed up too – Rotherham in 15/16, Crystal Palace in 10/11 and Doncaster in 08/09.
It’s been done before and it can happen again.