Time for Town to take things up a gear as Lambert takes on Mourinho at Tottenham
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town are in pre-season action against Tottenham Hotpsur this afternoon. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the clash with the Premier League side.
Turn it up a gear
There’s no doubting Town’s performances during their double victory at Colchester on Tuesday night has raised optimism levels heading into the new season.
The Blues were organised, clinical and operated as an efficient unit as they scored five without reply on a night where they were rarely troubled by a League Two side who were, admittedly, below par.
But things go up a gear (or three) this weekend and that is where we will begin to see just what Paul Lambert’s side are truly made of.
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However strong the Tottenham side is this afternoon, Ipswich will be faced with as stern a test as they have faced in pre-season in many a year, before then hosting West Ham at Portman Road on Tuesday.
Things will become significantly clearer over the next few days.
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Perhaps the most encouraging thing from Tuesday night’s games was seeing the beginnings of an Ipswich plan take shape before our eyes.
On too many occasions last season the Blues seemed muddled in their thinking, unsure in their roles and unpredictable from one game to the next.
But all the noises coming out of Portman Road this summer point towards a more consistent approach, both in terms of selection and system.
A 4-3-3 formation seems to be the one of choice and, while they will have much less of the ball than they were allowed on Tuesday night and will be facing players of much greater quality today, it would still be heartening to see the Town approach continue to take shape.
That would mean attempting to move the ball around the field at pace, full-backs looking to get forward on the overlap when possible, wide players getting on the ball in dangerous areas and support for the central striker.
We have to accept third tier Town are inferior, man-for-man, than their Premier League opposition and remember this game is all part of the building process, rather than a contest where they need to keep things tight and scrap away.
Colchester was a real positive – this game can be too, even if Ipswich do end up being defeated.
Lambert used 26 players across 150 minutes of football on Tuesday evening but, with only 90 to play with this weekend, expect his squad to be slimmed down somewhat.
That could mean the likes of Brett McGavin, Ben Folami and Tommy Smith dropping out, as well as young goalkeepers Adam Przybek and Harry Wright, while it’s not impossible Aaron Drinan may also make way despite his two-goal haul in Essex.
What this game could do, as well as Tuesday’s with West Ham, is begin to shed light on how Lambert sees his side lining up when the competitive football begins.
We saw two separate sides on Tuesday, with fitness being the key, but it seems unlikely the Town boss will do the same over the two halves of football this afternoon.
So we could begin to get an idea of who’s in line to start in key areas such as the centre of defence, wide areas and, in particular, the centre of midfield.
Ipswich had six senior players sat in the stands at Colchester on Tuesday evening and there’s a chance at least some of those will take to the field at Spurs.
Goalkeepers Tomas Holy and David Cornell are set to play, with the former on the way back from a shoulder problem and the latter now having a week of training under his belt following his arrival last weekend.
Oli Hawkins looks unlikely to feature, while Jon Nolan could also return from a calf problem. Central defender James Wilson is understood to be a few days away from featuring having picked up a calf issue of his own.
Striker James Norwood will almost certainly not be involved, though, as he continues his rehabilitation following groin surgery.
Jose Mourinho’s side finished sixth in the Premier League last season and, as a result, have Europa League qualifying games coming up in what appears to be a packed September schedule.
The Spurs players returned to training last week and are at the beginning of their summer preparations, having finished last season in July, so it’s unlikely Mourinho’s frontline players will be given 90 minutes of full-throttle football today.
But the likes of Son Heung-min, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura could all be involved as they ease their way back into action.
There could be first Tottenham appearances for new signings Joe Hart and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but one man the Ipswich defence won’t need to deal with is England skipper Harry Kane.
The striker hasn’t trained so far in pre-season due to the fact he is self-isolating having returned from holiday in the Bahamas, after the government changed policy to decree those coming back from the Caribbean island must quarantine themselves for 14 days.
There’s also a chance a number of Tottenham’s young players could get minutes late on, as could Cameron Carter-Vickers, who was on loan at Ipswich in 2018.
Town’s Spurs links
This will of course be the first time any of the current Ipswich squad have played at Tottenham’s new system, though there are a few with links to the North London club.
Chief among them is wing-back Kane Vincent-Young, who grew up in the Spurs youth system before joining Colchester, while midfielder Teddy Bishop comes from a family of passionate Tottenham fans.
Andre Dozzell’s father Jason left Ipswich for Tottenham in 1993, while young winger Armando Dobra spent time on trial with the Premier League clubs before ultimately joining Ipswich.
What could have been
While there is plenty of interest in watching the men in Blue take on Mourinho’s side, there’s one key ingredient sadly missing.
Ipswich Town would have taken thousands upon thousands of fans to this game in normal times. There’s no doubt about that. Every possible seat would have been taken.
It would have been a great occasion as so many experienced one of the world’s greatest stadiums for the first time. But, sadly, the match will be played in front of empty stands.
Plenty will be watching at home on the Premier League’s club online stream, but it just won’t be the same.
We can only hope a time when those thousands of fans can flock south as one is not too far away.
Then we need to rely on Ipswich progressing far enough in a cup competition to earn a return to Tottenham.