Q: Who would be your first choice full backs for the game at Accrington, and why?
Now that the transfer window is shut I think it’s important that we establish what our best starting eleven actually is, and stick with it over a run of games so that key partnerships can be allowed the chance to develop and thrive.
Unlike many supporters I’m actually happy with the signing of Laurens De Bock, even if what we’re hearing from fans of Leeds United suggests that he’s plummeted from playing Champions League football to the third tier of English football in the space of about eighteen months for a good reason. His success with Club Brugge and the fact two different higher-placed clubs have spent seven figure fees to get him in the past suggests that there’s something to work with here, and that De Bock just needs a chance to start afresh somewhere in order to regain his confidence and prove his worth.
That said, he can only hit the ground running once he’s actually fit enough to step in and make an impact. He’s barely played over the last year and hasn’t played competitive football since last season, so he’s likely behind in his fitness and should be given time to settle in.
I’d make it clear to Denver Hume that he now has the chance to stake his claim as the first choice left back in Jack Ross’s squad. He’s now got someone to compete with at left back and that should spur him on to prove his worth.
I’m torn on the right, but I think I’ll stick with Luke O’Nien. I get that he’s pushing to start in midfield but at the minute I think there are too many people ahead of him in the pecking order. Whilst Conor McLaughlin has done very little so far to suggest he’s a good signing, he’s never actually played right back for any great length of time and should be given the chance to prove himself. That said, I think O’Nien has shown with the assists he’s been able to get that he’s worth persisting with further at right back - he has the energy and fitness levels to get up and down the park, and I think he links up well with Lynden Gooch.
Neil Graney says...
I’m going to mix it up a bit and say we should play Conor McLaughlin on the right hand side, and Denver Hume at left back.
Given that Charlie Wyke is suspended I would like to see regular right back Luke O’Nien build on his performance in the number ten role against Burnley. The ex-Wycombe man struggled and evidently became frustrated down at Peterborough, and I think he deserves a chance to play in his favoured position.
McLaughlin also deserves a chance to show what he can do in his preferred role, given that he’s never actually played there for any sustained period of time this season. Accrington try their best to be physical and direct so his extra height should help on set plays.
If 100% fit, playing Denver Hume ahead of new man Laurens De Bock is a straightforward decision - he played well against Wimbledon and you can imagine that this game will come too early for De Bock to come straight into the team.
I’d say that it’s Hume’s shirt to keep until he suffers from a downturn in form, by which point you’d like to hope that De Bock is settled in, up to speed fitness-wise and ready to grasp his opportunity with both hands.
Craig Davies says...
Considering Luke O’Nien won young player of the year last season largely for his performances at right back, it seems an odd situation to consider dropping him or moving him elsewhere.
Yet, despite his lung bursting efforts and his never-say-die commitment, it’s perhaps time to try something different. Not because I know for a certain that Conor McLaughlin is a better more composed full back, but because I think Luke deserves a shot further up the field - whether that’s in the ten role or to replace the inconsistent Lynden Gooch on the right.
I’d experiment with McLaughlin at right full back and Denver Hume on the left. It would be a tough call to drop a young lad like Hume who, when fit, always gives it his best shot, but having De Bock ready to go and hopefully causing Hume to excel himself in order to retain his place is advantageous for the team and squad, making Hume a better player in the process.
Tom Albrighton says...
At left back I have to stick with Denver Hume.
It makes total sense. With not many left footed players at the club, Hume balances the back four out much better than when McLaughlin is shunted out there. He’s a relentless grafter too - he’ll chase up and down all day long. He’s much better suited to the protection of a back four and if we want our young players to progress, we can’t throw the towel in on them as soon as they have a ropey game or two.
For all that his final ball isn't as precise as we’d like, Hume does offer an attacking threat. Perfecting his crossing and final ball still needs work, but these are elements that will only improve with continued game time. Given the other options available, I cant see a reason for Hume not to be starting.
Then, on the right, I’d go with Conor McLaughlin. Personally I’m not sold on him at all, but playing an entirely right footed right back at left back will probably do that for you.
For all O’Nien is a trier, he isn't naturally a full back and regularly gets caught out. The only way we’ll see the best of McLaughlin is at right back where he’ll be given a chance to regain his confidence after a shaky start having been played in numerous positions that he’s just not suited to.
He’s been a useful operator for Northern Ireland and continues to do so. A settled back four is a useful back four in my book, so having a pair of natural full backs alongside your two centre backs just makes sense. Given a run at right back, in theory, we should see Conor McLaughlin’s performances improve.
We can’t keep chopping and changing on the back of each individual game, and settling the back four goes some way to building some confidence, gaining clean sheets and allowing our players the opportunity to develop relationships on the pitch.