Jonny Hawley says…
Nearly a quarter of the way through the current season, am I pleased at being higher in the table than we finished in 2022/2023? Yes. Do I still have concerns? Yes, I do.
The shambolic second half collapse against Middlesbrough, the wasteful display against Cardiff and the lack of goals from our strikers all point to weaknesses that threaten to derail our season if they’re allowed to be exploited.
We’ve got to guard against allowing these small negatives to grow any bigger, as we know with a young team that things can snowball very quickly.
However, in Tony Mowbray, we have plenty of experience and calmness to guide us through any turbulence. So far this season, I think Mowbray has got more right than wrong, and a league position of fourth simply has to go hand in hand with praise for the head coach.
However, he’s not without fault.
Seemingly allergic to squad rotation and averse to substitutions before the eightieth minute, it can be argued that it culminated in that horror show of a second half last Saturday.
A leggy and weary side, sapped of motivation and floundering in midfield, was left high and dry when Mowbray refused to bolster the middle of the park in favour of sending on attacker after attacker.
Is this a crisis? No chance.
Whilst he could do with being more open to switching the team up at times, Mowbray has proved that he knows how to manage this group through tough times, and we can trust him to do it again.
On a more positive note, I don’t think anyone could argue that we don’t merit our league position and if anything, we’ve probably lost more points than we’ve won based on performances, the Blackburn game aside.
Ipswich, Preston, and Cardiff are all games that on another day, we would’ve taken somewhere from three to nine extra points from, without playing particularly differently. Provided we keep this standard of play up, and potentially add some goals from our centre forwards, we shouldn’t have a problem in averaging two points per game.
As every cliche-friendly pundit would tell you, that’s promotion form and Leicester aside, we’re a match for everyone in this division on paper.
So let’s stick with the Lads, keep faith in the club’s model and who knows? This time next season, we too could be scrapping it out in the Premier League.
Malc Dugdale says…
I’m more than happy with fourth at this point in time, and anyone who isn’t needs to give their head a bit of a wobble, in my view.
I thought it would take us longer than this to get into the top six, but to be there despite an iffy start is pretty decent and above my expectations.
Yes, we’ve lost a few and we could’ve been better off, but there have often been reasons for those lost points, be it a dodgy referee or working our hardest but not quite getting what we deserved.
As a team, we’re still pretty new to this level so games will occasionally go the other way. That’s a fact of life in your second season at a new level.
I do have concerns about the amount of players in the treatment room, as we seem to be adding them to the queue faster than we’re getting them back on the pitch, but the squad seems pretty well tuned into our playing style and tactics, so hopefully the rotation can be done with minimal loss of form.
I’m also a little concerned about the fact some of our young stars have continued to play very well and that the vultures will continue to circle as January approaches.
Some of the interested parties will be even more determined to grab our prized assets, so this could be the first time we really test the recruitment model when potential profit outweighs player value in the collective- other than after the departure of Ross Stewart to Southampton in the summer.
Potentially losing the likes of Jack Clarke would chip away at the core of what we now are, and the recruitment team need to be ready for the increased risk of that type of exit.
All good with fourth place, but there are greater challenges to come.
Michael Dunne says…
In my opinion, our start to the season has been very positive overall.
Despite a disappointing defeat to Middlesbrough at the weekend, our general form has shown that we’ve essentially continued from where we left off last season.
In particular, our away form has been exciting. We seem capable of ripping teams apart with ease, and the wins against Blackburn, Sheffield Wednesday and QPR showed the best of our play.
In contrast, our home form still seems to be a concern and we need to discover ways to unlock a ‘low block’, which is evidently the best way to beat us at the Stadium of Light. The Cardiff defeat proved this, especially when we seem to lack a striker.
The centre forward issue still needs to be resolved, with Mason Burstow struggling to get on the scoresheet.
I’m hoping that when Nazariy Rusyn is fully fit, he’ll fit perfectly into our style of play and with Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts and Jobe surrounding him, we’ll be hard to stop.
Improving our home form going into the next couple of months would be something I think we need to focus on, as it seems to be an ongoing issue from last season.