If Alex goes, where does that leave us tactically?

I may have given some the wrong impression yesterday, I spent much of the time arguing why the Luton tweet was rubbish and why we’d miss Alex, that I perhaps didn’t make the point clear that, should a team meet the clause, I do think the midfielder will move on.

I don’t like talking about player’s futures because they’re in jobs just like you or I, but Alex has now rebuffed two opportunities to play League One football in favour of remaining at Sincil Bank. Will he turn his back on a third? How many could he refuse before he got the reputation of having no ambition, from our own fans as much as anything? If you were offered a promotion twice and turned it down, would you dare do so a third time?

The points I made yesterday were that Alex is a great footballer and has been at the heart of what we’ve achieved from the moment Danny and Nicky walked into our lives. Simply saying ‘Bozzie can play that position’ isn’t sufficient in my eyes. Michael Bostwick is a defensive midfielder, as is Alex, but Bozzie relies on power and strength, whereas Alex was guile and persistence. I know people thought we looked too defensive when they played together, but the run of form we went on with them in the heart of midfield supported our play off assault.

I don’t think Alex will go to Luton Town, I’m not sure they would come back in for him after he rejected them once. I might be wrong, but the point here is League One clubs want him, surely meaning he’s League One quality. I’m not getting back into all that now, people are entitled to their opinions but it is a shame some don’t appreciate what an influential key player Alex is.

Was this Alex’s last game in an Imps shirt?

If he does go, Danny is at a turning point in terms of tactics, but then I think that is the case anyway, regardless of whether the release clause is met. We won the National League playing a basic 4-4-2, essentially a diamond with Alex in the holding midfield role and whoever ahead of him, usually Alan Power. Could we revert back to that, with Bozzie and Freck? The problem is Freck’s fitness of course, but maybe Pett or Andrade could sip in there. I’m still not sure if they’re being brought in as wide players or not. It would be my favoured tactic, but obviously with the flexibility to switch things up if needed.

If Andrade has been brought in to play on one side of a 4-3-3, then losing Alex is a massive blow. I’m sorry to Elliott fans, but he isn’t first team quality right now, meaning we’d be needing another central midfielder. Danny only recruits to improve what we have, but how do you improve on two players who captained their sides in the Championship and League One in 2016/17? Losing Alex makes the 4-3-3 much tougher to implement.

Of course, going 4-3-3 lost Harry Anderson’s qualities and many felt that it was something that hindered us in those final months. I think Danny saw it as a solid formation, but an uninspiring one. He knew the final months would be a grind, churning out results rather than crushing sides, especially once we lost out on our striker targets. If Alex goes, I think it’s another nail in the coffin of 4-3-3.

One midfielder we’ve only just begun to see the best of – Tom Pett

We toyed with a 4-2-3-1 at the beginning of last season but again, that might be affected by any loss of Alex Woodyard. Maybe Freck and Bozzie play the two, Tom Pett or Bruno Andrade the role behind Matt Green but again, I can’t see it happening.

There’s always a more unfamiliar option that few have considered, one we’ve seen work before. Keith Alexander played a 5-2-3 or a 3-4-3 of sorts, with three central defenders, two overlapping full backs and three up front. It retains the three forward players and helps in terms of creation, but it relies heavily on the full backs getting up and down for ninety minutes solid. Neal Eardley certainly could, would a Freck and Bozzie midfield pairing work well there? One dropping back and helping with defensive duties, travelling from side to side to counter any wide play the full back doesn’t pick up, with the other feeding the three forward players, working the channels. Maybe.

How we line up is going to be very interesting, but I firmly believe it is going to incorporate at least two strikers, somehow. Matt Green will be a starter for us next year, Matt Rhead gets written off every year but I suspect Danny will want to cut down on the reliance we seem to have on long ball. If we lost Alex, a tenacious ball player who retains possession any way he can, that doesn’t help switching our style of play.

This is all conjecture at present, Alex hasn’t gone anywhere and we’ve still got signings to make. Danny said four players I believe, my feeling is another full back, perhaps Fraser Franks who can play centrally as well. We’ll need a combative central midfielder and certainly another winger. Andrade and Pett can both play on the wing and both will benefit from a pre-season with us. I really like Tom Pett, he’s not shown his true quality yet but I feel he was just hitting his stride when we played Yeovil.

We also have to sign a striker or two and this is perhaps where a move away for Alex Woodyard reaps some benefit for us. If he does go, then there’s a release clause to be met and there’s no doubt whatsoever that cash goes into the playing budget. The people running the club know if they sell an asset that making that cash available to Danny is imperative, from a PR point of view as much as anything. Now, lets say the release clause is around the £200k mark, we’ve been linked with both Dennis and Mandron, both of whom would cost around £100k. I know for some of our fans losing a ‘sideways’ midfielder for a ‘proven’ striker is great business, but for me it would merely be the silver lining on a cloud.

Rhead keeps getting written off, is this the season he finally starts to take a back seat?

Alex Woodyard has just turned 25, if he stayed another season would it be too late to make a significant impression in his career? Maybe. The life span of a player is far less than that of a manager so Danny and Nicky can afford to be loyal, but the clock is always ticking over a player. That counters my argument from yesterday about loyalty, I know that, but having slept on it I can see why a player might want to move on. In January Alex believed he could get to League One with Lincoln City, but he didn’t. Another year would be a gamble, would it not?

Lincoln City are likely to be amongst the favourites for the title next season, there’s fewer big spenders in our division than previously and we’ve retained almost all of the squad. However, we haven’t found a formula that works, the long ball to Rheady won’t be our approach forever. All I would ask is this; patience. This is going to be a huge summer for us, just like the last two. Both times fans have panicked over buys, over players leaving and both times we’ve ended up with silverware. However, the last two transfer windows have been both inspirational with the likes of Bozzie and Freck signing, but also lacking in a top quality centre forward joining the squad. This summer must see that addressed. you know it, I know it and so will Danny. Would we swap Alex Woodyard for a Mandron or Dennis? I wouldn’t, but I’m sure there’s at least 50% of the fan base who would.

Just to clear up, we wouldn’t get anything like enough for Alex to allow us to move for Christian Doidge. The Echo floated his name the other day, that my friends is madness. Signing Doidge would be a coup bigger than Bozzie, Freck and Gareth Bale all rolled into one.

To conclude, I was asked on yesterday’s blog if all this rumour, conjecture and solid bids meant I thought Alex would move on this summer. Regretfully, the answer is yes and if he does make no mistake, we’re losing a significant asset that will be incredibly hard to replace. Football isn’t all about strikers scoring goals, nor defenders stopping them, but sometimes it’s the guy in the middle linking the two that gels the squad. Alex Woodyard has been that glue for us and if he goes, we’ll miss him terribly.

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  1. If, or when, Alex moves on it will be very interesting to see how DC reacts and goes about replacing him. The simple truth is every team DC has built in the last 5 or so years has been built around Alex Woodyard, and all have been pretty successful.

  2. The point that many are missing is the danger of him staying is that he can talk to clubs in January and walk away for free next summer, assuming he doesn’t sign any extension to his deal with us. However good our finances are (compared to previous seasons) we cannot afford to let a circa £250,000 asset just walk away for nothing. If he shows no inclination to sign anything beyond his current deal at Sincil Bank, then he must be sold this summer so that we get a true and proper fee for him that as Gary mentions above, can then be re-invested into the squad.

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