A return to League action once more for the Imps looking to overcome the honeymoon bounce a new manager can provide their new side. Here are my things to watch out for:
1) Akinde and Green?
Probably our first choice strike force if fans were asked to choose a pairing for a 2 striker system. However, they haven’t started together since the opening day, a disappointing performance away at Northampton. Both strikers were also subbed off. While on paper they seem a great combination, the fact that we are also seeming to move towards a 1 out-and-out striker system indicates it will probably be a case of either or, especially seeing as wide men Anderson and Andrade have still featured in every game (the only players to do so).
If I had to predict the lineup, therefore, I would guess that Green, despite his early season form, will have to make an impact from the bench with us opting to start with Akinde flanked by wingers. This is further supported by the arrivals of Mensah and Gordon who have both expressed that their strongest positions are as wide attackers. A slightly surprising stat for me is that Green has only played 46% of the minutes available so far, a drastic change to last season where we often ran him into the ground.
2) The midfield trio
If we are to once again opt to play wingers, we will probably start with a central midfield 3. Two players have really excelled so far this season as Tom Pett and Lee Frecklington (5 goals or assists between them so far) have shown themselves to be fully on-method after being somewhat underwhelming last season. Frecklington’s contributions have been important too, he currently leads the way in that respect with him scoring goals that have earned us 2 wins so far. By comparison, the goals that Akinde have scored have only directly won 1 point with the penalty at Grimsby. (Please note: for this stat, I only count the decisive goal in a result. So when we win 2-1 from behind, the player scoring the winner gets 3 points for his total.)
The question of who would go alongside them should seem to have a simple answer with a player of Michael O’Connor’s ability available. However, he is challenged by the young Ellis Chapman (41% of minutes played compared to O’Connor’s 47%) and the potential of Bostwick moving back into midfield with competitive options at centre back.
3) How we apply pressure
This one isn’t stats based. Well, it probably is but not stats I can access without nicking one of the laptops in the Selenity Stand. I just watched the fascinating The Coaches’ Voice video starring our favourite duo explaining our win at Burnley. One thing they focus on is how they manipulate the opposition into playing into certain areas of the field, both from restarts and open play. In the Burnley example, they talk about exploiting their left-sided players’ tendency to come inside and forcing their ‘keeper to kick long into our aerially strong centre-backs.
While we fans are often satisfied to see our lads just run at the opposition to hurry them or for Rhead/Akinde/Green to merely put off the ‘keeper, it’s actually designed to force play into certain areas of the field, showing the opponents the option we want them to take. For Burnley, it was to force them into situations where our battling midfield could win second balls. It’ll be interesting to see where we try to make Crawley play.