As you know if you listened to the pod this week, I don’t want to focus this piece on their manager. It does a great disservice to what is a very, very good side.
I believe that when we reach the end of the season, Fleetwood Town will be in or around the top six. They’ve recruited very well all summer, they’ve got some extremely good players and nothing typifies that more than the fact Ched Evans, signed for a ‘substantial six-figure sum’ is likely to start on the bench.
Let that sink in; we have a right-back playing for free and tomorrow’s opponents will have a man on the bench likely to have cost three-quarters of a million pounds. It might ‘only’ be Fleetwood but in this new era they’re a strong League One side and history, number of supporters and so-called club size mean very little.
They’ll likely setup either in a 4-1-4-1 formation or a 4-3-3 formation. They beat Accrington in the 4-3-3 and played the side below which, if Joey Barton is looking for consistency, is surely how they’ll lineup tomorrow.
The obvious name that leaps out is Matt Gilks. He signed in the summer as cover for Alex Cairns, but after Fleetwood shipped six goals in four games he got his chance. Let’s face it, we know Gilks well. If he gets a foot in the door, he’ll do a sound job.
The same can be said for at least three of his four defenders. Danny Andrew played left-back for Doncaster last season and made it into the top six, he’s certainly a competent player at this level. They’ve got two loan lads in the back four; Lewie Coyle from Leeds United and Harry Souttar from Stoke City. It won’t mean they’re disjointed though, the pair both had loan spells with the Cod Army last season and are as settled as any first-team squad member.
The other defender in the back four is Peter Clarke, or at least it was for their win against Accrington. I don’t rate Clarke; he was at Oldham when we knocked them out of the cup and he’ll be done for pace by Tyler Walker. That said, he’s the only weak link in their side.
Josh Morris, Jordan Rossiter and Paul Coutts will most likely make up the midfield trio. Morris was with Scunthorpe last season and is a player I liked; he had a superb campaign when they made the play-offs and has both goals and assists in his locker. Rossiter is on loan from Rangers and is very highly-rated at Ibrox, whilst Coutts has come from Sheffield United and really should be playing Championship football.
Paddy Madden is the player likely to keep us on our toes up front. He’s got four goals this season and his expected goals and assists rating is the fifth highest in the division. He can score, he can create and he’ll keep Ched Evans sat in those nice new dugouts. He’s going to have Wes Burns on one side of him, a player with the fourth-highest assist XG in the division. On the other side of the attack, 23-year-old Ashley Hunter has played 167 League One matches, scoring 31 goals. This is a good team.
There’s a great Twitter account called Blades Analytic who looked at stats for League One, rating clubs on how solid they are and how good their chance creation is. The best team in League One, based on quality of chances and defensive solidity, is Fleetwood Town. That’s without having faced Bolton, a side who have boosted other team’s stats.
EFL L1 Expected Goals For Vs Against per game so far pic.twitter.com/wUZQ7jMtUg
— BA Analytics (@Blades_analytic) August 30, 2019
Basically, tomorrow is as tough as they come. It might not be a big name, but they’re a side who are very, very capable in this division.
One thing that will work for us is the amount they like to play the ball on the floor. I’ve not seen a side truly outshine us in terms of quality this season (not in the league) and Fleetwood are another team who will look to play the ball about. They make plenty of passes per game, racking up 410 on average per match. They’re accurate too, 79.6% of their passes are successful.
They like a possession game, they’ve had 53% of possession in their opening fixtures, compared to 47% for their opponents. even away from home they want to get on the ball and move it around. Think Southend United, but with a better defence and better strikers.
Any weaknesses that I can see? They don’t win as many of their aerial duels as their opponents, only 45% of the time they win a ball contested in the air. Tyler Walker is fifth highest in the division for aerial duels entered into and he’ll be key tomorrow. If he can get on the ball and look for Jack Payne to overlap, we could find it a fruitful route to goal. Jorge Grant is also in the top five players in League One for goals and assists combined – they’ll be fearing one or two of our creative players as much as I’m fearing theirs.
Interestingly, people have been urging Jack Payne to shoot more, haven’t they? To finish off this afternoon’s preview, I’ll use a screenshot from Wyscout showing the most shots taken in our division by player. Enjoy the game.