Scout File: Wycombe Wanderers (A)

We’re up for a tough encounter tomorrow as we travel to Wycombe.

Once you’ve left that odd pub that has strippers on during the day and made your way to the ground for a more wholesome experience, what can you expect?

Wycombe Wanderers 21/22

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Wycombe are an odd one; they were in the Championship last season and lasted right up until the final day despite being favourites for the drop. They’ve started this campaign well with two wins and a draw, which puts them firmly in amongst the early pacesetters.

They’re certainly expected to be up there all season, but I think the early form flatters them somewhat. For a start, their xG data is interesting – they’re scoring 1.5 goals per game against xG of just 1.07, which means they’re outperforming the chances. They have conceded 0.75 goals per game, but the xG is 1.08, meaning on the face of it, their opponents have had marginally better chances. It could be construed as a positive in that they’ve been more clinical than they should have been, but they’ll be hoping to see improving attacking intent as Sam Vokes settles in.

The game which stands out as an anomaly is their trip to Cheltenham, which they won 3-1 despite having less xG than their opponents. The thing with Wycombe is you know they’re going to be strong, organised and perhaps learned to take their chances in the Championship, where they were at a premium. They don’t have much possession, nor do they pass around too much; they’re ranked as fourth lowest this season on both fronts, ahead of Burton, Rotherham and Gillingham. Passes and possession don’t win games though, nor does xG; goals do. Right now, they’re scoring more than the opposition, and many will tell you that’s the only stat that matters.

Tactics

 

Wycombe line up with three at the back, although Kaikai and Obita will be expected to make that a five if they need to defend. They’re not a possession-based team, and they’ll be happy to sit as a bank of three and a four, waiting for you to pick them apart. If we thought Fleetwood were hard to break down last weekend, you ain’t seen nothing yet. When they do get possession they move forward quickly. It won’t surprise you to know they have played the third-highest amount of long passes this season, albeit only after a handful of games. Let’s not purely label them in that manner though; Kaikai and Obita are very talented players, and with that trio of attackers waiting to win headers and attack quickly, they’re a huge threat. I’d be utterly gobsmacked if they didn’t score tomorrow.

Key Man

Courtesy Graham Burrell

It’s not easy to pick a key man for Wycombe, because they’re such an effective unit. It’s a bit like being asked to pick the strongest card in your poker hand when you’re holding a royal flush – take any out, even the perceived weaker ones, and the hand is nowhere near as effective. I’m going to make a rod for my own back here and say the key man is not Josh Scowen – he was at Sunderland last season and always flattered to deceive, although now he’s back ‘home’ as it were, that might change. When you’re big and strong with a knack of hitting the longer balls, I do think the smaller midfielders can struggle to get a grip on a game.

If I had to call anyone, it would be Joe Jacobson. He’s been a right pain in the arse for us over the years, and I really like his setpiece delivery. We’ve already been hurt by good delivery in the league this season, and Wycombe will make the most of their set plays. Also, Wycombe have the fourth-highest amount of passes into the final third in League One this season (187) and Jacobson has hit 45 of them, which is just under a quarter.

Previous Meetings

Courtesy Graham Burrell

The last time we met Wycombe was Danny Cowley’s final game in charge, and we were well beaten by three goals to one. Back then, I seem to recall we were first and second, and whilst we fell away, they remained in the hunt. There was no return game that season as it ended prematurely, so the last time we hosted them was our first year back in the Football League. On that occasion they were also on their way to promotion, drawing 0-0 at our place in one of the worst games of football I recall ever having to sit through.

Overall, we have won eight of our fixtures against them, they have won ten and there have been three draws. One notable result came in May 1988, when we won 2-0 to clinch the GMVC title. We also travelled there for our first game back in the Football League in August 2017, which seems like an age, not just four years. Our last victory against the Chairboys was in March 2009, when Anthony Elding scored the game’s only goal. Our last victory at their place was even further back, in 2006, when a Mark Stallard double helped us to a 3-1 victory.