Town need Dobra to follow Woolfenden and Downes’ path... which is why they need to be certain Crawley is right for him
PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:45 15 October 2020
Armando Dobra could join Crawley Town before the transfer window closes tomorrow. Andy Warren looks at the pros and cons of a switch to League Two.
Armando Dobra could be set for a temporary loan move away from Ipswich Town. But is that the right decision for the young attacker or the club?
It’s understood the two sides are still working on as potential loan move for the youngster, with a deal possible before the transfer window closes at 5pm tomorrow.
There’s also understood to have been discussions regarding a potential temporary move to the Scottish second tier, but that’s not an avenue that’s likely to lead to a move.
But would manager Paul Lambert be better served keeping Dobra around his first-team? There’s certainly a real argument there after the Albanian Under 21 international showed exactly what he’s capable of once again with an excellent display and thumping goal against Gillingham in the EFL Trophy.
He’s confident, direct and full of skill. The type of player who can get fans off their feet, both in stadiums and when watching in front of laptops. His is a skillset the Blues have lacked for prolonged spells over the last couple of years.
The promise is there, that’s for sure. That’s why Ipswich were so keen to tie hm down to a long-term deal amid interest from Brighton in the Premier League in January. It’s also why Ipswich need to get this decision right and ensure the next few, formative months of Dobra’s career aren’t wasted.
But he’s also raw, with plenty to learn.
Dobra’s big problem is, whether you believe this should be the case or not, there’s traffic between him and a first-team start in wide areas at the moment. Gwion Edwards, Freddie Sears, Alan Judge and Jack Lankester are all ahead of him in the pecking order, as well as new signing Keanan Bennetts. Lambert has always stressed he actually sees Dobra as a No.10, with Teddy Bishop joining Judge and Lankester as obstacles there.
All that means the likelihood is, despite Dobra’s talent and impact when given the chance so far this season, he will have to make do with minutes from the bench at most in the league. He would, however, play a central role in the EFL Cup group game with Crawley (if given leave to join up with Albania U21s late), any knockout match that’s to come in that competition and two games for his country against Kosovo and then England at Molineux in November.
So the decision boils down to a very simple question. Are those games enough for Dobra to progress and stake a claim, while training with the Town first-team and playing Under 23 games, or will he be better served learning his trade with regular football at a lower level?
Lambert thinks the latter and it’s hard not to see the positives of a temporary move, as long as Ipswich can find the right club for Dobra. That’s vital.
There’s plenty of evidence showing the benefits of loans and, for Dobra, he only needs to look at two of his peers in the current Ipswich Town squad.
Flynn Downes had already broken into the first-team under Mick McCarthy before heading to League Two where he won a promotion with Nathan Jones, returning to again become a central figure for Ipswich under Paul Hurst and then Lambert.
Woolfenden’s route to the Ipswich first-team first took in a loan at Bromley in the National League, before jumping into League Two where he got some ‘scars on his nose’ before then returning straight into Town’s League One starting line-up.
Both have spoken of the value of their loans, both on and off the pitch, and have now had Premier League clubs casting a watchful eye over them.
On the flip side, a conversation with Tristan Nydam would tell Dobra everything he needs to know about what happens when loans go wrong.
The midfielder spent six unhappy months with St Johnstone, playing just 126 minutes of football while living, isolated, hundreds of miles from home. That’s probably why Dobra is less than enthused by the prospect of a move to the Scottish second tier, especially given the problems in the world at moment which would make things that little more tough for a teenager starting out so far from home during a pandemic.
Nydam isn’t the only example of loans not working out. Just last season, Tottenham youngster Anthony Georgiou never made a league start for Ipswich despite showing plenty of flashes of his ability off the bench.
The winger was the victim of Town’s ever-changing system, which at times meant there was simply no role for players such as him, and the fear must be that the same could happen to Dobra if he goes elsewhere temporarily. Every team plays with central defenders and midfielders, not every side, especially those in League Two or below, is equipped to utilise diminutive attacking players packed with skill. They’re the first to be pulled from the firing line if teams need to become more solid and compact, while the physical nature of League Two football will also be a concern. Then it again, it could also help toughen him up.
On paper it seemed sensible and incredibly beneficial for Idris El Mizouni to return to Cambridge, having played so well for the U’s during a similar spell last season. And it still might be.
But the Tunisian has things a little more difficult now, given he appears stuck behind veteran Wes Hoolahan in the No.10 pecking order and has been limited to two substitute appearances so far in the league. He’ll be hoping for more than that.
It’s a long season, though, and there’s plenty of time for him to make an impact.
So is Crawley the right club for Dobra?
It’s clearly a move Town see as being potentially beneficial, given they are continuing to negotiate, but you never truly know until a young player joins up with a new club.
The Red Devils, who Town play in the EFL Trophy next month, are mid-table in League Two and are, by all accounts, playing some decent football under manager Jon Yems. They’re lacking creativity, though, which is where Town’s young star could come in.
Dobra has played the bulk of his senior football on the right wing for Ipswich and that’s the most-likely position for him to fill when out on loan, while he’s naturally a No.10 and is seen there in the long-term.
Crawley have chopped and changed formations this season, using a 4-4-2, 3-5-2 (wing backs) and most-recently a 4-2-3-1 formation similar to the one used at Town right now. If that’s the way they go going forward, then that would suit Dobra just fine. The worry is, though, what happens if Yems chops and changes system and allows Dobra to fall through the gaps.
It has to be the right club and, for both Dobra and the Blues, they need to be completely sure they are.
Whatever the two parties decide and wherever the teenager spends the next few months, the hope must be he is able to take the next step in his career.