Stuart Watson: Additions needed after the clear out – but which sigings are necessities and who else could leave?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 June 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town’s players report back for the first day of pre-season today. STUART WATSON takes a look at how Paul Lambert’s squad is shaping up ahead of the 2019/20 campaign in League One.
When Bartosz Bialkowski's switch to Millwall is confirmed, it will be 15 senior exits so far this summer - two sold, seven released, six loans expired.
Two keepers - Bartosz Bialkowski and Dean Gerken.
Two right-backs - Jordan Spence and James Bree.
Two left-backs - Jonas Knudsen and Callum Elder.
Two centre-backs - Matthew Pennington and James Collins.
Two central midfielders - Trevoh Chalobah and Tom Adeyemi.
Two wingers - Grant Ward and Simon Dawkins.
Three strikers - Ellis Harrison, Will Keane and Collin Quaner.
Between them they started 218 league games last season (43%), totalling 19,253 minutes on the field.
Three thus far - all on Bosman free transfers.
James Norwood is the big one. He's been prolific in the National League and League Two for Tranmere Rovers and arrives in League One with his sights set on a third successive promotion.
Then there's giant Czech keeper Tomas Holy. The 6ft 9in custodian started 52 games for mid-table League One side Gillingham last season. Time will tell if he's Town's new number one or not.
The other keeper recruit, Polish 19-year-old Adam Przybek, has been brought in from West Brom to play for the Under-23s.
Under-23s duo Chris Smith and Conor McKendry were also released. It means the squad has been reduced from a bloated 49 professionals to 35.
That includes largely untested youngsters Harry Wright, Corri Ndaba, Barry Cotter, Bailey Clements, Pat Webber, Idris El Mizouni, Brett McGavin, Aaron Drinan, Ben Morris, Ben Folami and Kai Brown.
One or two of them might make a big breakthrough, as Jack Lankester did last season, but - for now - we'll call it a 24-man 'senior' squad based on educated guess work as to who is likely to be in the frame.
Right-backs: Emmanuel, Donacien.
Centre-backs: Chambers, Nsiala, Woolfenden, Ndaba.
Centre-midfield: Judge, Skuse, Nolan, Bishop, Downes, Dozzell, Huws, El Mizouni, Nydam.
Wingers: Edwards, Lankester, Rowe, Roberts.
Strikers: Norwood, Sears, Jackson.
There's more wheeling and dealing to be done.
Lambert faces a balancing act between not having the huge, disruptive squad overhaul of last summer but freshening up enough to help blow away the stink of relegation.
Town can't pin all their hopes on Norwood in what will be, let's not forget, his first season at League One level. The expectations placed on Harrison and Jackson last summer were too big and unfair after stepping up the pyramid. They needed help to bed in.
Freddie Sears is making remarkable progress following February knee surgery, but is unlikely to be fully fit and firing until November/December.
Will Keane would provide quality and experience. His injury record is a concern though. A risk worth taking? That depends on what sort of terms could be negotiated.
- Left-sided winger/forward
Alan Judge is a marquee signing for League One. So please, let's see him used in his best position - central and pulling the strings.
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Out on the left you not only limit his influence, but his natural tendency to drift inside also leave Myles Kenlock exposed. There aren't too many options for that role as it stands though.
Gwion Edwards likes playing on that side and cutting inside (as he did for Peterborough), but Lambert hasn't looked at that option once. Jack Lankester, who has a wand of a left foot, appears to be seen very much as a right-sided player.
In truth, it's hard to see Danny Rowe or Jordan Roberts returning from loan spells at Lincoln and being regular starters unless they and absolutely rip it up in pre-season.
To keep the squad size tight and together, it could be that someone is signed who is capable of playing up top or wide left. Conor Washington, released by Sheffield United, would fit the bill. Enquiries have been made about his wages.
It's the end of an era with both Bartosz Bialkowski and Dean Gerken departing. Holy is in. Our understanding is Town will look to sign another senior keeper to compete with him for the starting spot.
New boy Przybek has been signed for the Under-23s. That should free up Harry Wright for another loan spell. There's no point him sticking around to sit on the bench every week.
Myles Kenlock made giant strides of progress when given a run in the team at the back end of last season. It looks like he's done enough to begin the campaign as a starter, but will need proper competition. As it stands, he only has young duo Webber and Clements behind him.
That is, of course, unless Lambert decides to use Donacien. That's where he played for Accrington when they won League Two. And that's where he played for them in League One last season when returning on loan.
The Blues boss has been adamant that the Saint Lucian - who he worked with briefly at Aston Villa years ago - is very much a centre-back, but word is he'll get given a shot at right-back next season.
It's Donacien versus Josh Emmanuel as it stands.
Emmanuel has had mixed fortunes during loan spells in League One with Rotherham (promoted, their Young Player of the Year) and Shrewsbury (sent back early). He has lots of raw attributes and might, just like Kenlock, need a real run in the side to really kick on.
Donacien arguably deserves a chance in the third-tier, having jumped two divisions and done okay in those early Paul Hurst games against the likes of Aston Villa and Derby.
Some are calling for an upgrade in this department. The solution might already be in the building.
Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala are the only senior centre-backs. Both are durable, having proven regularly that they can play virtually every minute of hectic campaigns. Both should be reliable figures in League One.
Young homegrown duo Luke Woolfenden and Corrie Ndaba will be champing at the bit in reserve. Woolfenden has just had an impressive loan spell in League Two with Swindon. Ndaba has impressed behind the scenes and would bring left-footed balance. Both appear to be comfortable on the ball and could add a different dimension to the back line.
A department lacking a little in experience, but there's no point blocking the pathway of homegrown talent if Lambert truly believes they have what it takes in the long-term.
There are nine senior central midfielders, 10 if you include Lankester. Is there a real physical, aggressive, leader of a player amongst them? Arguably not. Are there enough goals among them? Time will tell, but it's a valid question.
Realistically though, it's up to Lambert to get a tune out of what he's got in this department. Judge could boss this division. This may well be Jon Nolan's time to shine. It feels like Teddy Bishop, Flynn Downes and Andre Dozzell, not kids anymore, are all set to come of age.
And then there's the wildcard... Emyr Huws. If - and it's a big if - Town can get him fit again, he really would be like the proverbial new signing.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see one or two more departures.
The arrival of a left-winger and return to fitness of Sears could see one or both of Rowe and Roberts move on. Lambert says everyone will start again with a clean slate. Mind you, all managers say that.
Could Kayden Jackson, who started just six of Lambert's 31 league games in charge, follow Harrison out the door? The Blues boss might just wish to completely revamp his misfiring front line.
Then it depends how full the club wants to keep Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg's Under-23 squad.
Barry Cotter and Aaron Drinan, both now in their 20s, appear to be miles down the pecking order. There's been interest in both of them.
The likes of Harry Wright, Ben Morris and Ben Folami, the latter two both coming back from long-term injuries, could benefit from loan spells.
Premier League and Championship clubs have until August 8 to conclude all their incoming business (permanent and loans), but the transfer window stays open until September 2 for League One and League Two clubs.
Town will have played seven competitive games, potentially eight if there's a win in the Carabao Cup, by the time that comes around.