Town's midfield triplets offer an exciting glimpse into the future... and give Hurst food for thought
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 July 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Was this a glimpse into Ipswich Town's future?
A midfield three of Andre Dozzell, Tristan Nydam and Flynn Downes, confidently playing the ball around against the best players they have faced in their young careers to date.
The trio started in midfield against West Ham and never looked out of place. Outplayed on a few occasions, sure, but never out of place.
This is only pre-season, of course, and the tests to come in the Championship will be so much greater. Are they ready to play as a three in the hustle and bustle of league football?
It appears unlikely they will start together against Blackburn next weekend, with Cole Skuse almost certain to be part of the side, but manager Paul Hurst will now know he can depend on the teenagers if required.
Experienced midfielders like Skuse will have to work harder than ever before to ensure his name is on the team-sheet every week, while the likes of Teddy Bishop and Emyr Huws will have significant hurdles to overcome if they are to earn minutes once they are fully fit. Young Chelsea loanee Trevoh Chalobah, another England Under 19 international, is in the midfield mix too.
Hurst admitted post-match that Dozzell is still short of the fitness levels both the player himself and staff require of him, before insisting he is a young man he values highly.
Playing the trio together in the dress rehearsal ahead of the new season was more by necessity than design, given the lengthy injury list and frustrations in the transfer market, but you would think this game gave Hurst an additional headache as he plots his starting XI ahead of the season-opener.
The trinity of Downes, Nydam and Dozzell have grown up playing together at Portman Road, schooled in the same system, and it shows.
There’s a confidence about their play and it’s clear they know where the others are going to be.
Dozzell demands the ball, with Downes and Nydam spotting him quicker than the rest of their team-mates, and when he gets it he can be devastating.
His pin-point pass to Ellis Harrison for the Blues’ goal against the Hammers proved that, while there were plenty of neat touches during his 79 minutes on the field in his role behind the Ipswich striker.
This was his first game back at Portman Road since leaving last season’s opening-day clash with Birmingham on a stretcher, but he showed no tentative signs as he proved he is ready to hit the ground running this time around.
Boyhood West Ham fan Downes and Nydam took turns dropping deep to get the ball from the back four, also embracing the midfield scrap with players vastly more experienced than them, while Dozzell could also be found in a deep role looking for possession regularly.
It was fluid and flexible, with the trio showing a balance with and without the ball. Between them they can do it all. Dozzell’s vision and creativity, Downes’ box-to-box ability and desire to win the ball and Nydam’s sweeping left foot, niggle in the tackle and ability to spread play.
Whether we see the trio together in competitive action in the weeks ahead remains to be seen but, on this evidence, the future’s certainly a bright one.