Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: Flashbacks and confusion... Lambert needs to remember advice from a German friend
PUBLISHED: 13:56 15 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:56 15 December 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town lost 2-1 at home to Bristol Rovers in a top-six League One clash at Portman Road yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
You don't know man. You weren't there.
Paul Lambert is staggered by how quickly negative thoughts have grown following the first real blip of the season.
The thing is, no matter how deep the Scot's research, it's impossible for him to truly understand the deep-rooted cynicism among Ipswich Town fans.
I think the best way to try and illustrate the point to him would be through a classic piece of storytelling shorthand used in film. You know the bit where a character sees something that triggers a flashback which is handily shown in black and white?
Here would be the bits from yesterday's game which would spark that:
The game kicks off and a fan in the stands points out to their mate, incredulously, that Cole Skuse is indeed operating as a makeshift right-back. *Screen crackles, colour drains*. Footage of Luke Chambers talking about how much he would rather be playing at centre-back plays. *Fade back to current day and character shudders*.
Luke Garbutt's corner delivery hits the first man for the umpteenth time. *Screen crackles, colour drains*. Footage of Grant Leadbitter doing the same in the early part of the decade plays. *Fade back to current day and character shudders*.
Jon Nolan spurns a golden goalscoring opportunity. *Screen crackles, colour drains*. Footage of a plethora of former central midfielders failing to find the net plays (the pace of the footage is speeding up now). *Fade back to current day and character shudders*.
Fan picks up a newspaper the next day and camera zooms in on the match report. The phrases 'played well for long spells' and 'lost fine margins affair due to lack of ruthlessness in both boxes' come into focus. *Screen crackles, colour drains*. Montage of very similar headlines from 2018/19 cycle at an increasingly rapid rate to the sound of a clown's heckling laugh. *Fade back to current day and the character is now in a cold sweat*.
You get the point.
You see Paul, when we gently voice doubts about a team you have led to second in the league table it's not a case of being ungrateful. Thank you for healing old wounds, but please also understand that the scars are still there.
Flowers and chocolates (front foot football, embracing the club's traditions and funding drinks/travel) wooed our vulnerable hearts after a tough couple of break-ups. Now, with the one-year honeymoon period over, we're at the point in the relationship of moving in and starting to navigate each others' bad habits.
Our slight sensitivities to set-backs aren't a great character trait. We know that. We're working on it. Your squad rotation is the equivalent of leaving dirty washing on the floor or occasionally forgetting to out the bins out. It's not a massive deal, but it's starting to irritate slightly.
It just feels like Lambert, having done and said what we all wanted to hear, is now suffering an identity crisis. What does he want this team to be over the long-term? We need to see where this is going.
Aggressive, all-action, high-tempo, in your faces - that 'rock and roll' football he spoke about? Fine. Build a team in your mould and stick to that.
Or does he want patient, possession-based, trust that our quality will ultimately break you down football? Fine. Commit to that.
Yes, you have to be adaptable and versatile, but you always have to start with a trusty Plan A. He might be keeping opposition managers guessing, but he's also keeping his own players guessing too. At times that's shown.
Rival teams are starting to really gel, becoming greater than the sum of their parts. The power of Ipswich's individual talents diminishes as result.
Lambert might want to remember a conversation he had with one of his many good German contacts. In an interview he gave to the Guardian back in February, the Blues boss recalled how, during his time in charge of Aston Villa, then Bayer Leverkusen manager Roger Schmidt asked him why he had frequently changed system.
"I was just trying to get a result," Lambert told his friend. "You'll confuse the players," was Schmidt's reply.
Lambert admitted: "I'd been confusing myself with the systems. Back three, four, five, two in the middle, three, couldn't get the result. He was right. I decided I wasn't going to waver from that advice."
It's good advice. Time for the confusion to stop. Time to take this relationship to the next level.