After winning promotion to the Championship in his first full season in senior coaching, Neil Critchley is being tough some tough lessons in the second tier of English football.
The former Liverpool under-23’s manager transformed Blackpool last season from a team who were rooted in League One’s mid-table to promotion winners, but they haven’t been afforded the same chances after going up a level.
The Seasiders are five matches into the season and currently sit in the relegation zone, having picked up just two points in that period.
They were good points on the road against Bristol City and Bournemouth but they’ve yet to pick a point up at Bloomfield Road and a late defeat against Millwall wasn’t the best way to go into the international break.
Let’s look at two dilemmas that Critchley could be thinking about as we get closer to the return of Championship football next weekend.
Whether to throw the deadline day signings straight into the team
Simon Sadler has backed Critchley this summer with signings in abundance, and by the end of the window he had added 13 new faces to his squad.
Three of those were done on deadline day, with Jordan Gabriel and Dujon Sterling arriving to bolster options options at right-back and winger Owen Dale was a loan signing from Crewe Alexandra.
Quiz: Do you remember which player scored Blackpool’s first goal in each of the last 15 seasons?
None of the trio have had much game-time this season so far but with results to start the season poor at Blackpool, Critchley may have an idea in his head to start at least two of them when the Seasiders take on Fulham next Saturday.
A change of system?
For the most part since he became Blackpool manager, Critchley’s formation of choice has been a 4-4-2, with a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 his alternative option.
The Seasiders have lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 for every Championship game so far this season but with no wins coming as of yet, maybe it’s time for Critchley to switch things up.
A 5-3-2 could bring more defensive solidity but he has a lot of wingers to choose from, and a shift to that formation would leave a lot of unhappy faces.
A 4-3-3 is probably in the back of Critchley’s mind – it would perhaps help the Seasiders control games a bit better and they can hit teams on the counter attack.