There’s no doubting that changes needed to be made at Ipswich Town this summer to make them promotion contenders from League One – but is there such a thing as too many changes?
From the moment Paul Cook arrived to replace Paul Lambert in the dugout at Portman Road in March, it was clear to see that there would be no new manager bounce that sometimes occurs with a switch of coaches.
The Tractor Boys won just four out of Cook’s 16 matches in charge to finish the season as a play-off place quickly slipped away from their grasp, and there was a period of six games in a row where they failed to score a single goal.
Cook’s mind was made up and backed by fresh American investors who had taken over the club from Marcus Evans, the ex-Wigan Athletic manager vowed that he was going to be the ‘demolition man’ to take apart the squad in the summer that had failed for years under Lambert.
And boy did Cook stick to his word. Experienced pros such as Alan Judge and Luke Chambers departed on frees, so did youngsters with some promise such as Jack Lankester and Aaron Drinan, and the midfield pair of Flynn Downes and Andre Dozzell who once attracted Premier League interest moved upwards to the Championship to Swansea City and QPR respectively.
As of now, sixteen of last season’s first-team squad have departed this summer, mostly on free transfers, and coincidentally that is also the amount of players that Cook has brought into the club.
On paper, the quality of Ipswich’s signings look to be brilliant – starting in-between the sticks Vaclav Hladky scooped up Salford City’s awards last season and when he joined the Ammies in 2020 he was seen as a huge coup for League Two having impressed massively in Scotland.
In defence work may still need to be done, but the left-back area has been bolstered by two players with Championship experience in Hayden Coulson and Matt Penney, whilst Cameron Burgess of Accrington adds some height at centre-back and George Edmundson has been brought in from Rangers having spent time on loan at Derby County last season.
Another area to be overhauled is central midfield and Cook has signed three players with Championship experience – Lee Evans and Tom Carroll are the older statesmen at 27 and 29 and accompanying them is promising 21-year-old Rekeem Harper, with many being surprised that West Brom decided to sell him so early in his career.
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It’s in attack though where Ipswich have a ridiculous amount of depth. Cook plays with a 4-2-3-1 system and for the positions behind the striker, no fewer than five players have been signed – Conor Chaplin, Scott Fraser, Kyle Edwards, Sone Aluko and Wes Burns – all permanent additions as well.
Academy product Armando Dobra will be competing with them and at the very top end of the pitch, both Joe Pigott and Macauley Bonne have been recruited along with teenage Aston Villa prospect Louie Barry – all those attacking names must mean that Ipswich are the envy of League One.
It hasn’t started out well on the pitch though – after three matches in all competitions there have been zero wins, and in the one draw that the Suffolk side did get against Morecambe it took a last-gasp Bonne equaliser to spare Cook’s blushes.
Cook rotated the pack against Newport in the Carabao Cup and no-one really staked their claim for a starting spot in the league as the Welsh side advanced as 1-0 winners at Portman Road – eight players kept their place in the starting line-up from the Morecambe encounter for Saturday’s clash with Burton Albion and despite Ipswich controlling the match with 65% possession, the Brewers ran out 2-1 winners.
Ipswich’s goal came courtesy of a Burton player as well, which probably shows that their attack hasn’t quite figured out how to work together yet, but Cook has so many players at his disposal that it perhaps may never click.
His squad is absolutely littered with quality everywhere, and whilst League One is a long season with 46 games, can you keep a squad like this one fully happy with game-time?
It’s hard to be confident and give the answer yes because there’s a lot of talent vying for game-time, and whilst it may just be a case of players taking time to gel together, things could go very wrong this season for the Tractor Boys and they need to start winning games very soon.