Key player: Scott Fraser
Fraser has been a man in the ascendency since he joined English footballer two years ago. The creative midfielder joined Burton in 2018 and his vision and passing range were impressive enough that he earned a move to mid-table challengers Milton Keynes. It was here where the Scotsman really made his mark.
He thrived in Russel Martin’s heavily possession based system, moving the ball around to great effect. Most notably, he also added goals to his game, hitting double figures for the first time with an impressive 14 goals. As players’ player of the year, he earned his big move to Ipswich. Cook, like Martin, likes to play a good quality of football. Fraser may well be at the heart of the possession revolution.
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Manager: Paul Cook
After years of misery and mediocrity, Ipswich fans thought they might finally level out in League One. Indeed, some of their fans could even have had reason to be quite excited. They had gone many seasons without anything better than a mid-table campaign at best (and just off a dire relegation) and could reasonably be expected to now say ‘at least we’ll win a few’.
That didn’t turn out to be the case. A pair of near-identical seasons occurred where Ipswich started well and dropped off badly, for their opening two campaigns in England’s third tier. Paul Lambert was sacked. After their fans having to put up with seemingly endless misery, Ipswich had to make the right appointment.
Paul Cook was the obvious choice. He’s been there and done it at this level, taking Wigan up as champions and even leading unfancied Chesterfield into the play-offs not so long ago. Cook took one look at his Ipswich squad and wasn’t happy with what he saw.
He made the decision to gut the squad, releasing the majority of players who he was able to. He even let go their player of the season, maybe to Argyle’s benefit. We’ll see how the changes pay out but nobody can deny Cook has taken this squad in hand. He’s made the changes he wants to make and arguably the ones he needs to implement his philosophy. If he doesn’t turn Ipswich’s fortunes round, it’s tough to see who will.
Stopper: Václav Hladký
Keeper Hladký is a signing that might go under the radar for Ipswich this summer, given the feast of impressive newbies in outfield positions. So whilst he may not grab the headlines just now, anyone who knows anything about Salford last season will expect him to make those headlines a reality before the season ends.
The 30-year-old Czech only came to English football as a 28-year-old and in truth, had he come over earlier, he’d probably have got to this level or even the Championship much sooner. He was comfortably the best keeper in League Two last season with a stunning save ratio of 77.2%, as well as making the division team of the year. Furthermore, he was the consensus candidate for player of the season at his club. A goalkeeper of his calibre could be enough to make the difference at the key moments.
Key departure: Luke Chambers
35 year old Chambers is not perhaps, the biggest loss on his own terms. He is getting on in years and despite his ability to play across the defence, by all accounts he is nowhere near the player he once was.
What the departure of the totemic Chambers truly represents, is change. He was an icon of the Tractor Boys for 9 years, memorable for his famous fistpump celebration after wins. That said, whilst Chambers was personally popular, his time at the club was mostly associated with years of misery (one Championship play-off season under Mick McCarthy aside). And, with a new possession revolution underway with Paul Cook, perhaps you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
It can’t be anything else really can it? Ipswich have gutted their squad that underperformed for so many years and have signed a breathtaking array of quality. Wes Burns, Conor Chaplin, Joe Pigott and Lee Evans have joined those already mentioned in this piece.
The only one danger is…maybe they’ve changed too much too soon. Is it possible that after years of drudgery, it takes this new exciting team a bit of time to find their feet? Either way, their aim will certainly be to secure Championship football.
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