Ipswich Town are owners of some more infamous records; firstly the largest Premier League loss (9-0 vs Manchester United) and the longest serving members of the (newly-sponsored) Sky Bet Championship, having continued to be in the second division of English football since the 2002-03 season - with this our 12th season uninterrupted in the Championship. What makes slightly depressing reading is going through the table of this seasons 24 teams and realising each and every one of them have been promoted or relegated since we've just remained. Not so great. After flirting with promotion in the 2004-05 season (should have been promoted) under Joe Royle (followed by Jim Magilton, who was unfairly sacked in my eyes), Ipswich have stagnated slightly with the (arguably) torrid reigns of Roy Keane and Paul Jewell.
Enter Mick McCarthy. Big Mick inherited a squad with undoubted talent in some areas, but a lot of dead wood in others. Making loan signings work, with N'Daw and DJ Campbell firing Ipswich to safety, over the past two full seasons the McCarthy team has slowly begun to be built. Forming the team around captain Luke Chambers, the stalwart Christoph Berra and grafters such as Luke Hyam, Cole Skuse and Daryl Murphy, McCarthy has created a good Championship side on less than a shoestring budget.
Last season saw Town flirt with the play-offs, with a fairly disappointing yet promising finish. And this season started with a bang after a win at home to Fulham. Live on Sky.
So let's have a quick look at a few key stats on the 11 games that Ipswich have played.
There have been games where Ipswich have been lucky/worked hard to gain the result (Birmingham, Wigan, Brighton) and those where they've been unlucky (Reading, arguably Wednesday and Forest - though everyone seems to agree that 1 point would have been taken at the start) - 5 wins in a row, including being unbeaten in the last 7 since the Norwich defeat (where, in my opinion, Ipswich were outclassed) is not a stat to be sniffed at. Why? I think it's to do with a few factors, including the rotation of the team, finding a system which fits the players and the manner in which Ipswich have been playing.
Shots, shots, shotshotshot, shots.
Lets talk about shot conversion and shots taken in the 6 yard box. I've also added shots on target % - and there's a definite relation to the trend there are as well. The better Town have gotten at shooting, getting the ball on target, the better they've gotten at, well, winning games. These are taken from WhoScored, who do an excellent breakdown of each game played in a lot of the main divisions.
The graph above depicts Ipswich's first 11 games of the season, and as we can see the losses in games 2 and 4 (Reading/Norwich) as well as the fortunate draw against Birmingham, there are indicators of why Ipswich had such a slow start. One thing about stats is it paints part of the picture and helps aid arguments and understanding - it's more correlation than causation.
Common sense the us that if you have shots in the box, be it 18 or 6, you're more likely to score than taking pot shots from outside the box (There are always exceptions to the rule) - but get it in the box, and you're bound to put some chances away.
Ipswich didn't seem to do that in the first 4-5 games. Of course, after game 4, Ipswich have been unbeaten - but 7-9, Town had a good percentage of shots in the 6 yard box. This indicates both dominance and the quality of chances created. The conversion rates is also important. In games where there haven't been shots in the 6-yard area i.e. optimal place to score, the Tractor Boys have been good at putting chances away - 25% of the shots against Wigan resulted in a goal. How many shots did Ipswich have in that game? 8 shots, 5 on target including 2 goals. It helps. Against Birmingham, Ipswich had 20 shots, with only 5 on target - this was virtually the same as the Reading game, where Reading took their chance and Ipswich could not break them down. The development has been excellent, and hopefully, the Tractor Boys can continue to ride this wave of belief.
This is again adapted and consolidated from WhoScored, with the stats on the right from FootStats (If I'm not mistaken)
Unsure what exactly to say here than to describe what you see. The amount of shots naturally also includes shots which were blocked or that were sliced, so they don't correspond with the shots which were at goal. Ipswich seem to have concentrated a lot of shots down the middle of the goal, and to the bottom left - where most of the goals have come. Makes interesting reading, especially the stuff from FootStats. Ipswich are good at getting the game back, but also at holding the game and seeing it out. Obviously the Forest game could throw some questions, but they were two IDENTICAL set piece plays - which I'm sure the team worked on in the training sessions.
Mings, Berra, Murphy. Grafters & Goalscorers.
I've chosen these three out because of their obvious contribution to Ipswich's remarkable run. Naturally, football is a team game and Ipswich personify that by the work that each player puts in, the tireless running of Tabb, Sammon and the assured passing of Skuse are not to be ignored. Not to mention the ever creative Anderson and the exciting young talent in Teddy Bishop. Under Mick and Terry Connor, Ipswich have the coaching nouse to take the young players and really help them blossom and develop.
If you readers have any requests on stats (I do random stat attacks on Twitter some evenings when bored), I'll be happy to go through a player. But lets get back to the three heroes so far this season. Their stats look like this;
Mings was subject to a surprise bid on deadline day, and made no mistake in telling Town fans that it's where he wants to be - and who can blame him? Be it Palace, Ipswich or any other team; every player wants to test themselves at the highest level and develop their career. Being only 21, it must have flattered the youngster capping off an excellent summer for him. Rather than allowing it to dictate his frame of mind, the Town #3 has taken the gauntlet left by Aaron Cresswell and run with it. WhoScored indicated that Ipswich are a team who like to attack down the left - and the stats that Mings has back this up. Even without Cresswell, Mings' has taken the role of getting balls into the box for the likes of Murphy, Sammon and McGoldrick to attack. His key pass statistics (passes leading to chances) are behind only Anderson (Key pass monster) and Jay Tabb (really, really under appreciated IMO). Only Anderson (50) has put more crosses into the box than Mings, and he has made both the most tackles and most interceptions amongst all of the Ipswich players. The left back also has made the most passes in the team, with Skuse (407) and Hyam (367) the two players closest to him.
A cracking start from Ipswich's number 3, which has resulted in Jonny Parr (seemingly Cresswell's replacement) playing as the Town right full-back in the last few games.
Since signing for Ipswich on a free transfer, Berra has been a rock at the heart of Ipswich's defense. His assured passing, willingness to accept the ball to play a pass coupled with his aerial dominance, Berra has continued to be an essential part of this Ipswich team. 135 clearances and 18 blocks show his defensive attributes, as well as his 23 interceptions - joint behind Mings with Cole Skuse. Berra has won 55/77 aerial duels, and scored vital goals already this season - including a brace at St Andrews to grab a draw. 5 aerial-duels won p90 and 1.636 blocks give him a defensive actions output of 10.636 - trailed closely by his fellow centre back, Tommy Smith.
I believe that the Berra/Chambers partnership is more fruitful than Tommy Smith - with no disrespect to the loyal New Zealand international. Berra has continued to be a formidable presence at the back for Ipswich, and hopefully will be the foundation in our defence upon which a promotion push is built.
What to say about the bearded wonder? Since signing permanently for Ipswich (finally) and being played in a position where he is most comfortable, Murphy has fired himself to the top of Ipswich's scoring charts with 6 goals (at a rate of just over a goal every other game - Non-penalty goals per 90 of 0.551) Murphy's willingness to run, and run and run has been essential to holding the front line for Ipswich - and he has scored a spectacular goal such as the one against Brighton. 10 key passes, of which none have lead to a goal indicates how well he is linking up with his team-mates. And the relationship with David McGoldrick can only get better - Peter Beagrie the so-called Football League expert named the pair one of the most formidable strike force in the league. High praise indeed.
Much has to be said about McG and Sammon - Sammon's dogged style of play, pressing and running makes him exactly the sort of player Mick McCarthy likes and McGoldrick's dropping off the front line to dictate play, along with some good link ups with Teddy Bishop in recent games has been key to creating space, pulling defenders out for Murphy to exploit.
Much has been made of the way that Mick has set out his teams - but it seems that the recent 4-3-3 that has been played, with the full backs pushing, and two attacking centre mids and Skuse mopping up/supporting the defenders has been fruitful for Ipswich; I've posted a few 'average position' maps from WS on my twitter, and will upload the rest over the next few days for those who are interested.
The formation seems to have developed from a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 toward a narrow 4-3-3, with two strikers not afraid to push out wide when needed, and Tabb willing to support Mings on his rampages forward. The way that Mick has set out his team thus far has worked, and I for one am hugely optimistic on the way that the team has developed.
This has truly become, almost, a Mick McCarthy team - the developments in the signings, the depth with the arrivals of Bajner, Bru, Sammon, Parr, Ambrose and Collison will no doubt pay dividends come the second half of the season, and crunch time. No doubt there will be peaks, troughs and injuries but Ipswich have a good solid team, and can take a lot from the impressive start to the season for the £10,000 team.
But an excellent first 11 games, with a 7 game unbeaten run is nothing to be sniffed at.
As always comments and feedback always welcome on Twitter or as a comment, @Scribblr_42.