Thursday, 12 August 2010

No Surprises

This seems to me to have been the most predictable of pre-seasons.

I seem to recall spending many a July desperately trying to work out just how Wrexham's manager would field a balanced side from the lop-sided bunch he'd assembled, but this time round the starting eleven for next Saturday seems to be North Wales' worst kept secret!

I might be proven embarrassingly wrong just before we take to the field against Cambridge, but it seems that, barring injury, there's only really one position which seems to have some doubt attached to it, and that's due to the volatile transfer market more than anything else.

Apart from the question of who will play at the back alongside Chris Blackburn, as Frank Sinclair waits to see if this much-touted higher division loanee will come and rain on his parade, it already seems cut and dried: Shearer in goal, Walker and Ashton at full back, Gall, Harris, Keates and Knight-Percival across the middle and Morrell and Mangan up front.

If that's the case, I feel a little sorry for David Brown. He looks an interesting player to me, but he's the one who perhaps will find it hard to find a slot in the side in its current configuration. I know looking for significance in a friendly's a mug's game, but I thought he had an excellent half at Aberystwyth when he was at the sharp end of a midfield diamond. Following our lack of penetration last season, it was nice to see a couple of players who could pass the ball around in our midfield, with Keates sweeping long balls from back of midfield and Brown looking to feed clever little passes into the channels from higher up the pitch.

The problem for Brown, I suspect, is he's perhaps not quite cut out to play as an outright midfielder, at least not in a central pairing of two. His inclination is surely to play higher up the field, but at the moment Saunders seems to have settled with a rather straightforward 4-4-2 after some interesting tactical experimentation at the start of the friendlies.

Previously Saunders' variation on this shape has been a 4-3-3 with the likes of Baynes or Cieslewicz offering width, and with Morrell and Mangan surely the established front duo, it's hard to see how either set-up could help Brown to break into the team in an advanced position.

Kevin Gall has interested me in pre-season. It appears he'll get first go at playing wide on the right, although he's capable of being used as a striker too. However, if you check out his career strike rate you'll see why he's been forced to adapt to a more wide position as his career has progressed.

That's the facet of his game I'm inclined to focus on in the next few weeks as well. I like his movement and pace; he's clever and pops up unexpectedly where you want to see him. However, he hasn’t really looked likely to take the chances that his mobility might present to him. Furthermore, he doesn't look to have the physical presence to challenge at the far post when crosses come in, a great shame when on the other flank we have three players capable of swinging the ball into good effect in Nat Knight-Percival, Neil Ashton and Johnny Hunt.

The other remarkable thing to consider if that is the side Saunders picks, of course, is that it would feature only two players from last season if he gets his central defensive target: Mangan, who arrived at Christmas, and Walker, who made his debut on the last day of the season! Plus ├ža change, eh?

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