Recently Mick McCarthy’s tactical decisions have divided the opinions of supporters with Ipswich slowly moving away from the play-off places.
There are some that claim that the team are set up too negatively and as a result have drawn games that were winnable at times.
I fully understand the criticisms aimed at the Ipswich boss, which mostly consists of pointing out that he is not a modern football manager and that he does not play attacking football.
There is a lot of truth to those claims but the critics are only looking at the cons of his managerial style when the pro’s far outweigh them.
Essentially McCarthy plays the percentages and works on the basis that if he can build a steady defensive unit then he can get results with a very average squad.
Teams in the Championship are far from perfect and a lot of them do try and play attacking football, much like Ipswich tried to when they were struggling under Paul Jewell and Roy Keane. Of course there are some teams that play that style successfully but it is a lot harder and more expensive to try make that approach work.
What the former Wolves boss does is ensures that he has an extremely well organised unit that sacrifices attacking flair for defensive steadiness.
The logic for McCarthy’s approach is that a lot of teams will make frequent defensive mistakes in the Championship, especially if they have filled their side with attack minded players. Ipswich on the other hand frequently play two defensive midfielders to ensure that they do not get pressured into the same amount of mistakes as the opposition. Eventually in these circumstances the opposition will get punished more often than Ipswich and the Tractor Boys will pick up a result.
In summary, you can get quite far with very little creativity in the Championship. Goals do not need to be scored through individual brilliance like they often do in the Premier League and eventually you will get the chance to score a scrappy goal if you just play a solid defensive game.
I must admit this style does have its limitations as we saw against Wigan at Portman Road. The Latics are a side that have a lot of goalscorers and quick wingers which meant they could open up Ipswich even though they were reasonably solid defensively. Whilst the Ipswich defending was not spectacular for Wigan’s goals it was also not bad, unfortunately the divisions best sides can power their way through McCarthy’s approach.
However, despite these limitations it is an effective approach and the only viable one that will give Ipswich any kind of success considering the money they have handed to their manager.
Additionally, think about how many teams like Wigan there are in the division in comparison to the teams that don’t have those technically gifted individuals. From a statistical point of view it makes a lot more sense to have a set of tactics that work against the majority of teams.
I also believe that eventually McCarthy will improve his squad and make them more capable of beating better sides, it will just take time to find these players with the current limited resources.