Mick McCarthy has made a name for himself by being a manager that is great at grinding out results. His style may not always be entertaining or exiting but he prides himself on making every side he takes over hard to beat, which could be the key to Ipswich’s survival.
The criticism of the former Wolves boss all started at the end of February after a goalless draw away at Huddersfield. Before the game, McCarthy admitted that he would take a point and the Ipswich manager focused on shutting down the opposition’s creative players rather than looking to create chances for his own side. This made for an extremely boring 90 minutes of football but a more than valuable point away from home.
Some Tractor Boys fans were even more upset after McCarthy then announced that he would be happy with a point away against struggling Peterborough United. Again the side made sure they were solid at the back and did not take many risks going forward in this match. Although Ipswich were the better team in that clash, gaining a point away from home was another example of McCarthy’s philosophy in use.
Of course both games against Huddersfield and Peterborough were potentially winnable and you couldn’t criticise the manager if he saw them as games he wanted to win. However when you are in a relegation dog fight you have to be very careful about what philosophy you take.
Mick explained after the Peterborough game that regardless of the opposition’s league standing, he will go into every away game looking for a point. He said himself that in the games against the struggling sides it is more important to prevent them from getting three points rather than to try gain three.
This approach seems logical, especially as McCarthy went on to explain that he will set his team up to try and win every home game until the end of the season.
The answer to those questioning the manager’s tactics is simple; as we are not in the relegation zone it makes much more sense to deny the teams around us rather than risk giving them three points. Yes Ipswich will need the occasional win and not just draws to keep them in the Championship, but they stand a much better chance of getting those wins at Portman Road.
The clubs that are currently sitting in the relegation zone have to go out and try to win every game, because their situation is desperate. That is the approach that some Ipswich fans want to see from their side. However, taking that high risk high reward strategy should always be a last resort.
The likes of Barnsley, Peterborough, Wolves and Bristol City may take this approach and it may well pay off for at most one or two of them. If one of those teams starts picking up three points from almost every game then it isn’t a problem with Ipswich sitting 20th in the league table.
Things may get more desperate if another team goes on a great run and McCarthy may well have to change his philosophy, but for now he is doing everything right.
On their day Ipswich can play extremely well at home too, beating the likes of Middlesbrough and Leicester at Portman Road is no easy task. If they can keep on grinding out away draws with the occasional win at home then they will secure their place in the Championship for next season.