At the end of August, sitting third in the league, Ipswich Town finally looked like a club that could return to the Premier League. Not only the hard working, tough-to-beat unit that had earned themselves a play-off semi-final the previous season, this squad now featured real quality with the likes of Freddie Sears and Ryan Fraser in tremendous form. Since August however, Town have struggled to find real form and now, after throwing away a win against struggling Bolton and a loss away to Cardiff, they sit four points off sixth place and the play-off places.
Considering where Ipswich were when Mick McCarthy took over in 2012, the progress the club is making is still strong, but if they do fail to make the play-offs, the club will have gone backwards in 2015-16, despite having a stronger squad than last year. They now have quality all over the pitch: a sound defence, fresh creativity in midfield and one of the best forward lines in the league…in theory.
A poor two months followed August with just one win in nine games seeing Town drop to 14th. Daryl Murphy was yet to score and Freddie Sears hadn’t hit the back of the net in eight matches. Although Town’s fortunes did improve over the rest of 2015, climbing back into the play-offs by the end of the year with 22 points out of a possible 30, in 2016 Town have been inconsistent. Every uplifting away win seems to be followed by a depressing home draw or defeat against lowly opposition. However, just what is behind Town’s failure to produce any momentum?
Daryl Murphy; who experienced the best season of his career last season with 27 goals, has been unable to reproduce that goal scoring form. This season though, he has scored just eight, his first not coming until the end of November. It would be unfair on Murphy to suggest that all he can do is score goals. His superb hold up and support play was also a crucial element of Town’s game, and that side of him has also been missing this season. His touch has been poor at times, he has lost some of his pace, and he has also suffered from a lack of confidence.
Freddie Sears has also been unable to match the performances that he showed when he first signed for Town from Colchester in the second half of last season. Despite an excellent first month of the campaign, he has scored just six goals, his last as far back as the 15th of December. Often played out wide by McCarthy, he cannot get into the scoring positions that he usually does as a centre forward. Despite putting in a shift and working hard, the chances haven’t come for Sears, and he too is now suffering from a lack of confidence in front of goal.
Ryan Fraser; who many consider to have been Ipswich’s best player so far this season, has produced some scintillating football, but unfortunately for Ipswich he has been injured for much of the time. First, he missed two months before Christmas and now Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe admits he may not return to Ipswich for the rest of the season due to a new hamstring injury.
David McGoldrick; often one of one Town’s key figures over the last few seasons, has been forced to watch from the stands for far too long again this term as his proneness to injury continues. Furthermore, midfielders Kevin Bru and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, despite showing glimpses of their quality at times, have both been far too inconsistent.
These are all players who have great ability and the potential possibly to one day fire Ipswich into the Premier League. Unfortunately though, inconsistency and injuries could ultimately mean failure to make the playoffs, and why these players, despite undoubted talent, are not playing at a higher level.