Following the appointment of Ben Garner just 26 days ago, we’ve been able to see our side compete in 3 competitive games with a 4th coming up in just over 24 hours against Tranmere Rovers, but what can we note this early on?
So far, we can take away the clear favoured shape that Garner has taken to, playing a 4-2-3-1 in his opening 3 games with various players getting chances to shine. But I feel the most interesting developments in this system is down the right-hand side.
With the 41-year-old head coach deciding to play newly appointed vice-captain Jack Payne off the right wing, it has posed an overwhelming threat for opposition left backs. Due to Payne’s preferred foot being the left, he often is found coming inside and dragging the fullback with him allowing the new number 22 – Kaine Kesler-Hayden – to overlap and cause so much of a threat with his direct dribbling, raw speed and energy.
It is a positive that we can see the building blocks, and it is a similar idea on the left side of the pitch, however not quite the same. McKirdy doesn’t operate in the exact same way that Payne does, more choosing to drive toward the byline and play the ball back, as well as driving inside the pitch with the ball at his feet, limiting chances for overlaps but when they are available Iandolo has been extremely impressive in doing so. Clearly a tactical choice to implement this, with the idea being to cause an overload in wide positions and get the opportunity for cutbacks or driven balls toward the goal.
Yet another thing that can be taken with the new system early on is the key idea to play out from the back, which has proved largely successful and not causing us any alarming issues like under Luke Williams. When we do this now you can see a clear thought behind each pass and not overdoing it, if under pressure not being scared to just clear it. This is definitely helped by Wollacott having an above average passing range compared to most League 2 goalkeepers.
This is just the beginning of our time under Garner and it has been noticeable about our short preseason, lack of time to gel as a team and clear lack of match sharpness. This shouldn’t deter from what has been a largely promising start noticeable in our domination of xG (Expected Goals) early on in the season. So far in our league fixtures, recording a 1.81xG against Scunthorpe, followed up by a 1.53 xG against Carlisle – which for those who don’t really understand the statistic suggests we should be scoring around 2 goals in each game, noticeably in the Scunthorpe game the chance than Ben Gladwin converted ranking at about 0.1 chance of scoring.
A final note I’d like to touch on is the current midfield choice of Louis Reed and Anthony Grant, which given a chance to gel could definitely be up there with best pairings in the division. Everyone around Swindon knows the quality that The General possesses, and despite a below par showing on his home debut, Louis Reed is still the man to be the perfect anchor to him. Grants touch tackling and workman like playstyle would fall perfectly into the remit required to accompany Reed. A player of Reed’s style with such a diverse passing range needs someone to do most of the dirty work next to him as he isn’t the biggest of figures, however when he has found his feet in the side along with the other 10 who are all still adjusting, he will no doubt be one of the most gifted on the ball players at the club. Glimpses of that got shown against Carlisle, especially from dead ball situations delivering an exceptional ball in from the free kick that resulted in Crichlow sliding home. As well as playing a few noticeable passes through the line in between the full back and centre half of Carlisle for Kesler-Hayden to get onto.
When you consider the position, the club was in just a month ago, and the start to the season we have had I think it has to be considered as a good foundation. A minimized preseason of about 2 and a half weeks, a takeover battle that felt a generation and a squad built together in such a short space of time it is only a good thing. Holding a League 1 club to a 0-0 and putting in solid performances in the other two fixtures early on we should be nothing but proud of the staff, players, and obviously each other as fans.
It’s been a promising beginning, and now we can look forward to the next 44 League Two fixtures that stand in the way…
Article authored by @tylerontherun