Lambert has yet to make a change to his starting XI... but is it now time for Lankester to start?
PUBLISHED: 16:33 26 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:34 26 November 2018
Paul Lambert has named the same starting XI for his three games in charge of Ipswich Town. ANDY WARREN ponders if changes are needed and how he could switch things up ahead of Bristol City visit.
The Pole in the goal
It’s clear Bartosz Bialkowski has not been at his best this season and that was in evidence again on Friday night.
We all know the qualities the Pole possesses, but he struggled under the high ball during the clash with West Brom and was beaten at the near post as Harvey Barnes slammed in the Baggies’ second.
But, with the 31-year-old’s enthusiasm returning following the appointment of new goalkeeping coach Jimmy Walker, now is the time for consistency between the sticks.
There are teething problems when it comes to the kicking game, with Bialkowski and his central defenders asked to play the ball out from the back, but the best way for those to be ironed out and his form to return is to play.
Verdict: Stick with Bart and he will return to his best.
The back four
In reality, Paul Lambert is not blessed with options when it comes to his defence.
A back four of Jordan Spence, Matthew Pennington, Luke Chambers and Jonas Knudsen have started his first three games as Ipswich manager and are likely to do so again when Bristol City come to Town on Wednesday.
By Lambert’s own admission he has one specialist right-back at the club, given he views Janoi Donacien very much as a central defender, while Myles Kenlock is still short of the fitness required to push Knudsen for a start at left back.
The two full-backs, Spence and Knudsen, were both guilty of giving their man too much space for West Brom’s opener but, in the main, have performed well during Lambert’s reign.
The same can be said for Pennington and Chambers, with the latter one yellow card away from a ban, with only Donacien and Toto Nsiala offering competition for their place.
Verdict: The back four have generally performed well for Lambert, with consistency in selection key in helping create a unit alongside Bialkowski. Stick.
Lambert has put his faith in two young midfielders during his first three games in charge.
Flynn Downes and Trevoh Chalobah, two England Under 20 internationals, have started both games and have played with an added confidence following a show of faith from their boss.
Both found the going tough at times against a West Brom midfield packed with Premier League talent, with their decision making and ball retention wanting at times, but they too have benefitted from a consistency in selection.
Their selection makes Cole Skuse an even more vital member of the side, with the midfielder’s experience, calm head and ability to pick up loose balls a vital component of the team.
But waiting in the wings is a trio of players who pride themselves on creativity.
Teddy Bishop’s return as a substitute on Friday night was greeted with an almighty cheer before he showed flashes of the ability which has made his absence so frustrating during three injury hit campaigns.
Andre Dozzell has also shown flashes of his undoubted talent and ability to unlock opposition defences during his five appearances this season, while Jon Nolan has still not truly got going at Portman Road having played such a leading role for Shrewsbury in League One last season.
Verdict: Lambert has decisions to make here. The temptation to use the creative force of either Bishop or Dozzell must be a real one, but with both still on the comeback trail following serious injury it may well be they have to make do with places on the bench.
Make no mistake, though. If Wednesday’s game is in the balance and a spark is needed, these two young talents will surely be top of Lambert’s list.
Jack’s time out wide?
Lambert has been regular in his praise for teenage wide-man Jack Lankester, who has impressed each and every time he’s come off the bench for Ipswich this season.
His late free-kick so nearly produced an equaliser against West Brom on Friday night, but agonisingly clipped the post, while there is a swagger in his play that excites the crowd.
Gwion Edwards has arguably been the most impressive of the summer arrivals but Friday night was not his finest display, with his first touch wanting, so is now the time for Lankester?
It certainly feels like it might be.
Verdict: With Lambert feeling he is short of a natural left-winger, Sears’s good displays and two goals mean he has done enough to continue out wide but Lankester’s confident general play, his dangerous set-piece and ability to excite the crowd are pointing towards a first professional start.
Is Jordan still the central figure?
The most eye-catching move Lambert has made has been to switch out-of-favour winger Jordan Roberts into a central striking role.
He offered a focal point that has been lacking following injuries to Ellis Harrison and Jon Walters and performed well in the games with Preston and Reading before finding the going tough against the experience and guile of West Brom’s Craig Dawson and Ahmed Hegazi.
Harrison’s return for the Blues’ Under 23s will offer Lambert a real boost and an added ability to shuffle a pack also including Kayden Jackson, who netted against West Brom.
Verdict: The role Lambert asks his lone forward to play requires a physical presence.
While Jackson has scored a hat-trick in a behind-closed-doors game recently and took his gifted goal against the Baggies well, he prefers to try and get in behind opposition defences and appears to be an effective impact substitute.
Harrison’s potential return is like a clichéd new signing for Lambert, but until he’s fit enough to shoulder the burden, Roberts may well be the best option to continue for now.