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2017/18 a (distant) preview

2017/18 a (distant) preview
It's been just over a week since the 4-1 defeat to MK Dons ensured a 14th place finish in League One for the Saddlers. In that time a lot has been written (and spoken by the excellent OPB) about where we've gone wrong in 2016/17. Over the next few weeks we'll be looking at what we need to do going forward to be successful. Part 1, Player recruitment.

It's quite obvious that Jon Whitney will be our manager for the start of the new season in August, despite increasing pressure culminating in audible protestations at the Dons' game. The board are sticking with their man and for the time being at least, we're going to have to get on with it...

There's no doubt that the club as a whole would have been keen to avoid a player turnover this summer similar to the volume that we saw in 2016, but unfortunately we will still be looking at recruiting a significant number of players. Looking at the retained list (assuming that Preston, Chambers & Roberts remain and Etheridge leaves) we will have around 15 senior professionals on the books with a number of youth players also around the squad.

One of the key successes of the 15/16 season was that Dean Smith had a couple of formations he could switch between and within those systems his players were all playing in their correct positions. This season, for example, we've seen Joe Edwards deployed in a number of roles, whilst I've lost count of the number of different formations used by Whitney throughout the campaign. My advice to JW would be to firstly identify a style of play, are we possession based, high energy or long ball? The frustration for many fans has been that there seemingly is no clear plan for the players to follow. Whitney needs to choose a couple of systems that suit the existing players and then base the summer recruitment around those chosen styles.

The criticism of course is that could be a bit rigid and inflexible, but League One is a pretty simple division and if we are able to identify our strengths early and play to them, then there's no reason why we can't have a relatively successful season. I'm not saying promotion, but a functional, well-drilled side sprinkled with the flair of Oztumer, Morris, Flo and others should be able to challenge for the play-offs in this league. The question of course is whether Whitney has the ability, both tactically and coaching wise, to identify and implement a clear style of play.

Writer:TP1992
Date:Wednesday May 10 2017
Time: 8:17PM

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League Table

# Team P W D L Pts. GD
C Sheff Utd 46 30 10 6 100 45
P Bolton 46 25 11 10 86 32
3 Scunthorpe 46 24 10 12 82 26
4 Fleetwood 46 23 13 10 82 21
5 Bradford 46 20 19 7 79 19
6 Millwall 46 20 13 13 73 9
7 Southend 46 20 12 14 72 17
8 Oxford 46 20 9 17 69 13
9 Rochdale 46 19 12 15 69 9
10 Bristol Rovers 46 18 12 16 66 -2
11 Peterborough 46 17 11 18 62 0
12 MK Dons 46 16 13 17 61 2
13 Charlton 46 14 18 14 60 7
14 Walsall 46 14 16 16 58 -7
15 Wimbledon 46 13 18 15 57 -3
16 Northampton 46 14 11 21 53 -13
17 Oldham 46 12 17 17 53 -13
18 Shrewsbury 46 13 12 21 51 -17
19 Bury 46 13 11 22 50 -12
20 Gillingham 46 12 14 20 50 -20
R Port Vale 46 12 13 21 49 -25
R Swindon 46 11 11 24 44 -22
R Coventry 46 9 12 25 39 -31
R Chesterfield 46 9 10 27 37 -35
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