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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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