Preview – Crewe Alexandra (a)

Blackpool will be heading to Alexandra Stadium to face Crewe in a SkyBet League One fixture on Saturday. Crewe go into the game in 13th place with two wins and two defeats representing a mixed start to the season on their return to the division. The Seasiders, as is well documented, sit in the relegation zone with three league defeats in a row, having most recently been heavily defeated by Ipswich at Bloomfield Road.

Neil Critchley will be hoping for a big reaction from his newly formed squad before results begin to fall off an untenable cliff. A lack of drive to break through stern defences paired with naïve defensive displays that fails to anticipate when to drop off, has been a recipe for disaster so far this campaign.

Having said that, the Tangerines have looked to address the back line frailties in the form of Northern Ireland international Daniel Ballard and Icelandic international Daniel Grétarsson since the most recent game against Ipswich. Both join the club having fit the profile of what Critchley and the board is looking for; aggression, good passing vision and anticipation to press at the right time. These are the three key components that are the foundations of the club’s style of play. From early reports, both players will bring elements of these qualities.

It is vital that we address the slide this weekend. Whilst we should definitely see this project as a two-year cycle before we can truly expect to see this style of play at its peak, especially given the overhaul of the squad this summer, a significant run of losses leaving the side points adrift at the bottom is something Simon Sadler cannot risk in the current climate and simply won’t stand for while he’s custodian of the club. He’s backed Critchley with a large overlay of fees and will be keen for an upturn in results in order to justify the process – a squad as strong as ours should not be losing out to bottom half sides in League One.

How should Blackpool use the loan market?

This is a debate that has become much more prominent recently, particularly when it comes to the current climate and the Seasiders. Looking back to last season and many a year before, Blackpool have benefitted more than most from bringing in a quality of player in the loan market that they could simply not afford otherwise. Charlie Adam, DJ Campbell, Stephen Debbie and in more recent times Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Conor Ronan and Taylor Moore have all shown why the loan market is so important for a club like Blackpool.

Yet, Neil Critchley seems to see the loan market as something that can supplement his squad rather than the starting XI. Dan Kemp, Jordan Gabriel, Daniel Ballard and Ben Woodburn have come in on loan this summer, and whilst each are highly thought of at their parent clubs as players for the future, could Blackpool have permanently signed a player of the same quality? Absolutely yes.

I feel like Critchley could have gone for a step up in quality in the loan market to really put a stamp on the starting XI, and these loan spots should be taken by players who are the first name on your team sheet. All of them are 22 or younger, and will need to be allowed to make mistakes as they look to learn and develop before returning to their parent clubs.

That said, we have invested in the likes of Bez Lubala, Jerry Yates and CJ Hamilton for considerable fees, something which we have not done in years gone by, so we are less reliant on the loan market than in previous windows.

Lack of cutting edge

Whilst the Seasiders have lots of attacking midfield and wide threats, we have not really brought in the level of quality in the centre forward position that you can rely on to score double figures or win you a match from nothing. Armand Gnanduillet had the ability to have a terrible 89 minutes but still pop up with a decisive finish to win a game last season, but Jerry Yates does not have that same edge to his game, and unfortunately neither does Gary Madine.

Both Yates and Madine work incredibly hard for the side, with promising off-the-ball movement that is often not capitalised on quickly enough by the midfield. However, could you have complete trust that, when the side are not creating many chances, that they will take the one of the three they get? Right now you simply can’t make that assumption. So much so that Yates was shifted out onto the left flank in the Ipswich game.

The cutting edge will come as the squad plays together and learns each others’ games, but I believe it comes through having trust in the midfield. The forward line, including the wingers, have to sit on the shoulders of the opposition back line and trust that the likes of Keshi Anderson and Ethan Robson will be able to drive the ball forward through the lines. In every single defeat, early in the game the forward line has become frustrated and instantly started to drop deep to pick up the ball, but that does not work in this system, it simply pushes everybody else back and leaves the lines disjointed. Hopefully Kenny Dougall will provide the missing piece of the jigsaw here.

The forward line have to trust their midfield counterparts to get it right and Neil Critchley needs to be much more forceful when it comes to making that happen.

Crewe Lowdown

I spoke to Crewe expert Rhys Pountain to see what his thoughts were ahead of the game.

What are the expectations for Crewe this season? “I think having just been promoted Crewe need to cement their position in League 1. From their start to the season of LLWW having played 3 relegated Championship teams a final position of 12th would be reasonable.”

Who are the standout players to watch out for? “Harry Pickering has been solid in defence and a real attacking threat going forward overlapping Charlie Kirk.”

“Ryan Wintle, albeit with a slow start to the season, was a proven box to box midfielder last season and shows great potential alongside Luke Murphy.”

“Charlie Kirk adds a spark in the team as he really seems to liven things up splitting defences apart with his vision.”

“Finally, Mikael Mandron who is an experienced League 1 attacker who defends from the front and loves a goal.”

How do you think Crewe will approach the game? “From recent performances I should think they will look to continue their form playing fluid football. A few new signings from League 2 last season in Jerry Yates and CJ Hamilton will alert Crewe to Blackpool’s potential. To conclude there’s no reason for Crewe not to set up how they have done in there first 4 games probably playing with a 433 formation.”

What is your score prediction for the game? “2-0 Crewe win. Crewe seem to have tightened up defensively after leaking 3 goals in 2 games from the first 2 fixtures. Ever since they have kept 2 consecutive clean sheets as well as 5 goals in their last 2.”

What should our expectations be?

For me Saturday’s game is all about who is available. Start with the kind of defensive line up that played against Ipswich, and leaking goals is a definite. However, if the two Daniels in Ballard and Grétarsson are available for the side, you have to give Blackpool much more of a chance to assert themselves on the game with a higher quality of player in the back line.

If Blackpool line up with something like the side I’ve selected below then I believe we should have more than enough to come through the game with a much-needed victory that could really kickstart the season. Although, even with the late deadline day addition of Dougall, the Blackpool midfield does have a Matty Virtue sized hole.

I would not trust Jordan Gabriel yet in a game where there will be large spells of defensive pressure from Crewe, nor do I feel Grant Ward will offer any real playmaking outlet in the game as he has continued to saunter through games letting them pass him by recently. Sullay Kaikai does much the same as Ward, although I feel having him there to make an impact off the bench is a key part of Saturday’s game plan.

What do you think to this side? Let us know in the comments below.

Sean’s Prediction: Crewe 1-2 Blackpool (Hamilton, Anderson)

Key Player: Demetri Mitchell

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Image: EADT

One thought on “Preview – Crewe Alexandra (a)

  1. Untenable Cliff sounds like someone from Peaky Blinders! The way to get more out of Madine is to play to his strengths, which last season’s formation arguably would have done. We’ve been too quick to get rid of Feeney, Macdonald and perhaps Spearing and put to much responsibility in a midfield three who have until today had no competition for their places. Can see Ward and Anderson struggling to get back into the side should Woodburn and Dougall improve matters in the centre of the park.

    Liked by 1 person

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