Opposition Report – Accrington

Accrington will be hoping their good form can continue against Neil Critchley’s Blackpool. The 8th place side have lost one of their last five games in a shock defeat to Wigan, but big performances against the likes of Gillingham and Crewe have pushed the side right up the table.

How do they play?

They thrive off attacking set pieces and have shown resilience throughout the season by winning from losing positions. Accy are quite shot heavy and try their luck where possible, rather than forcing the ball into the box. They aren’t particularly aggressive in the press, instead opting to remain patient at the back and find a through ball opening, down the middle in order to open up the opposition. They opt to play a 3-5-2, dropping into a five during defensive phases, with the likes of Michael Nottingham adding a comfortability in possession in their own third.

How has the season gone so far?

Accrington have been reasonable this season as you can see from the xG table below, in terms of the full season, they have been overperforming compared to their expected goals. They currently sit eighth in the table and it shows that they rode their luck in terms of performance in the early parts of the season, whilst still picking up results.

Having said that, in recent times they have been one of the best performing sides in the league, sitting 2nd in the form table and 3rd in the expected goals form table. So, whilst they rode their luck in the early part of the season, they have really kicked on and the results are matching their impressive performances, as you can see below.

Last 5 Games

Now as you can see from above, they have deserved to win every game they have won, and in some cases they should have won by a much bigger margin. The Wigan result seemed like a one-off freak game. The main point I take away from these games is that they are able to beat different varieties of sides. I would say we play a similar style to MK Dons and Crewe, but with more options to tweak our approach based on the opponent.

As you can see Accrington swept aside MK Dons and Crewe who are both some of the best performing sides in the league this season. That is not much of a warning sign for me because we have done similar, once you have the capability to set up against them in the midfield areas, they are fairly simple to master. The Gillingham game is my concern.

Gillingham are direct, structured and solid and yet Accrington walked over them. If they are able to neutralise our direct options then we will have to persist with a patient, fluid build up play, something which Accy have also shown they can deal with. We have very rarely, if at all come up against a system like Accy’s and it will be interesting to see how we combat it. Peterborough offered the closest similarity and we managed them well, so I’m hopeful the same can be said for this one.

Players to watch

Accrington’s best five performing players includes three centre halves which pays testament to how important they are to the system. As much as I wasn’t Nottingham’s biggest fan, he has obviously improved the backline for Accy because he opts as an out ball in possession. Cameron Burgess averages 6.3 aerials won per match which is superb and if Gary Madine can get the better of him then we are ready set to win the game.

As an attacking outlet Dion Charles, who I found very impressive in his time in the youth setup with us before his move to AFC Fylde, has been impressive. Six goals is a good return for the forward man, but more importantly for Accrington he is involved in the majority of their created chances, as you could see in the form of their last five games. Neutralise the threat that Burgess and Charles pose respectively, which I think we are quite capable of doing, and we neutralise the key areas that Accy’s system works in.

Final thoughts

This is a game I see us winning. We will be suitably prepared and no doubt the system will be tweaked in order to match Accy’s unique system. Having said that, we have to be at our best and will potentially need to use the squad in the latter stages of the game to tweak and adjust as I feel Accrington will come into the game more towards the end. They can’t be taken lightly and if we get past them, we will have ticked off basically every acid test in the league this season.

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Image: Blackpool FC

Stats provided by: xG_Data & Who Scored

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