The Big EFL Preview: Wimbledon And Morecambe Underrated?9 min read
There might only be 15 EFL games this international weekend, but no shortage of action to preview in League One and League Two.
League One: Blackpool v AFC Wimbledon
Double Chance: Draw or AFC Wimbledon
Blackpool have scored eight goals in their last two games at Bloomfield Road in league and FA Cup, beating Peterborough and Morecambe respectively, which on paper is a positive omen.
Equally, they have not necessarily had to be especially creative going forward to get those eye-catching results.
Simon Grayson’s side took 24 shots in the two games – and 16 League One teams average more than 12 shots per game – a lot of their key chances have been capitalising on poor defending.
Luckily for the Tangerines, they have a tall striker in Armand Gnanduillet who is playing the best football of his career; he is full of confidence and thus single-handedly elevating his team to scarcely merited heights.
AFC Wimbledon will feel they can get at Blackpool’s slightly suspect defence, which has found it difficult to deal with basic balls into the box.
The Wombles improved in the second half of the 1-1 draw with Lincoln in the previous league game, when right-back Luke O’Neill came on to shift to a four-man defence.
Two assists in as many games for Luke O'Neill since his return from injury. On the other flank, Paul Osew ran his socks. #AFCW implementing what they work on in training and creating opportunities. Patterns of play that will stand us in good stead over the course of the season.
— Rob Cornell (@Dons_Sayer_WDON) November 9, 2019
O’Neill’s crossing ability from deep could cause problems for the hosts and striker Marcus Forss, who has scored seven goals in nine league appearances, is an obvious threat.
There is no reason, therefore, why Hodges’ troops cannot return to the capital unscathed.
League One: Coventry City v Rochdale
Coventry to win and both teams to score
Coventry and Rochdale are both playing out from the back more this season than they were last, thanks to the arrivals of goalkeepers – Marko Marosi and Robert Sanchez respectively – who are braver and more accomplished in distribution.
This approach has led both on course to what looks a season of progress.
The Sky Blues are currently in the top six, having narrowly missed out last term while Dale appear to have enough about themselves to avoid a relegation battle, or at least one of a severe nature.
Brian Barry-Murphy’s side possess two impressive full-backs in Luke Matheson and Rhys Norrington-Davies, who both feature in our exclusive piece on the EFL’s Top 15 potential future international stars; 23-year-old advanced playmaker Callum Camps is an excellent technician between the lines, too.
— BBC RM Sport (@BBCRMsport) November 2, 2019
At the other end of the age spectrum, Dale have Ian Henderson; not only has ‘Hendo’ scored more League One goals than any other player this decade, the 34-year-old brings intelligence to the build-up play.
Striker Maxime Biamou is suspended for Coventry, who could be without Jordi Hiwula and Matt Godden as well as Wesley Jobello; the trio had complimented each other well early in the season, so how the team fares without them will test their strength in depth.
Robins could be looking at a 3-4-3 formation, which worked surprisingly well in last week’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Colchester.
The Sky Blues do not have a natural, out-and-out centre-forward – Bakayoko tends to drift out wide.
That could leave them without a focal point, but then it could also confuse Dale centre-backs Eoghan O’Connell and Paul McShane if the likes of Callum O’Hare and Jordan Shipley make late darts into the box.
League Two: Crawley Town v Morecambe
Double Chance: Draw or Morecambe
This will be Derek Adams’ first league game in charge of Morecambe – and the Scot looks an excellent appointment for the club that currently props up the EFL.
One of the things that stood out from Adams’ time at Plymouth Argyle, whom he led to three excellent seasons out of four, was his willingness to have a handle on various departments throughout the club.
Morecambe do not have a big coaching team nor an especially active board, so they need someone who can manage the club and not just the team.
Adams has also displayed the qualities to suggest he could thrive as an underdog: he can get his teams strong defensively, he perfects set pieces, he embraces a direct style and, at his best, creates a siege mentality.
The Shrimps, therefore, travel to Crawley at a good time.
The Red Devils have lost six of their last eight league games and perhaps, their bad run could be attributed to an overreliance on two players.
Firstly, they often lean on attacking midfielder Bez Lubala more than may be healthy, as much as the energetic 21-year-old has made huge progress on the technical aspects of his game.
— Quest (@QuestTV) September 7, 2019
Secondly, 39-year-old Dannie Bulman is arguably the only midfielder who provides an element of bite and tenacity; at this stage of Bulman’s career, he should not be starting every week.
Cioffi wants his team to press high up and attack with a lot of energy, which means he has not necessarily been overly keen to prioritize experienced midfielders like Jimmy Smith and Josh Payne, who would in theory be excellent rotation options but are in fact out on loan.
Morecambe therefore, look underrated in Sussex.
League Two: Salford City v Swindon Town
Swindon to win
Salford manager Graham Alexander was awarded League Two Manager of the Month for October.
He helped his side to 10 points from five in that period – and then a 2-1 smash-and-grab at Newport at the beginning of November – and he deserves credit for recent form.
Equally, one questions whether Alexander is getting the most out of that squad which, reportedly assembled with a top seven budget, enabled him to field six players who have played two divisions above in their last starting XI.
Their method of chance creation is typically either set pieces or hopeful balls down the line, which is a style often employed by low-budgeted outfits that do not have so much quality; Salford’s Expected Goals Ratio (xGR) is an underwhelming 43.700f0e39ac2a}, ranking them 20th in League Two performance data.
Salford have been able to grind out good results recently, but they now face a Swindon side who rank third on performance data, with 57.130f0e39ac2a} xGR and have a clearer, more progressive playing identity.
Richie Wellens likes the 4-3-3 formation but, because 14-goal top scorer Eoin Doyle is undroppable and fellow striker Jerry Yates has been hugely impressive too, he has incorporated two central forwards recently.
When you are speaking to Wellens about the best places to go in Worsley & you establish you are both staying in the same hotel on Friday then he says " you better not keep my players up drinking on Friday night"..🤣🤣😘 xx #COYR #STFC
— Rachel (@rachw101) November 12, 2019
That was a bold move, considering he also favours attacking wide men and a forward-thinking midfielder in Michael Doughty.
Wellens’ bold approach has seen the Robins concede 20 goals in 17 games, but it has also made them top scorers in League Two and prime promotion contenders.