Millwall head coach Joe Edwards has explained why Shaun Hutchinson started ahead of Jake Cooper in Wednesday night’s 3-1 defeat at Ipswich Town.
Geordie Hutchinson had been missing with a calf injury since September – an absence of nine Championship matches – before being an unused sub for the most recent three league outings.
Cooper had been an ever-present for the Lions before dropping out with Edwards playing Murray Wallace on the left of a back three against the Tractor Boys.
Edwards told the South London Press: “Firstly I’ve got full respect for the fact Hutchy is club captain and what a great servant he has been for this club. Although he has been out injured for a while, he has been in training since the day that myself and Andy (Myers) arrived. He came out on the training pitch every day and he had been training really well.
“People talk about managers not knowing their best team and I’m more than comfortable at the moment saying I don’t because it is a new journey with a new group.
“Although I knew the team from watching on the outside, I do want to see the players play in our style and with my own eyes.
“I was keen to get Hutch on the pitch so that it didn’t get longer and longer he’d been out without playing.
“It became about rotation. One of the differences since we’ve been in is probably the fact there are greater physical demands from a high speed and explosive point of view, which the stats have been showing. That includes the guys at the back with a bit of a higher backline, at times.
“The guys on the defensive side are not as used to that explosive work as the ones at the top end of the pitch. So when you come to these three games in a week I just took the opportunity to rotate one in the backline and Coops was the one I felt could maybe do with freshening up.”
Edwards opted for wing-backs against Ipswich.
“It definitely wasn’t over-fearing what they could do and trying to be too defensive,” he said. “It was definitely acknowledging how many bodies they get in the box.
“I’ve seen teams go there in a back four and really get opened up and torn apart, so it was to try and nullify that box coverage that Ipswich get.
“I did feel when they press they are a very narrow team with those inside wingers they us. I felt by having wing-backs we would be able to hurt them – switch the play more and get more control by using the wing-backs and exploit them down the sides, where they are very narrow. But our basic use of the ball – our speed of it and quality of it – never enabled us to do that.
“I’ve been aware since I’ve come in that the squad is predominantly, in terms of player, probably built for a back five and back three. So to go to it was something I always knew would happen. I even spoke to the players about it before the Sheffield Wednesday game, that during that game we might revert to it if we needed to.
“We tried it and we didn’t play well. So before we look at anything tactical or system-related, we didn’t do any of the basics well enough to be able to properly judge a system. It’s there for us to go to again in future but last night it didn’t work for us.
“We need to make sure we don’t over-react now to every element of the game and over-analyse it because the bottom line is that if the fundamentals are not there it gets to the point where it doesn’t matter what system you play if you’re conceding easy goals and turning the ball over easily.”
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