Now that he’s been here a couple of months and had a transfer window to tweak a few things, Lee Johnson has been chatting about the development of the team under his leadership…
"We've got to be in control of games as much as possible, in any division really but especially in this one, on and off the ball. Then you've got to have the firepower in terms of movement, quality, pace and power in the transition. Depending on form and how we're looking in training, and young players like Jack Diamond who seems to tear teams apart in the last half hour, all of a sudden we've got players who are athletic, mobile and take players on. And if it’s not happening for them on any particular day, no problem, on comes the next one and we go again. We want to press from the front and we've got to be brave. That's the thing because we are going to get caught out at times by playing it, but I do believe that over 100 games we're going to score a lot more goals than we concede from it. We've scored some fantastic goals since we came in, in terms of the movement, playing forward, having the attitude to turn.”
4-3-3 OR 4-2-2-2?
“I think those two systems are the starting point for us, the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-2-2. We've made no secret of that. They are very similar but obviously it is just about getting the extra body where you need. You can start off with that mindset of the 4-4-2 and then drop the extra body wherever that maybe. You saw in the Papa John's Trophy game at MK Dons we dropped that into defence with a 5-4-1 defensively. We have got the personnel and players to do that, and I think what that means is the players have got to trust me, and I've got to trust them. I do a lot of work on the tactical scenarios before a game and there's a lot of work that goes into that. You will see a lot of quick, bold changes. Sometimes they will work, sometimes they won't. Sometimes there might be some bafflement externally if we change three or four [players] around but we trust our work and believe over a period of time [it will pay off]. Having a strong bench means that players are starting knowing that if they're not at it, someone is coming on and they will probably not start the next game.”
O'NIEN IN MIDFIELD
"He had impressed me, just his all-action nature, his competitive spirit. Technically he impressed me, he is quite unorthodox in his style but he gets it there and he gets it there early. A lot of the characteristics a player needs in any position, Luke has got. You want your personality as a manager to come across on the pitch, I think, and players like Luke and [Josh] Scowen epitomise that with their ability to be all-action. I had to apologise to him on the Tuesday night when I put him to left back, because I wanted to keep him in midfield where possible, but he was the best option. Given the strength and depth of the squad at the moment, I'd imagine Luke would be happy to play anywhere. He'd probably play in goal if we let him, I'm sure he'd be flying around. I honestly have to take each game and each moment within in on its merits at the moment, I think if I try and premeditate too many things and go public with it then you back yourself into a corner. The challenge for me with Luke is to channel his enthusiasm into the right areas. His enthusiasm and desire to get better is fantastic and it's about channelling that so when he is doing his extras, he's doing it in the right way."
In other news, Shrewsbury manager Steve Cotterill will be absent from tonight’s match as he is still recovering from Covid-19. The former Sunderland assistant manager has his academy manager, David Longwell, covering for him. Longwell had this to say: "The players have dealt with so many games in a short space of time really well. We still work on things like we did today but we have to be mindful that the lads played on Saturday. Sunderland have improved recently with a few new signings. There are a lot of things we can look at from the last time we played them and we need to look at the games they've played recently. We will prepare in the same way we always prepare and it's a positive that we played them recently - we know what to expect. We didn't start the last game with Sunderland as well as we can and they got a foothold in the game early. When you score first in this league, a lot of times you win the game. We created chances in that game and could have started better - the lads are self-aware of that. We want to make sure we start the game well and get on the front foot. We go into every game with the right mentality and I have to credit the players for that. They work so hard; they take things on board and they try to execute what we ask of them.”