Brighton v Wrexham Preview

I’m setting myself up for a fall in trying to anticipate what’ll happen in this match, and not just because of the cliched unpredictability of the cup!

With Brighton stricken with injuries and suspensions, it’s not easy to predict what sort of team they’ll put out. Gus Poyet has suggested he’d pick eleven youngsters if he could, which was definitely a mind game, but it’s hard to know in which sense! Will he go ahead and do that anyway, or was it a bluff and, his hand restricted by absences, he’ll go on to select more first teasers than he intended because of a lack of alternatives?

Either way, it should be pointed out that he won’t send out a side which will fail to compete. Brighton’s youth set-up is producing some promising talent, and the likes of Hall and Forster-Caskey, who scored last weekend, have forced their way into the first team squad on merit anyway.

Also, a rotation of Brighton’s options means we’re liable to see a rare outing for Vicente, who I promise you is the best quality player Wrexham will come up against this season (well, at least until Sergio Aguerro in the fourth round!)

Wrexham have injury problems too, and although they aren’t so great in number, they might just be a more serious handicap. Losing Danny Wright is a blow. He’s been in excellent form lately and makes things stick up the pitch. Although goals have been elusive for him, his value to the side is clear. Wrexham have been able to mix things up effectively this season; if they can they’ll pass through midfield, but if that isn’t working they can always look to hit the ever-willing Wright early in the knowledge that he’ll hold the ball up and wait for support.

In Wright’s absence Andy Morrell’s next-best option through the middle is Mathias Pogba, who has size and pace and holds the ball up well, even if he’s nowhere near as effective as Wright in the air. However, Pogba seems equally unlikely to be fit, so Morrell has a dilemma.

The obvious option is to pick himself, Jake Speight and Adrian Cieslewicz up front. That would leave him lacking a physical presence up there, so any long balls would have to be accurate. I’d assume Speight would be the one who spends the most time through the middle in that formation, using his ability to back in to hold up the ball, but the service to him would have to be good to allow him to be effective; launching long balls which are higher than his chest would give him little chance against a solid centre back like Adam El Abd.

That makes a functioning midfield essential, which presents Morrell with another issue. With Lee Fowler having manufactured himself a transfer, Wrexham have lost their midfield playmaker. The trio of Harris, Tolley and Clarke who played the last couple of games are admirable, but you wouldn’t really describe any of them as incisive passers; their strengths lie in other areas. Will Morrell back them to provide the accurate service the front three will need? I suspect he will-after all, none of hem deserve to be left out-but he might be wishing Dean Keates had returned from his collarbone break a week or two earlier, as he might have been able to offer a wider range of passing from midfield, especially if it’s forced back under pressure and the distance between attack and midfield is large. I suspect this match might have come just a little too early for him, but expect him to be the first sub on.

Or, if you’re a gambler, do you fancy a flutter on Wrexham addressing the issue of creativity with a surprise selection and throwing Glen Little in from the start, either in midfield to offer quality of pass or as a wide man in the front three, dropping deep to link up with the midfield? No, me neither, although there’s some logic in it; opening the game up early on, getting a goal and then digging in for the clean sheet is probably Wrexham’s best hope of success, and throwing Little in for a first half cameo and then having a more solid configuration in midfield after the break might be a clever move. If he was one of the front three it would also allow him the opportunity of keeping on of his strikers on the bench in case he needs an impact sub. If Wright and Pogba aren’t fit and the other three strikers start, I’d assume Louis Moss and Obi Anoruo are the options for the bench, and you wouldn’t bank on them throwing a scare into a Championship defence.

The other fascinating aspect of this game is how Wrexham’s much vaunted defence stands up to a serious examination from a good Championship team. It has been outstanding in the Conference, standing rock-solid when the side goes through a rough patch, enabling Wrexham to grind out wins when they’re under par. Furthermore, when Brentford tried to throw the kitchen sink at them in the last half hour of the previous round, they held firm and Mayebi didn’t have too much to do. Having held off a good League One side, can it survive a Championship-quality onslaught?

If it can, this tie will get very tasty. Poyet’s selection decision will be judged on his side’s ability to break down Wrexham’s defensive unit. If he opts for the youngsters, they might just find it hard going breaking down a strong back four with three midfielders filling the channels in front of them. Mental resolve and experience can be crucial in one-off games like this, and a youthful Brighton side could run into problems against a Wrexham side that is are confident and used to prevailing: if you don’t I’m setting myself up for a fall in trying to anticipate what’ll happen in this match, and not just because of the cliched unpredictability of the cup!

With Brighton stricken with injuries and suspensions, it’s not easy to predict what sort of team they’d put out. Gus Poyet has suggested he’d pick eleven youngsters if he could, which was definitely a mind game, but it’s hard to know in which direction! Will he go ahead and do that anyway, or was it a bluff and, his hand restricted by absences, he’ll go on to select more first teasers than he intended because of a lack of alternatives?

Either way, it should pointed out that he won’t send out a side which will fail to compete. Brighton’s youth set-up is producing some promising talent, and when the likes of Hall and Forster-Caskey, who scored last weekend, have forced their way into the first team squad on merit anyway.

Also, a rotation of Brighton’s options means we’re liable to see a rare outing for Vicente, who I promise you is the best quality player Wrexham will come up against this season (well, at least until Sergio Aguerro in the fourth round!)

Wrexham have injury problems too, and although they aren’t so great in number, they might just be a more serious handicap. Losing Danny Wright is a blow. He’s been in excellent form lately and makes things stick up the pitch. Although goals have been elusive for him, his value to the side is clear. Wrexham have been able to mix things up effectively this season; if they can they’ll pass through midfield, but if that isn’t working they can always look to hit the ever-willing Wright early in the knowledge that he’ll hold the ball up and wait for support.

In Wright’s absence Andy Morrell’s next-best option through the middle is Mathias Pogba, who has size and pace and holds the ball up well, even if he’s nowhere near as effective as Wright in the air. However, Pogba seems equally unlikely to be fit, so Morrell has a dilemma.

The obvious option is to pick himself, Jake Speight and Adrian Cieslewicz up front. That would leave him lacking a physical presence up there, so any long balls would have to be accurate. I’d assume Speight would be the one who spends the most time through the middle in that formation, using his ability to back in to hold up the ball, but the service to him would have to be good to allow him to be effective; launching long balls which are higher than his chest would give him little chance against a solid centre back like Adam El Abd.

That makes a functioning midfield essential, which presents Morrell with another issue. With Lee Fowler having manufactured himself a transfer, Wrexham have lost their midfield playmaker. The trio of Harris, Tolley and Clarke who played the last couple of games are admirable, but you wouldn’t really describe any of them as incisive passers; their strengths lie in other areas. Will Morrell back them to provide the accurate service the front three will need? I suspect he will-after all, none of hem deserve to be left out-but he might be wishing Dean Keates had returned from his collarbone break a week or two earlier, as he might have been able to offer a wider range of passing from midfield. I suspect this match might have come just a little too early for him, but expect him to be the first sub on.

Or, if you’re a gambler, do you fancy a flutter on Wrexham addressing the issue of creativity with a surprise selection and throwing Glen Little in from the start, either in midfield to offer quality of pass or as a wide man in the front three, dropping deep to link up with the midfield? No, me neither, although there’s some logic in it; opening the game up early on, getting a goal and then digging in for the clean sheet is probably Wrexham’s best hope of success, and throwing Little in for a first half cameo and then having a more solid configuration in midfield after the break might be a clever move.

The other fascinating aspect of this game is how Wrexham’s much vaunted defence stands up to a serious examination from a good Championship team. It has been outstanding in the Conference, standing rock-solid when the side goes through a rough patch, enabling Wrexham to grind out wins when they’re under par. Furthermore, when Brentford tried to throw the kitchen sink at them int he last half hour of the previous round, they held firm and Mayebi didn’t have too much to do. Having held off a good League One side, can it survive a Championship-quality onslaught?

If it can, this tie will get very tasty. Poyet’s selection decision will be judged on his side’s ability to break down Wrexham’s defensive unit. If he opts for the youngsters, they might just find it hard going, breaking down a strong back four with three midfielders filling the channels in front of them. Mental resolve and experience can be crucial in one-off games like this, and a youthful Brighton side could run into problems against a Wrexham side that is are confident and used to prevailing: if you don’t count the losses to Hinckley and Airbus when Morrell picked reserve or youth sides-then we’d be two games off the club record for an unbeaten streak; those are the only two games we’ve lost in twenty matches.

The tactical flexibility of the two benches will also play a factor. Poyet favours a fluent approach, comfortable with switching formations and positions as the game progresses. With Morrell likely to be on the pitch, Billy Barr will be calling the shots, as he already has so often. Since he and Morrell took over the side has been less flexible tactically than they were under Saunders, less likely to radically overhaul the side during play. This conservatism has been a key factor in Wrexham’s success, proving the value of not fixing it if it ain’t broke. If one of Poyet’s gambles proves effective, Wrexham might not be swift to counter it, but he might have to be ingenious to disrupt Wrexham’s well-grooved shape.

Conceding an early goal would put Wrexham in a hole, chasing the game, so unable to play to their strengths and dig in at the back, with key components of the attack missing. However, the longer they can withstand Brighton, especially if Poyet goes for youth, the more chance there is of Morrell adding a remarkable feather to his cap. Let’s hope the precedents of Hinckley and Airbus are followed, and the strong favourites select and under strength side, which the away team can take advantage of!

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