Preview | Chesterfield (h)
It's unbelievable to find us going into the fourth game of a new season and it's still only the third week in August. That said there's nothing better than games coming thick and fast.
Chesterfield are the visitors to Meadow Lane this weekend in a later than normal 5:20pm kick-off to accommodate the BT Sport camera's. No doubt both sets of supporters will be on tenterhooks waiting to hear Adam Virgo's analysis, which will mostly be about Wrexham!
The Spireites have had an encouraging start to the new campaign, with two home wins without conceding following an incident packed opening away day draw at newcomers Dorking Wanderers.
Paul Cook's men appear to have found their stride early on with the latter of those two home wins against odds on favourites for promotion Wrexham, who, on the face of it haven't had the most convincing of starts themselves.
Either way Chesterfield, backed by a large following support, will make the short trip to Nottingham full of confidence and Cook will no doubt have his players well drilled and readied for a game that will not be for the feint hearted.
As mentioned earlier Chesterfield have had a very positive start to the season which sees them joint top of the table with Barnet on 7 points.
The win over Wrexham on Tuesday night is an early indicator that The Spireites are determined to be in the mix for the title come season's end.
That said when you look at playing style actions for the three games so far, Chesterfield's actions, on the face of it, look a little underwhelming.
The values for these actions are metrics recorded by Wyscout and represent a percentage ranking comparing all 24 National League teams.
Considering the start Chesterfield have had, and knowing the kind of manager Paul Cook is, you would have expected them to rank a bit higher in certain actions such as press, challenge intensity and territory.
However, viewing these actions over the three games so far is probably a little unfair. Their pressing data for the first game at Dorking was shot pieces following the dismissal of goalkeeper Lucas Covolan on 27 minutes and despite the win over Wrexham, which saw Chesterfield record 21 attempts on goal compared to just 7 from their opponents, it was Phil Parkinson's men that recorded the better pressing stats.
Notts on the other hand, under the stewardship of Luke Williams, top the rankings in 4 of the 7 actions compared.
Deep circulation and ball possession have become a trademark of The Magpies play since dropping into non-league. However, a high press and challenge intensity are aspects of their game that never really showcased in previous seasons.
Now before we move on it's only right that I raise fair warning over the validity of some of this data.
PPDA or passes allowed per defensive action, is a metric largely used to identify the efficiency of a teams press, and rightly so, after all it details the number of passing actions a team allows their opponents before the ball is lost or goes dead. Therefore it stands to reason that the lower this figure is the more aggressive the press.
However, there are some crossovers to consider when analysing pressing data because there are outliers that also impact these findings, none more so than ball possession. A team that enjoys a large percentage of ball possession will, by default be reducing the passing opportunities of their opponents, which in turn will reduce their opponents PPDA effectiveness.
Additionally, a team that plays a more direct style, looking to advance the ball quickly will by default record fewer passes, inadvertently improving their opponents PPDA value.
We'll probably continue to analyse and monitor these metrics over the coming weeks and try to determine if there are metrics and actions that better define a teams playing style.
The radar charts below visualise these match actions. You can use the combine/separate button to merge the two charts for easier comparison.
You’ll struggle to find a better midfield pairing in the National League than Chesterfield duo Darren Oldaker and Ollie Banks, and it’s certainly a worry that the Spireites flourish in an area Notts perhaps struggle a little.
Oldaker, who made 21 League One appearances for Gillingham joined from Dorking in the summer, and so far he has been an instant success, recording a pass completion rate of 87.23%, 22nd highest in the league.
Ollie Banks has only played 2 full games in midfield, having covered in goal for Covolan on the opening day, but despite this he still ranks 6th for progressive passes (36).
Both are creators from deep, and Notts midfield with have to be combative, but also not allow them space to pick passes; Jim O’Brien’s energy may be crucial.
Nicknamed ‘The Albanian Messi’ for good reason, 21 year old Armando Dobra has looked imperious so far in a Chesterfield shirt. A diminutive attacker, who likes to drift in from the left to occupy pockets of space, Dobra is bound to be a real handful for the Notts defence.
The former Ipswich Town man has attempted 26 dribbles, the third highest in the league, and it’s sure to be a feature of the game on Saturday evening, expecting to see him picking the ball up and driving at the Notts defence.
Blessed with quick feet and an equally sharp mind, Dobra already has 2 assists this season, and will be looking to add to that tally this weekend.
Whilst much has been, and should be, made about Chesterfield’s attacking prowess, they have also been defensively resolute so far, keeping 2 clean sheets in 2, and not conceding a single goal with a recognised keeper in goal.
A huge part of this success is right back Jeff King, who opened the scoring against Wrexham on Tuesday night. King has won 66.67% of his defensive duels this season, but it’s with the ball at his feet he has excelled.
Making 43 progressive passes, ranking him 6th of all players in the division, King is crucial to how Chesterfield like to play. Notts will need to press the 26 year old defender in order to shut his progressive passing down.
Tshimanga - to start or not to start . . .
It’s been very well documented just how crucial Kabongo Tshimanga’s injury was to Chesterfield’s season crumbling in 21/22. The Congolese striker fired 24 goals in 27 games, but has only got 30 minutes of National League football under his belt since the injury that ended his season.
Paul Cook didn’t need to risk Tshimanga on Tuesday evening as his side handily dispatched of Wrexham, so the question on everyone’s lips heading into Saturday is whether Paul Cook sticks or twists.
Akwasi Asante, a man who was transfer listed just a month ago, has proven himself to be a very capable deputy in Tshimanga’s absence, with the 29 year old emulating much of the physical attributes Tshimanga brings to the side. The Dutch forward has also proven his worth in front of goal, with a goal and an assist on the opening day away at Dorking, and striking the post against Wrexham on Tuesday night.
Whilst Asante has shown he can step up, there is no doubt that Tshimanga is a cut above; he is probably the best forward in the league. And in his 30 minute cameo against Aldershot, he was extremely impressive.
Tshimanga’s movement and threat occupied the defenders, allowing Mandeville the time and space to sweep home, and during his sub appearance he was a real handful, turning his man before firing low, and forcing a good stop from Luca Ashby-Hammond. On that showing, he is likely to be ready for action at Meadow Lane, so Paul Cook faces a tough decision.
Cook may decide that Tshimanga would be a good option off the bench, and the uncertainty is likely to cause worry for Magpies boss Luke Williams. Either way, Notts face a tough task, and must hope the forward isn’t back to his free scoring best.
Finally a look at the curious case of Ross Fitzsimons.