Five things Stockdale needs to improve for the 2022/2023 season.
Wednesday, 25th May 2022 10:09 by AtThePeake
As we enter another summer rebuild, we take a look at five things that have to improve in the next campaign after a disjointed 2021/2022 season.
Develop a more defined style
I've often pondered this season - what kind of team are we? We're not particularly good at any one thing. We keep possession fairly well, but without being as eye-catching as we were when that aspect of BBM's team clicked. We don't get the ball wide and put crosses into the box. We aren't a counter-attacking outfit that can sit deep and spring out at a moment's notice. We aren't particularly physical, or difficult to play against, or anything really.
One thing I want to see more than anything next season is evidence of what style of team we are trying to be. I see a lot of people who don't support us say we play good football, but I only remember a handful of times where I walked off the ground feeling that we'd actually played well. I don't want to support the kind of team that opposition supporters praise after taking three points from us.
I'm not saying that we need to world-beaters, I'll happily take a team that defends well and works hard out of possession if that's what the intention is - but I at least want to know what the intention is. I don't want to watch another 12 months of being a team that frankly, it's hard to understand, never mind love.
Add more bite to the midfield
Some might say the fact that we conceded fewer fouls than any other team in the league may be a positive thing, but does it point to a weak underbelly in this team, particularly in the midfield areas?
When you consider that bottom-placed Scunthorpe conceded the most fouls in the league, it certainly isn't a stat to be overly concerned with changing drastically, but there has been a criticism that this Dale team lacks a little character and perhaps the winning mentality that's required to push too high up the table.
While Stephen Dooley and Liam Kelly possess certain qualities, physical, ball-winning midfielders they aren't and somebody who is capable of screening the defence may allow us to be more flexible in terms of the formations we can play as well as adding the attributes that have been sorely missed in midfield during the 2021/22 campaign.
Improve the away form
I can count on one hand the amount of times I left an away match last season feeling like Dale had performed to the best of their abilities - and perhaps that leads back into the aforementioned lack of character as a young squad perhaps struggled with performing in different environments away from home as the season stretched on.
Some of the lacklustre performances towards the end of the season were a far cry from the 'No Fear' approach that made Keith Hill so popular in his first spell in charge. Dour defeats to the likes of Crawley and Stevenage stuck out as particularly tough to watch against beatable opposition.
After the win at Barrow in October, our only two victories on the road would come at bottom-placed Scunthorpe (after a frankly pathetic first-half display) and in a final day dead rubber at Newport. Whether we need to adopt a more fearless approach or a more conservative, counter-attacking one I'm unsure but either way, something needs to give on the road.
Make sure we're converting chances
As the season stretched on, a noticeable theme in the stats that cropped up on Twitter was Dale ranking high in fields such as xG and chance creation and yet at no point did we look like a team that was seriously competing for a place higher up the table - despite what the stats suggested we were capable of.
After Jake Beesley's departure in January, the goalscoring burden was shouldered by Tahvon Campbell and then, after the former Woking man sustained an injury, Luke Charman. Both players appeared to struggle with the relative step-up from the non-league ranks and both ended the campaign with just two goals each - Charman's duo coming as a brace in a home defeat to Bristol Rovers.
Whether we need to find another forward player who is more reliable in front of goal, or whether we need to ensure that both Campbell and Charman are being supplied with the right kinds of chances, it would be nice to see potential goals turned into actual goals on a more consistent basis next term.
Foster a connection between the players and fans
There was a brief period in late August and early September, with the 100 years in the EFL anniversary game against Colchester, the news that Morton House were set to divest their shares and the away wins at Port Vale and Northampton, where I thought that a special bond may just be about to develop between this set of players and the club's supporters.
In hindsight, I think that was just me willing that connection into existence. After 18 months of no football and several months of sweating over the existence of the club, it felt like the supporters deserved a team they truly connected with and believed in, but it slowly transpired that this wasn't really the case last season.
Many players felt like they were passing through the club with no real understanding with the supporters. It's a tough thing to create and it involves more than just going over to clap fans at full-time, but if the players can get their own supporters on side, we'll do everything we can to make their lives easier on the pitch.
Photo: Action Images
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