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OPINION: Why the Lions can avoid relegation comfortably

August 22, 2017

Written by:

 

If you looked at the league table, you could be forgiven for thinking that Millwall had endured a poor start to the season. Purely points-wise, it looks like a sticky situation, but other than one player, the Lions' fans should have very few worries. Even though they are still looking for their first league win, Neil Harris' side have been the better side in all four games.

 

Against both Nottingham Forest and Bolton Wanderers, the Lions failed to convert numerous chances, and should have won both games comfortably. Having then taken the lead against Mick McCarthy's Ipswich, goalkeeping blunders and defensive concentration lapses meant that the Tractor Boys were allowed to get back into the game and take the lead. The Lions twice equalised, but poor game management and goalkeeping allowed Ipswich to grab a late winner. Against Bristol City, poor refereeing was a problem for the Lions, as City could have had two players sent off. They failed to take their chances again though, hitting the woodwork a couple of times.

 

Millwall have taken the second highest number of shots in the Championship so far and their attacking style has been praised by managers across the division, with McCarthy stating that his former club would have no trouble in staying up. With players of a much higher quality brought in (George Saville in particular), Harris has been able to adapt his tactics slightly with there being fewer long balls and Millwall pressing much higher up the pitch, something that wasn't employed last season and saw them struggle against some much lesser quality teams in the third tier of English football. A side that comes into a league where most of the teams are more reputable than them, and plays this aggressively will certainly stay up. Having played better than plenty of teams set for mid table finishes, the Lions will not have too many troubles in avoiding relegation.

 

There are still a few more things Millwall should do to get their first win as soon as possible and move up the table. They were expected to struggle, but their additions have done very well, especially George Saville and Tom Elliot. Jordan Archer has had a poor start to the season, and has many poor qualities for a goalkeeper. Most of the time he is flat footed, reacts slowly, dives small distances, looks uncomfortable coming for crosses and has awful distribution. Millwall’s second choice goalkeeper, Tom King, is better at most of these important attributes of goalkeeping, which begs the question as to why he isn’t starting. Both goalkeepers are young, but the former Spurs man Archer is much more experienced, which is surely the only reason the record goal scorer turned manager continues to pick the Scotsman, who somehow won his first call up this week.  For me, King deserves to start and did nothing wrong in his handful of games last season. His distribution is superb, and it would help Millwall to build attacks quickly from defence.

 

Jake Cooper should also come into the centre of defence for Byron Webster. With Cooper’s experience at this level, combined with his extra quality over the former Yeovil man. Cooper’s large frame makes him a horrible centre back for strikers to face, although Webster is not far off the Reading youth graduate. In the Championship, however, Cooper’s better quality in terms of passing range could make a big difference, and it is unlikely that he would have been exposed in the same way that Webster was against Ipswich Town.

Steve Morison has not been at his best so far in the Championship, but for how much Millwall relied on him last season, he deserves at least one more chance. If Tom Elliot has a big impact off the bench in another one or two games though, surely he has to start. Being taller than Morison, Elliot will win more headers, which could benefit Lee Gregory. Whilst the former Halifax Town man has a great partnership with Morison, Elliot’s higher headers won percentage will allow Gregory to take more gambles and run in behind the defence more often. Realistically, the more chances he has to score, the more goals he will put in the back of the net, allowing Millwall to pick up more points.

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