Crewe Alexandra Season Preview: change needed

creweAlan Hansen’s infamous quote ‘you can’t win anything with kids’ might have been dismissed by Manchester United in the 90s, but it is now ringing true at Gresty Road. Crewe Alexandra’s midfield lacked physicality and defensive nous, while their back-line had an average age of 23. Jon Guthrie won the Players’ Player of the Year last season but some argue the club has been too loyal to young defenders who haven’t performed over the last few seasons.

They have added experience this summer in the shape of strikers Ryan Lowe and Chris Dagnall, who have scored goals in the division above. However, the only other additions are Liam Smith and loanee Alex Kiwomya, both of whom 20 years of age. Crewe desperately needed knowhow and power in other areas to tighten up against opposition counter-attacks, having conceded 83 goals last season.

The Railwaymen finished that campaign with just seven wins. One might have expected a complete overhaul of the squad and arguably a new manager, after the tactical naivety Steve Davis showed at times. It is reasonable to question whether chairman John Bowler’s faith in the long-serving boss is dictated by his heart more than his head, and whether a fresh start was instead required.

To address a concerning lack of energy, Davis has set up a fitness league table this summer to monitor the work rate of individual players. Zoumana Bakayogo is likely to be near the top of that list, having been one of the quicker, more physically imposing performers last term. Other bright sparks include 17-year-old midfielder Callum Ainley, who made an impact from the bench in certain games last season, and fellow youngster Charlie Kirk. Those players are tasked with replacing the quality of 10-goal man midfielder Brad Inman, who has left for Peterborough.

Crewe are not short of technical midfielders, however. The main ingredients missing are an experienced centre-back and a ball-winner, in the mould of Alan Tate and Anthony Grant respectively, who were key to their survival the year before. All in all, Crewe’s transfer business seems unsuitably unhurried for a club that finished with 34 points last year. The club could pay heavily for neglecting the need for change.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 24th