Peterborough United Season Preview: strong midfield

poshIn pre-season, Peterborough United are often considered as one of League One’s likely promotion contenders. After ninth and 13th placed finishes however, it is time for the club to live up to its own, partially self-imposed hype. Do Posh have the midfield quality to launch a promotion push this season, or are expectations unrealistic? Examining the reality is supporter Alex Batt (@AlexBatt).

Peterborough used 43 players last season, not to mention three managers. Was the lack of stability a reason why you conceded 73 goals?

Lack of stability and a lack of leadership was the real issue at Posh last season. The captains armband was thrown around from week to week, and the starting XI was changed way to many times. No-one knew what side would be played and that’s an issue when you are trying to build momentum and obtain some consistency.

On the other hand you scored 82, Oxford and Cheltenham being the only professional clubs in England to net more. Are you excited by the creative talent available?

Posh have always been able to score goals. We are always up there for goals scored, and last season was no different. When you have the likes of Marcus Maddison and Jon Taylor, it’s easy to see why we score so many goals. Losing Conor Washington obviously affected the goals in the latter half of the season, but when you’re a Posh fan, you are always expecting goals, goals, goals.

Grant McCann has signed a four-year contract as Peterborough manager. Given that chairman Darragh MacAnthony has publicly said that seventh would be unacceptable this season, will McCann be given time?

I think the one thing MacAnthony wants now is some stability. Posh have got a bad reputation now for sacking managers and then sacking their replacements. It’s been a bad few seasons for the club off the pitch as well as on it. McCann is probably the guy who will get some time just because of his reputation at the club. The last thing MacAnthony will want is another failed appointment. He’s had too many already.

MacAnthony clearly cares about the club and puts a lot of work into it. However, after a disappointing few seasons, is his extreme positivity appropriate?

MacAnthony is very much a marmite type figure at Posh right now. Some love him and some hate him. His tendency to over-hype players has cost him a lot of support and it’s easy to see why. The players he has hyped up have rarely shone for us. However, if you can’t be positive about your own club and your own players, you are probably in the wrong business. However, he does need a bit of a reality check at times.

Goalkeeper Ben Alnwick has signed a new contract. With Mark Tyler 39 and Dion Curtis-Henry unproven, was it important to keep him?

Very important. Ben is another who splits opinions within the fan base, but when you have a 39-year-old and a relatively unknown ‘keeper as your other options, keeping Alnwick was the right decision.

Like Alnwick, Michael Smith has penned a three-year deal. With Hayden White joining from Blackpool, do you expect to have strong competition for the right-back spot?

If I’m honest, I haven’t seen a lot of Hayden White, however, all I’ve heard is good things. If he can displace Michael Smith in the first-team, then he’s clearly a top player as I see Smith as one of the best right-backs in League One.

Gabriel Zakuani clearly had passion for the club, but some felt his performances had not been ideal. With an aerially dominant centre-back in Ryan Tafazolli coming in, was it right to let go of Zakuani?

There comes a time when you have to let legends leave. Zakuani’s time at London Road was over and it was right to see him go. He’s simply not good enough on the pitch anymore and with Ryan Tafazolli coming in, it was an easy decision to let Gabz go. He’ll be missed for other reasons though.

Are you worried that you have not yet secured a permanent deal for left-back Callum Elder? If you don’t get him back, was it a mistake to let go of Andrew Fox?

Left-back is clearly the weak spot right now. I was actually impressed by Fox at the end of last season so was surprised to see him go. Elder is the priority right now and Grant McCann knows that. I expect a new left-back signed sooner rather than later, even if it’s not Elder.

Chris Forrester was named Player of the Season last term. With the likes of Jon Taylor and Marcus Maddison there as well, would you say midfield quality was one of the real positive aspects of the previous campaign?

Midfield is certainly the strong point. Forrester, Taylor and Maddison were the real standout players, but then you have Jermaine Anderson coming back from a serious injury who was brilliant prior to that. We’ve made a couple of additions in that department as well, so I expect a friendly rivalry for those spots.

Bradden Inman and Gwion Edwards sign from Crewe and Crawley respectively. Can you see either of them getting much game time?

Similar to Hayden White, I’ve not seen a lot of these two, but once again, both come with good reputations. From what I’ve read, Inman might be the one pushing for a first-team spot, but with the midfield we have, and the players at our disposal, it could be tough for both to get regular game time.

Your poor 2016 form coincided with the departure of striker Conor Washington. Are any of your current strikers capable of replacing his goals?

The striker situation is an issue. We have quantity up front, but I’m not 100% convinced we have the quality. Conor found some stunning form under Graham Westley, and was scoring for fun, something our other strikers haven’t seemed to do. It’s certainly a worry.

What are your thoughts ahead of the League One season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I fully expect another tough League One campaign. Some big teams have been relegated from the Championship and then you have the teams at the top from last season who failed in the playoffs. I actually tipped Burton Albion to be a dark horse this time last year, and was proven right with their promotion, but this season I can only see the likes of MK Dons, Bolton and Charlton sitting near the top.

Where will you finish? We both predicted Posh to make the top six last summer…

Predicting Posh seasons is like predicting the weather. Sadly I don’t think McCann will get us playoff football this season, however. It’s time to be honest about Peterborough United and we currently aren’t a top-six team. I’ll say 9th.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

There is talent at Peterborough United, particularly in midfield. However, a sense of instability, defensive woes and the absence of a prolific goalscorer could make for another disappointing campaign. 17th

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