Millwall 2019-20 Season So Far with Lucas Ball and Adam Bissett

Millwall are about to re-start their Championship campaign, so Gabriel Sutton spoke to Lucas Ball (@LTBall2211) and Adam Bissett (@MillwallAnalyt1). Here’s what they had to say about the Lions.

Had the Championship season began when Gary Rowett took charge in October, Millwall would be fifth. Although Rowett has no prior connection to the Lions, there’s something about him and Millwall that just feels right, isn’t there?

Lucas: He just seems to understand the club and have fitted in really well. He’s made an effort to understand and maintain the key elements of what made us successful under Neil Harris originally, whilst improving the players and adding a real tactical nous that was lacking under the previous manager.

I’m excited about the future with him in charge.
Adam: Yes there does! I feel like he came into Millwall with good experience of the Championship and has learnt from his mistakes at other clubs so I feel his experience has helped. I also feel like he understands  us as a club so he knows what us fans are like and how we can help the team in certain situations.

Adam Barrett did a good job in temporary charge, overseeing four points from a tough three-game sequence including victory over Leeds. Do you think he is a valued member of the coaching team?

Lucas: Definitely. Barrett was one of the favourites for the Southend job before Sol Campbell took over and already has his UEFA Pro Licence. We looked very good against Leeds when he took charge, playing some lovely football and I have no doubts surrounding his ability to adapt under a new manager.
He’s obviously doing something right, too, given our strong defensive displays.
Adam: Yeah I do think he is a valuable member of the coaching team. He had 3 tough games to manage and did pretty well. That experience was helpful for him.

How do you feel about the ownership of the club? The fact John Berylson has been chairman since 2007 and you’re currently owned Millwall Holdings might suggest money is tight, but then again, you’re obviously a club that has historically relished battling against the odds…

Lucas: We have one of, probably, the smallest six or seven budgets in the division. But we still manage to compete. It’s testament to how far good characters and recruitment can get you.
Hopefully, with clubs looking to reduce spending after this crisis, it’ll be a bit more of a level playing field and we can do even better.
Adam: I love the chairman. If you look at all the clubs now with bad owners eg. Charlton, Bury etc we are actually lucky to have someone like Berylson who has stuck with us. We may not be the richest but we are certainly doing our best recruitment wise and it seems to be working!

Bartosz Bialkowski has been among the best goalkeepers in the Championship in three of the last four seasons. Pleased with his debut season at the Den?

Lucas: He’s been brilliant. He’s made some astounding saves when we’ve been under pressure and seems to organise his defence well.
An absolute steal for the price that we paid.
Adam: Very pleased with Bart! After last season and what happened with Archer, we really needed someone to make us feel comfortable when the opposition have a shot. Bart has kept us in games and sometimes won then for us!

Bialkowski and Frank Fielding are both 32; they may need long-term replacements. Hoping to see Ryan Sandford gradually introduced to the first team squad next season?

Lucas: Bart’s form suggests that he isn’t starting to drop off at all yet, if anything he’s got better as the season’s gone on.
We haven’t seen much of Fielding but I think he’ll be a capable back up when fit.
I can’t see Sandford being introduced next season given he’s never made a professional league appearance.
Adam: Maybe not next season. I think Ryan needs some experience, but hopefully in the coming seasons we may see him feature.

You’ve got three of the Championship’s better centre-backs in Shaun Hutchinson, Alex Pearce and Jake Cooper. Do you think using them simultaneously in a 5-2-3 has given you the defensive solidity that Rowett wanted?

Lucas: Definitely. The wing backs allow us to transition quickly whilst maintaining elements that make us strong – such as the right hand side partnership between Mahlon Romeo and Jed Wallace.
Adam: They’ve all been superb. Hutch and Cooper are fantastic centre backs and they’re along side Pearce with plenty of experience, who brings his leadership qualities. Pearce is, however, getting old so I’d expect a younger centre back to come in next season.

The 5-2-3 clearly requires very energetic midfielders to both protect the back five and keep the front-three in touch with the rest of the team. With Jayson Molumby going back to Brighton and Ryan Leonard looking a touch limited in possession, will Shaun Williams have the stamina to do that in every game at 33, or will you need to strengthen that area?

Lucas: Hopefully, if Brighton stay up and we remain in the Championship, we can take Molumby for another season – but we’ll have to wait to see.
Leonard started to pick up before his injury against Leeds, and looked an improved player. I’ll be interested to see how he does under Rowett.
Williams is still going strong at the moment, and I think he’s got at least another season in him at this level.
Adam: We may need to bring another one in especially is Molumby goes (what a player he is!). And with Williams ageing, we also might need another one who possesses his passing ability. I think Leonard is a good player and he was starting to pick up some form before his injury, so it would be nice to see him play next season. However, yes we should be looking at bringing in at least 1.

Ryan Woods gained rave reviews at this level in his time at Brentford. Has he dictated games with the same authority for your lot?

Lucas: I think he’s one of those that people don’t really always notice is playing superbly. He’s tenacious without the ball and energetic, which suits us perfectly. But, when we’ve got the ball, he can go a little unnoticed as he does lots of simple things very well. Without watching him intently, you may not realise just how much of a controlling and calming presence he is in midfield.

Adam: He’s took a while to find his form again. He probably had his best game against Forest before we stopped playing unfortunately. But, we can definitely see his quality! Hopefully when we return, he can dictate the games like we know he can.

Based on his form at Portsmouth, and with your lot around early Spring last season, Ben Thompson is best used as the most advanced player in a three-man midfield. Do you see a place for him in a 5-2-3? Could he embrace a deeper role or, at a push, could you convert him into a false nine?

Lucas: When he first broke into the side, he was viewed as more of a defensive midfielder and played with the likes of Williams and Jimmy Abdou in a 4-4-2. I think he’s certainly capable of returning to that deeper role when required, with his energy levels making him a perfect option as a box to box midfielder, in my opinion.
I don’t know that he’s enough of a presence – or that we have the right wingers – for him to be employed as a false nine.
Adam: I agree that he’s probably best suited to the advanced midfielder. Ben is a great player, one of our own! I could also see him playing wide in the front 3 as he has the stamina and work rates needed for that role. He does need to work on being more prolific in front of goal though if he plays the advanced role.

Mahlon Romeo is a very athletic player, but his defensive awareness can perhaps be lacking at times. Is the Antiguan better used as a right wing-back than as a right-back?

Lucas: I think Mahlon’s defensive ability has really come on this season. He’s still got areas where he could improve but he’s a very good player, and – on his day – one of the best full backs in the division.

Adam: Yes, I think he’s better of in the wing back role, which is why he’s been playing so well since playing the 523. I like Romeo and he’s key in the attacking phase down the right flank with Jed.

Interestingly, your wing-back options on the other flank are Murray Wallace and Shane Ferguson, who I’d argue are the stylistic opposite of Romeo. Would you want another wing-back to allow Wallace to provide cover for Pearce or Cooper at centre-back?

Lucas: We don’t employ the 5-3-2 all the time, so our centre back options should be ok with Williams also able to play there if we were desperate. As can Jason McCarthy, who’ll be back from his loan spell at Wycombe next season if Rowett wants him.
I’d like to see an out an out left back, though, just to give us a different option.
Adam: Exactly that! I was a little surprised we didn’t get a left back in on loan in January, but to be fair, Murray Wallace has done a terrific job!

Jed Wallace was very much your traditional winger in the 2017-18 Play-Off push but since then, he seems to have been given more freedom to get into central areas and he’s done that even better this year with 10 goals and eight assists. Has Wallace’s ability to embrace different roles made him one of the best wide forwards in the Championship?

Lucas: He had a lot of freedom then too, to be honest. He’s always been one to come inside and roam, having started his career as a number ten at Portsmouth.
His end product has improved massively, though, turning him into the threat that we all thought he could be.
Adam: Yeah, I think so. He’s adding goals and assists to his game and becoming a great player. Maybe needs a bit more work defensively, but playing the 523 gives him that freedom to play further forward and create/score more goals.

A bit like the wing-back positions, your threat was lopsided in favour of the right flank until Mason Bennett joined in January to offer an alternative outlet on the left. Was he an important addition in that sense and do you expect him to join permanently?

Lucas: He’s been a good signing, actually. He adds pace and power down the left hand side, and he seems to enjoy playing under Rowett. He’s versatile too, which is important for clubs like us with slightly smaller budgets.
With his Derby contract set to expire, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a Millwall player come the start of next season.
Adam: Yeah Mason has been great! Added a bit of pace on the other flank and has caused teams problems. He also played the role behind the striker against Forest, which he played superbly, creating a goal. I expect him to sign permanently.

Rowett’s best teams have tended to have a centre-forward that is strong enough to hold the ball up but sufficiently mobile to create space for teammates – Stuart Beavon at Burton, Clayton Donaldson at Birmingham and David Nugent at Derby. Do you think he will want to try to find a striker that has elements of Matt Smith’s physique and aerial prowess combined with Bradshaw’s energy and movement? Or is he happy rotating between them?

Lucas: We’re yet to see the best of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, so he could perhaps be the forward to make way if anyone were to depart. Smith provides you with a completely different option to almost any forward in the division, which is key – whilst Bradshaw is a very clever player. His link play is superb.
The two of them work well up front together, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if we used the 4-4-2 more often and maybe shifted the 5-2-3 to a 5-2-1-2, with Wallace behind the two strikers.
Adam: I’m not sure to be honest! I don’t think Smith is Rowett’s ideal striker, but he’s scored plenty of goals this season and can also be used as a weapon against some teams. However, we may need an all round type of striker to play the 523 as Smith isn’t as mobile as we’d like.

Tyler Burey, Billy Mitchell, Junior Tiensia and Danny McNamara seem to have gained some decent reviews. Hoping to see more of either of them next year?

Lucas: Billy Mitchell looked good in the couple of FA Cup games that he played, but a loan spell might do him good given our other options in central midfield.
I think we need a left back, so it’d be interesting to see Tiensia get some game time in friendlies and perhaps the EFL Cup games to get going.
All of them, though, could probably do with another year out on loan – especially McNamara as we have good depth at right back currently.
Adam: Hopefully! It’s always good to see the youngsters get first team minutes. Rowett seems to really like Mitchell and James Brown so maybe we may see more of them. I’m also hoping we get to see Tiensia as he could fit into that left wing back role!

The race for the Play-Offs looks wide open with PNE, Bristol City, Cardiff, Blackburn and Swansea all appearing to have significant weaknesses. Reckon you’ll sneak sixth spot?

Lucas: Before lockdown, yes – I was confident, particularly after an amazing 3-0 win away at Forest.
We’ve got a good run in and play a few sides with nothing to play for, which could be ideal given the break. However, not having our home crowd will hit us harder than most clubs, I think – which could be a big loss.
I think it’ll be tight, but hopefully we can sneak in.
Adam: I reckon we can! Looking at our fixtures, i don’t see why not. I’m hoping we come back fit and can pick up where we left of!