With the season nearly upon us, and with the Gills now having completed nine signings to date, RainhamEndViews has taken a look at what could be the key – yet not necessarily obvious – areas for the boys in blue during the 2015-16 campaign.
The Gills’ summer arrivals so far.
Only two probable first team friendlies remain – the final outing at Faversham will more than likely be a development side – versus Championship side Brighton and League Two favourites Portsmouth, both at the MEMS Priestfield within the next five days.
From these two fixtures the Gills fans will surely have a better idea of what Justin Edinburgh thinks his team will be come Saturday 8th August against Sheffield United.
On the back of that, we are attempting to look into our metaphorical crystal ball and see who could be pivotal during the 2015-16 campaign.
THE WING BACKS:
Since his arrival in February, Edinburgh has been a big advocate of the 3-5-2 system, which allows him to employ two centre forwards and an attacking midfielder.
For this formation to be successful though, it needs the two wide players to act as both a defender and an attacker, so for this Justin has gone back to his tried and trusted.
Step forward Bradley Garmston and Ryan Jackson, two players who Justin has previous with.
He has secured Garmston permanently having seen him excel on loan during 2014-15. and has linked up with Jackson for a second time having been his boss in Wales with Newport County.
It will be hoped Garmston carries on from where he left off when on loan.
Both come with decent reputations, are at a good age, and have the correct attributes to be successful in the wing back role.
The pair of them have pace and athleticism in abundance, and their fitness levels in getting up and down their respective wings could be crucial.
Ryan Jackson in pre-season action at Bromley.
Just how successful they are could have a big bearing on how the Gills fare this season, as they will have responsibilities at both ends of the pitch.
THE ‘FALSE’ CENTRE BACK:
With Justin’s love for three centre backs and wing backs, there could be a case for having a ball playing central defender who can step out and start attacks from the back.
Granted, this is probably not seen as the norm or indeed fashionable in League One, but if implemented correctly it could surprise teams and give the Gills an advantage in games.
Step forward Jordan Houghton and Aaron Morris.
Aaron Morris (left) and Jordan Houghton (right) could both be pivotal to the Gills.
Both have been used in a deep lying central midfield role, or the ‘quarterback’ position as it has more recently become known, and if employed correctly it could see the Gills switch seamlessly between a 3-5-2 and a 4-4-2 diamond without it being barely noticeable.
Houghton or Morris could operate as the ‘false’ centre back.
Stepping out means the centre backs split & wing backs drop in.
Houghton has come from Chelsea with a reputation for being a very good ball player but also a strong defender – something we saw during his recent debut at Bromley – so he could be an early favourite for the role, but equally Morris could also shine in the same position.
He has featured as a centre back during pre-season, and with his good engine, tackling ability and ball carrying skills, Edinburgh has options in what could be a pivotal position over the coming nine months or so.
Obviously we are not saying that if one fills this specific role then the other will not have a part to play, because either could operate as a traditional centre midfielder.
Plus Houghton could feature as an out and out centre half like he has done for the Chelsea Under-21 side, and Morris has also been used as a defender when required.
If implemented correctly, this understated yet very important role could be a difference maker come the business end of the campaign.
THE LINK MAN:
Offensively all Gillingham fans know about the talents of Bradley Dack in his role behind the strikers, much in the same way that they know all about Cody McDonald’s goal threat.
Therefore, if the supporters know about it then opposing managers and teams will also be aware of it, so what about looking for someone who could go in under the radar?
Two front men that have arrived during the summer have shown some early promise during the preliminary pre-season games, and if they can translate that to League One then they could both turn out to be very astute additions.
Ben Williamson has come in on a free transfer from Port Vale, and all the early signs are that he will be the type of player who can run the channels when needed, but is also just as adept at dropping deeper and linking play.
He is big enough to be employed as a target man, but also has sufficient pace to get in behind defenders.
His ability has already been in evidence, setting up Bradley Dack’s goal at Folkestone before opening his Gills account away at Bromley.
The alternative could be Northern Irishman Rory Donnelly, snapped up by Edinburgh having been released by Premier League Swansea City.
There were signs off his ability last term, where he played in a struggling Tranmere side in League Two, and Justin has clearly seen enough to be convinced he can make the step up a level.
If his debut is any sort of gage then we could have unearthed a hidden gem.
His goal at Folkestone was one of a natural finisher, recovering from a poor first touch to get the ball out of his feet before arrowing a drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
On top of that his hold up play was neat and tidy, and he was willing to play on the shoulder of the last defender if the need arose, but was just as happy receiving the ball into feet with his back to goal.
Donnelly making his presence felt at Folkestone.
He has gained further minutes in the other friendlies, and like Williamson will only improve as he works up to full fitness and starts building up stronger relationships with his new team mates.
We are aware that pre-season isn’t always the best guideline as to how a player or a team may fare during the hustle and bustle of a proper league season, but at this stage what else can we use as a barometer?
Not much more, other than looking at what players have achieved in previous seasons and at previous clubs.
As with all of our blogs, you may agree, you may not.
We just hope you enjoy the read, and will leave any constructive feedback on here or by replying on Twitter.
UP THE GILLS!!