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Hot Off The Press: Wycombe Wanderers

Sky Sports' James Kilpatrick previews The Chairboys

5 September 2020

It’s less than two months since Joe Jacobson’s penalty sealed a 2-1 win for Wycombe against Oxford in the play-off final at Wembley. Has it sunk in that the Chairboys are a Championship club for the first time?

It has not and quite possibly will not all season. For Wycombe to get promoted from League One is an incredible achievement, having had the lowest playing budget in the third tier, so to now be in the Championship defies logic. The fact it has never been done in the club's 133-year history makes it even more special. Wycombe fans view the 2020/21 season as an extended celebration of a remarkable campaign where they were widely expected to be nearer the relegation zone rather than the play-offs.

This season will be no different which will make it all the more enjoyable as there are simply no targets among the fans. Any victory against financially mightier opposition, which is virtually everyone, will be a bonus. The big hope, of course, is that the fans can physically make trips to Adams Park and a host of exciting new away stadiums this season against brand new opposition as soon as possible.

This historic season starts in unorthodox fashion, with a weekend Carabao Cup fixture that just so happens to be the first competitive fixture at Brentford’s new home at Lionel Road. How have pre-season preparations gone?

Like it has for every EFL club this year, pre-season is passing by at a frantic pace as one elongated season ends and the new one begins. It will be a nice moment for Wycombe to be a part of Brentford's history by becoming the first opposition to face the Bees competitively at the Brentford Community Stadium. A 1-0 victory over Southampton U23s was a good start to friendly action before a heavy 5-1 defeat to West Ham - which was not exactly encouraging, albeit against far stronger opposition. A 5-2 defeat to a strong Aston Villa side on Saturday also suggests they need to tighten up defensively. Nevertheless, morale appears high amongst the players, as you would expect following their play-off exploits, and everyone in and around the club cannot wait for the new season to get underway.

At the time of writing, the club have released four players and made six new signings, most recently bringing in Jason McCarthy from Millwall for a fourth spell at Adams Park. What have you made of their business so far?

The six signings include two who have been at Wycombe before. The aforementioned McCarthy returns to the club for a fourth time, while Giles Phillips, a useful utility defender on loan last season, has signed on permanently. Daryl Horgan from Hibs provides a pacey option on the flanks while centre-back Ryan Tafazolli from Hull looks to be good cover in central defence. Arguably the most eye-catching signing Wycombe have made so far is striker Uche Ikpeazu from Hearts. The 25-year-old is known for having formidable strength and is quick. He should provide competition in the centre forward role for Adebayo Akinfenwa and the industrious Alex Samuel. Although Ikpeazu’s goal tally at Hearts is not that impressive (10 in 55 appearances), he should fit well into Gareth Ainsworth's brand of football and he will hopefully make an impact in games where they will have little possession.

Preparing for the new season has meant tough personnel decisions. Though the transfer window is still open, Wycombe have retained all their key players and handed experienced leaders Matt Bloomfield, Anthony Stewart, Joe Jacobson (multi-year) and Akinfenwa (one-year) new contracts. They have been playing trialists in pre-season friendlies and are continually looking to bolster the squad on a far more limited budget than their Championship rivals.

In which areas do you think they need to strengthen before the transfer window closes in early October?

Wycombe need to make some more signings if they are to be competitive in the Championship. The priorities would be one or two defensive-minded central midfielders and a left-back to give Jacobson competition. First-choice goalkeeper was a problem area last season and still requires addressing. David Stockdale was expected to replace Ryan Allsop but key blunders early on saw the latter return between the sticks. Wycombe fans would feel more comfortable with a new reliable goalkeeper as they realistically expect their goal to be peppered with shots.

How would you expect Gareth Ainsworth to set up his side?

Not too differently from last season. Wycombe traditionally set up in a 4-3-3 formation with three defensive-minded central midfielders, two quick wingers and usually rotate between having a target man striker (Akinfenwa) and a more agile forward (Samuel). As it stands the only key difference to the starting XI would be Ikpeazu perhaps coming in as the first-choice striker and possibly Horgan on the wing. But team selection decisions will, of course, depend on how much faith Ainsworth has in his new signings based on what he has seen in pre-season.

What’s your score prediction?

Wycombe will look to put on a good display in their first game of the season in front of the Sky cameras. With Brentford having nine players missing due to international duty, I’m predicting the visitors to sneak a 1-0 victory.

Sunday's game is only available to watch via Sky Sports. For more information click here


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