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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Wycombe Wanderers

Sky Sports' James Kilpatrick previews The Chairboys

29 January 2021

Despite an encouraging run of five wins and two draws from nine games between late October and early December, luck hasn’t been on Wycombe’s side of late and, as a result, they are yet to exit the relegation zone. What have you made of the past few months?

The last few months have undoubtedly been difficult. Injuries to key central midfielders Dom Gape and Curtis Thompson at different moments had proved problematic. Gareth Ainsworth has also spent considerable time looking at ways to make the attack less reliant on Adebayo Akinfenwa – who, unsurprisingly, cannot start every game aged 38 in a congested fixture schedule - and more threatening in front of goal. Most of the recent defeats, which have mostly been tight contests, have come when Wycombe played a diamond in midfield. The thinking behind this is was to find a way of coping with the shortage of central options and fit predominantly attacking players into the lineup. It did not work out.

But there is now cause for optimism. Wycombe's 2-1 win over Cardiff on 29 December was their best league performance of the season so far, with summer signing Uche Ikpeazu (pictured above) proving an effective focal point as the main target man up front. A disappointing defeat to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough was quickly put to bed thanks to an encouraging 4-1 FA Cup win over Preston and Wycombe more than held their own for 85 minutes against Tottenham in the fourth round. After an enforced two-week break due to a Covid outbreak at the club, Wycombe’s display against Jose Mourinho’s side will give fans plenty to be confident about heading into the Brentford game.

The saving grace is that they haven’t been cut adrift at the bottom and survival is still very much on the cards. That can only boost the famous team spirit we so often hear about, can’t it?

Absolutely. The break from playing league games will have given Wycombe a chance to reflect on the campaign so far and they will be encouraged by the Tottenham display. During the pause they will have analysed how they can repeat similar performances to the ones put in against Cardiff and Preston. Team spirit is certainly not a problem at Adams Park and morale around the club appears positive despite the adversity the club is facing. With relegation-threatened Birmingham, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby all coming up in the first half of February after Brentford, now is the perfect opportunity for Wycombe to go on a good run.

At the time of writing, the loan signing of Leicester frontman Admiral Muskwe has been the club’s only January transfer deal. What do you think they need to add in the final days of the window, if anything?

Bringing in another striker was a key priority. Now that they have done that, with most of the squad fully fit and Leicester defender Josh Knight signing a loan extension, there is no urgent need to make any further additions.

Last time out, you said Daryl Horgan would be the man to watch out for. Would you say that’s still the case, or is there someone else likely to cause issues for the Bees?

Ikpeazu has given everyone a boost having got up to full fitness in the last month. Wycombe fans are eagerly anticipating seeing more of the 25-year-old in action. He grabbed his first goal for the club against Middlesbrough and already looks to have forged a good understanding with Leicester loanee Muskwe if the FA Cup games against Preston and Tottenham were anything to go by. He caused Spurs’ Toby Alderweireld plenty of problems so he will be the man to watch. He should be a real handful for Ethan Pinnock and Mads Bech Sorensen.

How are Wycombe likely to set up at the Brentford Community Stadium?

Wycombe will likely line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Ikpeazu being supported by Muskwe and Fred Onyedinma. Alternatively, Daryl Horgan or Garath McCleary may play those roles depending on who Ainsworth feels is fit and up for the task. Whatever the front line is, fans can expect plenty of pace and physicality with Wycombe likely to be the ones who will see far less of the ball and try and hit the Bees on the counter-attack. Wycombe's away record has been particularly disappointing this season, picking up just five points on the road all campaign. They will want to improve that at the Brentford Community Stadium.

The reverse fixture at Adams Park back in November ended in a cagey goalless draw. What’s your score prediction for this one?

Predicting any result this season is extremely difficult but I believe it could be a similar story again. Wycombe are desperate to pick up points now. The visitors should prove to be defensively resilient and ensure it will be a physical contest. My prediction is that it will finish 1-1.

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