'We're not a one-trick pony' - Stats show how Cobblers are evolving in League One

No Cobblers player attempted more passes than Alan Sheehan against Wigan.No Cobblers player attempted more passes than Alan Sheehan against Wigan.
No Cobblers player attempted more passes than Alan Sheehan against Wigan.
Cobblers have had more possession and made more passes in the past two games than any other

One of the big question marks coming into this season centred around how - if at all - the Cobblers would evolve and progress their style of football following the step up to League One.

Town were, by and large, a very direct side last season. It had its sceptics, and it didn't always work, but their performances against Cheltenham Town and Exeter City in the play-offs received precious few complaints. It was textbook Keith Curle.

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But a step up in quality called for a more refined approach and that has been evident in their most recent two games. After going too direct and being easily blunted in their early matches, it was obvious against Portsmouth and Wigan - and there were glimpses against Charlton and Swindon, too - that Town tried to mix it up more.

That was especially the case at Fratton Park. Despite losing 4-0, it was the first time this season that the Cobblers enjoyed more possession than their opponents (53%). They also attempted far more passes and finished with a much higher completion rate (79%) than any other game.

It was a similar story at Wigan on Saturday. Town had slightly less of the ball (48%) but still completed a high number of passes. The arrival of Alan Sheehan has certainly helped in that regard - no visiting player touched the ball more than Sheehan at the DW Stadium - as has Jack Sowerby's business in midfield.

Whilst Curle does not focus too much on statistics, it's clear that his side are evolving.

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"Alan's been training with us for a while and I think he's showed his personality and has given other people around him that confidence to express themselves on the ball," said Curle. "He's helped with our patience on the ball to find a better pass, but we can still do better.

"We need to get that blend right in terms of mixing it up and when to be a possession team and when to be an attacking team and getting the numbers right, both going forward and defensively.

"It's something we're going to develop but our mindset is to win games so we want more final third entires and we want to get our numbers right when we get in there. It is a work in progress and we have new additions that are still bedding in.

"I won't form my opinion on a game based on stats and data but I use them and I look at them. Yes, we had the most completed passes and most possession against Portsmouth but did we enter the opposition's box enough? How many successful touches did we have in their box? How many crosses and shots did we take? Those stats still need to improve."

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And that is the next step for the Cobblers. Keeping the ball is one thing but working it through midfield into dangerous attacking positions is another.

Curle added: "It has been identified that we have conceded too many goals by needlessly giving possession away in the wrong areas so we're trying to get that understanding of when to play and when to put the ball into good areas and getting numbers into those areas to make sure we can win the ball back high enough up the pitch.

"We're creating our philosophy as the new players settle in because we don't want to be a one-trick pony. If teams want to play, we can play. If teams want to go toe-to-toe, we can do that. It's good to have that as part of our armoury."

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