Oxford United have been somewhat underachievers in the past few seasons in League 2 after gaining promotion from the conference in 2010. The team has been in good form but the Christmas period has been a thorn in the side of Manager Chris Wilder, being in and around the Play-Offs was frustrating when the team dropped many points in the festive part of the season.
Oxford go into this season with a wonderful mix of youth and experience. The youth team last season went on a 14 game unbeaten streak; this was rewarded when majority of the team gained their first professional contract. After releasing 12 players at the end of last season this gave the younger members of the squad a chance to shine. The club is in a decent financial position but having the younger players as first team players and in some cases back up to the first team regulars, it will be a great move for the club both on and off the pitch. Oxford plays their best football when Wilder picks a 442 formation and if he sticks with this formation, the club will be a formidable outfit.
One to watch – Johnny Mullins (CB)
Mullins came to Oxford last season on loan from Rotherham and during his time with the club, it was clear the fans wanted him to stay. His dominant displays alongside club captain Jake Wright came as a relief to everyone as the current centre backs didn’t link up or cover Wright as well as Mullins did. The Mullins and Wright combination became a formidable force and with Oxford gaining the full back duo of Dave Hunt and Jonathon Meades, it looks like the back four is now ready to take on League 2 and make a push towards promotion. Mullins has the patient, intelligence, maturity and positional know how to make him a pivotal part of the Yellows this season.
Weak Link – Dave Kitson – (CF)
Veteran players coming down the leagues can be sometimes very frustrating as fans want the players name to carry the team; Dave Kitson is one of these players. The name Dave Kitson is an Ex-Premier League forward and his history with bigger clubs, he is however not the player which he was and not because of his age but because of his target man role which he made his name. Kitson will slow Oxford down too much as when United play 442 they can play anyone off the park, having a target man gives the opposition an easier afternoon marking the target man than marking 2 quick and sharp forwards which Oxford have at their disposal.
Kitson brings experience but Oxford has this already in Jake Wright, Johnny Mullins, Dave Hunt and Andrew Whing. Kitson is going to find League 2 a lot harder than he imagined and he has not had the best goals to games ratio (for Cambridge United his best season was 20 goals, for Reading his best was 19 goals, he went four years without hitting double figures and his last 2 seasons with Sheffield United he scored 11 goals) and even though he scored 11 for Sheffield United last season, they used a target man system, this is not good enough form to be one of the highest earners at the club.
End of Season prediction
I predict Oxford to be at least Play-Offs this season and even if Oxford didn’t get into the Play-Off final, it will be a good foundation for the following season. Oxford have the quality and mix of youth with experience to make this season very exciting, by playing 442 the team ticks and they become an exciting team to watch. An automatic promotion place is not beyond the capabilities of Chris Wilder’s team and being around the top end of the table (top 6 at least) will be expected not surprising.