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3 talking points ahead of Georgia vs Wales

Friday 6th October 2017
It's do or die for Wales as they travel to Georiga in the first of a qualification defining double-header. Here are three big talking points ahead of a historic weekend for the Welsh.

Lawrence or Woodburn?

Ben Woodburn stole headlines in September as his goal against Austria - seconds after entering the pitch - earned Wales a vital three points and his stunning intervention against Moldova - a run similar to Gareth Bale in his prime.

Yet Tom Lawrence's performances were also laudable, perhaps deserving of more attention than they were granted. For they were his first two starts on the international scene, competitively speaking, and he did not look out of his depth. There had been a steady case built for inclusion on the back of a scintillating year for Ipswich Town last season, coupled with a notable start with his new and finally permanent, side Derby County.

Lawrence could have perhaps provided more going forward, yet his inability to produce an end product is not an indictment on his quality but was rather symptomatic of Wales' blunt forward play. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey failed to deliver, so it is no embarrassment that Lawrence also did not.

Woodburn's contribution was unfathomable, really. When one considers his goal and assist in perspective: a 17-year-old who has made few senior starts and never played for Wales' first team before, producing in the most pressurised of environments. One suspects that his curling effort and inviting cross was a blend of his obvious talent but also of the adrenalin surging through the young man's veins.
To start a match and be expected to deliver is another challenge entirely and this why Chris Coleman will be tempted to trust Tom Lawrence again, who has proven he can perform aptly and deserves regular selection.

A change of formation?

For 45 minutes, Wales were stale. Austria had come to Cardiff with a game-plan; to sterilise Wales' attacking force, and it had worked. The 5-3-2 formation that had wrought so much success last summer, limited their attacking endeavour and left Sam Vokes stranded.

With qualification on the line, Coleman took a gamble. A calculated one, probably, but risky nonetheless. He pulled off Jazz Richards for Andy King and set his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The switch allowed more freedom for the forward men and gave licence to Ramsey, Bale and Lawrence, whilst still enabling the full-backs to press on.

That it took a wonder goal from Woodburn to break the deadlock suggests the move failed, but this surface analysis would be wrong - Wales were far more vibrant going forward and Coleman clearly realised this, opting for the same system away to Moldova.
Again, it took divine intervention - previously explained, from Wales' new prince - to pierce the Moldovan defence. However, once more, Coleman's men often looked tantalisingly close to scoring and carved out far more opportunities than a 5-3-2 formation would allow for.

Away to Georgia, with a fully-fit squad, Coleman might be enticed by the reliability of his 5-3-2 system. It is often the case that the away side sets up to limit the opposition and this might work on a subconscious level; for whilst Wales simply must win, they cannot afford to lose. The defensive solidity of a back five might work its way into Coleman's thinking.

Yet the Welsh boss must be brave. It is a moment to be seized and Wales must be daring. Setting his men up with a clear intent to attack, in the aforementioned 4-2-3-1 formation, would signal this and complement the enterprising nature of Bale, Ramsey, Lawrence and the like.

Will it play out as it often does?

Wales, under Coleman's reign and historically, have had a hard time of breaking team's down. This is despite the prowess of Bale and the flair of Ramsey. Is it the quality of the defence? An innate sense of not being good enough - 'small country syndrome'? Is it the tactics? There have been a number of suggested theories and some, clearly, are more sensible than others.

Granted, Wales eased past Russia 3-0 during Euro 2016 and dispatched of Moldova 4-0 in the opening game of current qualification, but these are rare examples of rampant play. One only has to cast their mind's back to Wales' first fixture in Euro 2016 qualification where they narrowly beat Andorra 2-1 to prove such a point.

To be a Wales fan watching their side struggle to usurp the Austrian and Moldovan defence in September was a painful and nail-biting experience and one hopes that it won't be the same. This writer - a Welsh fan - is not sure whether he can endure such nerves, anxiety and general stress for another 180 minutes, against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.

Please, Wales, score early. Then score again.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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