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China Cup: The Ryan Giggs Notebook

Tuesday 20th March 2018

As a cohort of the Welsh squad landed on Chinese soil and went through the expected preamble of photographs, autographs and posing with the tournament mascots, Ryan Giggs cut an affable and amiable figure.

Giggs was not exactly curt in his first press conference, but he was evidently more expressive and talkative in the build-up to this week. He seemed to carry that relaxed air within him to China; despite the facade, there will be a number of concerns and conundrums that he needs to address. So, what are they?

How to solve a problem like Williams?

Ashley Williams was a man mountain during Wales' Euro 2016 campaign, fashioning himself into a dependable rock at the back. Emboldened by the captain's armband, the Everton man was an inspiration and led by example and by command. 

Yet he has looked a shadow of his former self. On the back of his exploits in France, Williams earned himself a move to Everton - it's fair to say he has not exactly set Goodison Park alight. His form has not so much dipped as capitulated. 

Giggs' biggest worry will be galvanising Williams - who was an integral part of Chris Coleman's tenure - and instilling him with confidence and belief. Allowing him to retain the captaincy was a good start. 

Style of play

How will Giggs play? The ex-Manchester United man will likely already know how he wants his men to play, but the ability to turn thought into action is something that alludes even the best.

The China Cup represents a perfect opportunity for Giggs to allow creativity to dictate. A tournament without much significance - other than providing a first glimpse for the Welsh faithful - should be a breeding ground for new ideas and tactical switches. 

Welsh fans will be hoping he can replicate the expansive and exciting approach he played under at Manchester United. Giggs may give license for his midfield to be daring, venturing away from the more disciplined approach seen under Coleman. 

Does he play his best team?

Wales, with the exception of Aaron Ramsey and Joe Ledley, are taking their best players. Gareth Bale has been allowed to travel by Real Madrid and the likes of Ben Davies, Joe Allen and James Chester have all been declared fit. 

The question for Giggs, then, is does he play his best starting eleven? Does Giggs even know his best eleven? Probably not, but he will have an idea of the core: which will be much the same as under Coleman. 

If he does select two strong starting sides Wales may have a chance of silverware, but this would prohibit experience to some of the debutants in the squad. 

Sensibly, Giggs will probably elect to field a strong side against China in the opening game and field a weaker, more experimental fixture a few days later against Uruguay, aiming to give a breadth of experience to his Dragons.

Ample opportunity?

Wales fans are rightly excited by the prospects of Ben Woodburn, David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu. Unfortunately, Ampadu has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury and Brooks has been selected for the U'21 side as he is still recovering from illness. Yet, the form of Harry Wilson at Hull has caught the eye, with the Liverpool man with three goals and two assists in six appearances since joining in January. 

Wilson became the youngster ever Welsh debutant when he came on at the age of 16 against Belguim - since though, he has found game time hard to come by. Woodburn is experiencing similar frustrations at Liverpool, with his explosive performances for Wales during World Cup qualification deemed not good enough to warrant regular inclusion by Jurgen Klopp. 

Wales fans would relish the prospect of Woodburn and Wilson lining up together. The question, for Giggs, is how much time he will afford his precocious talents.

 

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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