I’m back. A combination of flu, tonsillitis and 3 losses in a row have rendered the festive period a washout.
I’ve just read back my last post previewing this run of games. Such optimism, such positivity, such genuine belief that we could pull something out of the bag this Christmas. 3 games later, and we’re looking at a table that generously places us 7th. In a way, you could argue that position is slightly false, given there are so many teams beneath us with games in hand. I think 9th or 10th is a bit more realistic.
There are different ways of analysing things at the moment. I think the problem with a lot of things in football is that there is never a wrong or right; only a different perspective (God knows why we spend so much time arguing about it then). Some people have the long-term view that we’re 7th, we’ve improved massively, and we should be happy. Some people are going mental because we’ve just lost 3 in a row and are calling for Aidy’s head. Others look at the record over the last 10 games and whilst happy with Aidy, see that we’ve lost 6 in that period and are starting to worry a little.
Typically, I’m a mix..
I don’t think you can deny that Aidy has had a positive influence on our club, and we are in a far better position than we were this time last year. It then depends on your perspective and ambition for this season as to how you want to analyse things further. In the past it’s been so easy for us to go on a little run and be satisfied with what we’ve achieved, and watch the season peter out into mediocrity. I’m sure Aidy has a different mind-set to this – what I’m not sure about is whether he has the ability to actually implement his ambitions.
I’ll say it again – I really don’t think there is any reason why we can’t finish top 6 this year. Player for player, we should have the tools at our disposal to do so. Another thing I’ve been saying for months, and now it’s finally been picked up on by other fans is that we lack a plan B. It’s actually becoming a bit of a cliché with the amount of people who are now saying it. We only know one way to play, and while that has proven successful against some of the poorer teams in the league, it’s not going to cut it when coming up against the top 6.
You can bully your way past teams with brittle confidence – you can’t bully your way past teams that are flying and who believe that they are better that you. You’re going to come up short, because they’re just better at stopping you play than others. We need to be cuter and find a way around that.
A major problem at the moment is that Clive Platt is not playing well. He’s not winning headers, he lacks the pace to really put the opposition under pressure, so we’re left with a tactic that isn’t working because the fulcrum behind its success, isn’t doing its job. We saw on Saturday against QPR; Clive Platt won about 4 headers all game.
Another issue we have is the defence. We kept 4 clean sheets in a row a few games back. As a manager you have to be wise enough to acknowledge whether that was down solely to the quality of the unit you have put out, or if in fact it was down to luck more than judgement. Easy to say in hindsight, but looking back, that defence was not playing particularly well. We were playing teams who lacked the cutting edge to punish us. We were playing us, now, then.
Nathan Cameron has looked shaky ever since he’s come back into the team if you’ve asked me. He’s making mistakes, and is being dominated by the opposing striker too much. Richard Wood at left back is not a long-term solution either. Funnily enough, I actually thought Richard Wood was our most effective player against QPR. And he took him off.
I think what concerned me most about the 2nd half on Saturday is the line-up that finished the match. I looked at the players that were on the pitch and was shocked that Aidy actually thought those players had what it took to beat QPR. A defence of Keogh, McPake, a shaky Nathan Cameron and 10-minute game fit O’Halloran didn’t stand a chance. A midfield of Callum Wilson, Doyle, Carsley and off-the-pace McSheffrey was poor – the quality just isn’t there. And Platt up front, well he really wasn’t up to it.
We have the personnel to field a far stronger line-up than that. I know the argument is that you should base selection on performances rather than name, but I don’t think the defence warranted another game in their current form. When you’ve got players like Richard Wood playing out of position, and Martin Cranie sat on the bench, you know something’s not quite right. We could put a far more solid unit out that what we are at the moment. They’re lacking in confidence, but it seems we’re sticking with it on the back of a record which was a bit misleading.
That’s quite a negative few paragraphs, but I think my main point is that I still believe we can have a successful season – but again, we can only do that if we’re able to adapt our performance when needed. I’m not disputing that sometimes a smash up to Clive Platt is the best approach. That’s not going to work all the time though, and more and more teams are learning how to cope with that, and we’re being found wanting. It’s the manager’s job to set up the team in a way that can win the game. What we’ve seen so far is Boothroyd setting the team out in the same way every single game. Sometimes it works, which is great. But a lot of times it doesn’t. A team doesn’t get promoted on the back of that sort of approach.
Dare I say it, but the next few games appear to be more winnable. The added pressure now is that we absolutely have to win them. Losing sends us plummeting down the table, and at a time when other clubs have games in hand, it’s going to be a mighty struggle to come back again.