Saturday was painful. I don't think any fan predicted a defeat at home to Blackpool, and judging by the way the players performed I think that they also assumed that three points were on their way. The similarities to some of the performances in the 08/09 relegation were frightening - the home defeat to Hull stands out more than any.
As we all know, Blackpool came up with us last season - though we finished 32 points ahead of them with a goal difference that was 39 better. We absolutely hammered them 4 v 1 at SJP and the key to that result and performance was targeting Stephen Crainey at right back. We destroyed them down the wings, so to see us pretty much ignore Routledge and Jonas on Saturday in favour of constant big hoofs down the middle was bemusing.
Blackpool Blog: DJ Dances to Ollie's Tune Again
Holloway completely out-thought Hughton. Blackpool were better organised and far easier on the eye than the one up front big boot merchants.
I know that a few of you out there hate the negative criticism of the team, but we have to face facts - we need to beat the likes of Blackpool at home if we are to avoid a repeat of 08/09.
Matt Gilks had an excellent game in nets for the Seasiders when we pressurised them midway through the second half, but the talk in the Gallowgate Corner was that the more we piled forward, the more the likelihood of them breaking and snatching a second increased and that is exactly what happened. Great goalkeeping performance or not, Blackpool thoroughly deserved the 3 points. The way our players seemed to give up and failed to chase them on the break for their second goal was worrying. Much has been made of the 'buzz' and confidence around the dressing room but it looked entirely fragile as the players dropped their heads when we didnt find the net.
Hughton's substitutions were also costly. The game was crying out for Ben-Arfa (the only real positive when he eventually appeared)but instead he opted to bring on Lovenkrands for the abysmal Alan Smith (a total liability and the sooner Tiote is ready to step in the better). Ben-Arfa and Shola followed soon after for both wingers and the team took up a lop-sided look and all momentum was lost. He might have been better off playing to the wingers rather than the direct approach that was clearly not working.
Just as the Villa win did not mean that we were steaming into Europe (despite one or two supporters post match proclamations), this defeat does not mean that we are doomed but there were several players out there who need to reflect on their performance. Alan Smith continues to dive in and tackle mid air when he doesn't need to. Fan favourite Jose Enrique was also abysmal - I don't know what he has been doing during the international break but he looked slow, unfit, disinterested and his mind seemed to be elsewhere. Last time I criticised Jose (who is one of my favourite players) I received a number of messages from people who were unhappy at what I said - but his poor performance on Saturday can not be ignored. The two incidents that highlight this most of all were when he skipped down the left late on at 0 v 1, beat his man and with 3 forwards lining up for the shot he took it on himself with his weaker foot and unleashed a pathetic effort, weak, high and wide. Andy Carroll went off it. The second moment was when he (and one or two others) seemed to just give up the chase when DJ Campbell broke for Blackpool's second goal. Jose was outstanding against a teenager when we played Villa, but Saturday was not good enough.
There was no 'Plan B'. What are we going to do if big Andy picks up an injury? There is nothing else in the thinking but hoooooof up to him. Will we employ something similar with Shola on the end of them? I hope not. Plus one striker starting at home to Blackpool is far too negative.
Opponents are also wising up to our defensive weak link - James Perch. I lost count of how many times Blackpool launched attacks down their left, clearly targeting Perch. Who can blame them? He back off every time and seems terrified to commit to a tackle. I can see why on the odd occasion when he does tackle - they are usually totally reckless. His backing off led to the ridiculous Smith challenge and their penalty.
On the positives - Mike Williamson continues to look steady and Ben-Arfa was a breath of fresh air when he finally got on - he has to start at Goodison next week.
Having said all of the above I went straight home from the match and watched Barcelona lose 0 v 2 to Hercules in the Nou Camp - so you see, it can happen to the best of us(!)
Harper 7 (excellent 1st half double save)
Perch 4 (looks every bit the Championship player)
Enrique 4 (come on man Jose, you are better than this)
Williamson 6 (reasonable)
Colo 6 (though he will give me a heart attack one day)
Smith 3 (liability. Conceded the penalty and numerous other pointless fouls)
Barton 4 (very quiet and missed a great chance, though he created it himself)
Jonas 4 (barely featured)
Routledge 4 (see Jonas)
Nolan 4 (still not convinced he is a forward)
Carroll 6 (totally isolated but battled on)