I’ve been pretty negative about things for a while because of the gaping issues that many others are now also coming to recognise, I even tried my best to be positive about the re-introduction of Huth (albeit it at right back) and the inclusion of some pace up front in Jerome (albeit it shifting Walters out wide and persisting with the immobile Crouch). Hell, I even managed to take some positives from the fact that we seemed to have a bit more movement than normal, the midfield actually making an effort to get in and around Crouch, but alas this new found optimism was all to be chucked into a huge pit of despair as we made mistake after mistake from top to bottom culminating in our heaviest defeat for some time.
The main talking points are as follows;
Tactics –I really thought we set up to be more attacking, it was also positive that Pulis has recognised the need for pace away from home to support the isolated Crouch (if he insists on using him) and to give us another out ball in Jerome. Sadly his good work in this area was well and truly undone by a number of errors which were compounded by the continued selection of Woodgate in the middle of defence.
The Manager – You won’t find many calling for the manager’s head but when 95% of the fan base can all reel off the same defence as our strongest I think it’s justified to wonder just what the thought process is of splitting up one of the best defensive partnerships in the league. Far too many players are out of position and the failure to buy players in the areas most lacking is well and truly coming back to bite our great leader on his backside, especially in the full back areas. It’s the nonsensical and stubborn decision making though which is starting to seriously cloud what a good job he has done and with the advent of small pockets of booing and dwindling away attendances, the evidence suggests that the fans’ patience in this respect is wearing thin.
Begovic – I’ve spoken in previous weeks about giving the young Bosnian a chance to make a few mistakes, but I meant a few mistakes a month, not a game. Once again Asmir made critical errors resulting in at least two goals if not three and when you look at the mistakes he has made recently at Sunderland and Arsenal, I’m afraid it is best for the team that he is dropped. What exactly is the point of having excellent back up and competition if the manager is afraid to drop the star of the future for fear of him being upset and seeking a move elsewhere, because that’s exactly what I think is happening here.
Woodgate – I’m not sure what else I can say over and above what I have been writing about as far back as his signing. He is not a good defender anymore and is suffering even more in our deep shape where we need strong minds as well as bodies, sadly he is lacking in both.
Whelan – Glen has had a few poor games of late which is a shame because he has been our best midfielder in my opinion since the back end of last season. I think he needs a well deserved rest over these next couple of weeks to recover from what has been a crazy schedule so far this season which will hopefully get him back to something like the midfielder we know he can be.
Players coming back – The picture starts to look a bit rosier when you think that we still have a fully fit Higginbotham to come back in at left back, a fully fit Palacios to appear in centre midfield and a fully fit Fuller to try and bring some semblance of ball retention up front. That said, we’ve already got players on the bench who would improve the starting XI in Huth and Jones but neither are being used so whether or not these three will actually feature is anyone’s guess.
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So onto the next bank of games which certainly sees some winnable ties, I think it’s a case of going back to basics, and by that I don’t mean tactics wise (we’ve already done that) but rather a settled back line of Wilko – Huth – Shawcross – Higgy and the reintroduction of Jones. After all, if Pulis is back in the mindset of playing for territory and throw ins, it makes much more sense having two players on the pitch who will actually attack the ball and not Crouch and Woodgate. If we can make these changes we’ll settle the side into something that looks more like the solid unit of old and from there we move onwards and hopefully upwards because the last thing we want is to be dragged into a battle at the bottom of the table and if nothing does change, that’s exactly where we’ll be headed.
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