Questions continue to be raised on a whole host of subjects but when you boil it down we arrive back to the theme of a former piece of mine, transfers and tactics and for that there is one man who is at fault and that’s the manager.
Since we arrived into the promised land we have spent over £70m yet once again, at full time we finished the match with a centre back at right back, a right back at left back and our best striker on the wing. The failures in the transfer market to buy the players in the positions we need simply can’t be ignored. On top of the issues of playing square pegs in round holes we have the other problem of the Manager getting all doe eyed at the concept of a ‘name’, enter Messrs Crouch and Woodgate.
I’ve not seen a central defender as poor at the Britannia in years, constantly caught the wrong side with no pace to recover, clumsy in tackles and entirely reluctant to head a ball, ladies and gentleman, this is the player that has relegated our player of the season to the bench. Sadly, last night seemed to put the writing on the wall in that respect as the injury to Shawcross saw the introduction of Upson, and not Huth, seemingly the ‘one defender, one ball player’ rhetoric of the manager in playing down the German’s sudden fall from favour was just lip service to a bigger issue with the player.
The defence as a whole has suffered, one thing we always had, ever since we came up, was a solid defence and you’d struggle to find a better partnership in the middle than Huth and Shawcross. Last season it was March before we conceded three goals in a league match, this season in a side without Huth we have done so on three occasions in ten games which is as good an illustration as you need that breaking up the Huth/Shawcross pairing was a huge, huge mistake.
New signings are supposed to improve the team...
Pulis has form for continuing with poor decisions in brazen defiance to the masses, being too stubborn to change things despite the continued failure by doing so. We saw it with Huth at right back and Collins at left back last season, it was around the winter when he finally changed things around for the better and whilst we have seen this with Wilko coming back in at right back this season, we are still left with the undroppable Woodgate in the middle, will Pulis have the stones to drop him though having seen how poor he is playing in one of his specialist areas, he’s played for Real Madrid don’t you know? At least we have the glimmer of hope that with Wilson’s timely injury we’ll see Higgy come back into the reckoning, it’s been a long time coming as Marc has been one of our poorest performers this season as the manager once again failed to address the left back problem stretching back to the days of the Championship.
So we know what we need to do with the back line to sort it, how about the midfield? Well, we bought Palacios who has shown in glimpses that he would be great alongside a Whelan/Delap but it seems he still isn’t 100% fit despite being on the bench the last few games yet not getting any reserve team action? The frustration of his continued omission coupled with the decision not to buy any wing cover means the midfield is far from perfect but we are where we are and unlike the defence, the answer is not immediately available to us.
Onto the attack where we see the ever industrious Walters lining up alongside Crouch who once more did very little in the red and white. I might be doing him a bit of a disservice as he did show some very clever touches but he is in no way suited to the simplest version of pulisball that the manager has seen fit to revert to of late. Ironically, the best display this season for me was the Man United game where we should have won and played with the exact same line up as last night! Only this time the midfield passed and moved, and players got in and around Crouch, he looked much better when we played to his strengths. That performance seemed to be a one off though and you almost get the feeling that the Manager gave the players a bit more attacking licence as he sometimes does against top sides at home and in the Cups whereas for the past few weeks we have seen a regression back to some of the most painful tactics we all know and hate.
I was actually embarrassed last night as we just launched the ball in the general direction of Crouch who has the physical presence of someone a third of his height, for him to not attack it, fail to jump altogether, or just get nowhere near it only for it to come straight back to the defence. If it wasn’t that it was giving the wingers the ball in our defensive third then just stopping to watch them fail to beat four players on the halfway line with no support, it was just painful to watch and knowing how well we can play, even with these players, it was just utterly bewildering.
Pulis needs to make his mind up, he either needs to trust his players to attack with a bit of flair like we did against Man Utd, which will bring out the best in his star signing or revert to type in which case he needs to recall Jones who can chase the randomly launched balls from the back and actually attack the 40 headers a game he’s expected to challenge for. If Pulis insists on going back to basic percentage football, playing for territory and throws then you use the most appropriate personnel. To me it looks like he now has the striker he wants but he is too scared to use him properly and is so reluctant to change his system, which Crouch will ultimately fail like many others before him.
The most alarming thing now though, is that these decisions have started to affect our home form and all those who in the past few weeks have criticised me, defending the manager’s decisions away from home, might actually now start to realise that things needs to change and quickly.
Vis Unita Fortior