Another Loss As Our Form Goes With A Burton
What a strange season this has turned out to be. Moments of unbridled joy mixed with complete and utter garbage. Looking at the table, we should still be happy. Anything higher than 17th is still an above par position. However, it's all a bit depressing at the moment. Instead of looking up at the clubs above us, we have started to count the points to those below us. How have we found ourselves in this position?
Four weeks ago, it all felt different. We had won three on the bounce, the last against Chelsea after a superb performance. We played with passion, hunted the ball down in packs, passed the ball crisply and our movement was top notch. The manager had found a system that worked for us and one that the players seemed to enjoy. There was even outlandish talk of dusting off passports not used since Laurie destroyed Valencia.
Not so bullish now are we? 3 defeats and a scarcely deserved point at Wigan have put us firmly back in our usual position of looking down at the table rather than up. Its the performances that are depressing though. I can take defeat, I have been a supporter a long time so I have the experience. However I have found myself head scratching a lot this season at some of our tactics.
The manager has had a very mixed season with regard to tactics. Thankfully, he has got it right enough times for us to still be in a healthy position. However, he has got it badly wrong at times as well. His default system is a solid but rather outdated 442. I hate it, no, I detest it. It's awful to watch and you get the distinct impression the players aren't fond of it either. On the whole, our players are attack minded having been bought by Mowbray and Di Matteo. Neither had much appetite for keeping things tight.
I don't think that it is any coincidence that our better performances this season have been when we have moved away from the Roy default setting. When we have pressed and played with freedom and pace, we have given everyone a game and taken points. I thought we had seen the last of the Roy default and but alas its back. Yesterday was yet another awful showing of two banks of four sitting on top of each other with only a hoof as an outlet.
I wonder how much of this is due to the departure of Terry Burton. An assistant that I was a little underwhelmed about when he first joined but who by all accounts was able to influence Roy who is known for not always listening to advice from those around him. Personally, I don't think its just coincidence that we have not only seen a dip but also a return to the default system since Burton went off to ensure Dave Jones doesn't choke at Wednesday.
Roy, 442 doesn't suit us. (not that you are listening) It especially doesn't suit the completely ridiculous team that was picked yesterday. I mean, 442 with one of the 4 being Tchoyi? A player that cannot play anything but a free role unburdened by having to track back. You don't need a UEFA Pro Licence to work that one out. What was he thinking?
Saturday is now a vital game. Lose this one, with two very tough games to follow will see the nails starting to be bitten when we should be just be smugly taking in Villa's discomfort of flirtation with relegation. Win it and we can put any minor doubts out of our minds. The players have stop thinking the season is over. Roy has to play to our strengths and not worry so much about the opposition. We can't let the season fizzle out like it is. Momentum is needed now to take into the summer. A big summer with players out of contract a manager undecided on his future. A positive end to the season will work wonders for everyone's attitude when it comes to deciding where their futures lie.
Plus, we have a small matter of ensuring we finish above the Villa. Our true rivals. (that's a blog for another time)