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NEW ARTICLE: Pin the Stale on the Donkeys

Get the worst headline of the season out the way nice and early :-)

Panic stations appear to have been formed after just 8 days of the new season. Every year the need for favourable, early results appear to become more are more demanded to alleviate supporters sinking into a depressive, negative frenzy. Until that first win arrives, talk of relegation, long season, managerial and player changes will emerge and gain ridiculous momentum at every single football club in this social media age.

Thankfully, a season is played over 46 games not 2, 274 days not 8. Never has the saying ‘marathon not a sprint’ been more pertinent. Nor is pointing out that promoted Crystal Palace lost all three of their opening games last season.

But is that too simplistic and dismissive? Should we actually be concerned?

Potentially.

For various reasons, football teams generally need to evolve; new faces, new ideas, new approach. Similarity can bring staleness, and that was my overriding sentiment from Saturday.

Stale.

Do you remember the opening home game of last season against Leicester ? A rip-snorting, barnstormer of a match; quality football played at a high tempo with an energetic attacking approach to our play. In possession we were expansive and overlapping, in opposition we were harrying and suffocating.

Saturday’s home opener could not have been more polar.

Plodding, limited movement with some players worryingly looking like they were going through the motions, resulting in overuse of a long channel ball from a full back. it was laboured and easily maintainable from an opposition point of view (did you see a single Wiggins overlap all game, or a midfielder getting beyond the strikers?). A Boro counter or defensive mistake looked the most likely outcome, and so it proved.

More worrying though was the demeanour of a lot of players, particularly some senior, traditionally consistent performers. We’ve thrived the last two seasons on a happy, strong collective. You would not have got that impression from Saturday from what looked an unhappy and uncohesive group.

Danny Green is the type of player always likely to split supporters in the way that 'pretentious flair player vs energetic worker' always does. With the Energetic Worker Society now suspended or deemed surplus to requirement, the opportunity was there for Green to answer the growing calls from his backers. However, logic tells you that in a side still looking to feel its way, you play Lawrie Wilson for 70 minutes and then if necessary Green gets the chance to shine and make things happen in the last 20 mins, even if vocal dissenters will tell you otherwise. Nine times out of ten this is what Chris Powell would tell himself to do, but Green was given the opportunity to prove his doubters wrong. It will be interesting to see if he is afforded it again.

Green was by no means the only player to disappoint on Saturday. A quick survey of ‘who disappointed you the most’ from our four post-match pint-slurpers yielded four different answers (and none of them Green). For me, I did not see as many positives in the tail end of last season in Gower that others did, but I was hopeful with a full-pre season behind him I would be pleasantly surprised. For a senior player who has had a good pedigree of playing quality football the last few years, I expected a lot more. His style demands that the emphasis is on him to dictate the tempo and efficiency of our play. Yes, he was showing for the ball a lot of time, but there was not enough urgency there for me, nor enough snap when it did happened.

The midfield as a four played too far apart from the strike two, resulting in the main out-ball being a back-four channel clip and both strikers getting frustrated with poor service. If we are to continue playing in that fashion, a huge degree of responsibility will be on Harriot to make things happen. The problem we may find is the fewer the threats around the field, the easier it is to keep them quiet.

Chris Powell has a big midfield question to answer. Championship games are more often won and lost in the centre of the pitch.

We've so far lost two. Last year's side ultimately did so well because of its ability to bounce back from setbacks. Let's hope the lethagy and staleness seen on Saturday was a blip.

Comments

  • Can't believe you didn't resort to using that old ID favourite, AFKA...

    Bouncebackability !

    That's what we need !
  • Good article.

    The great run at the end of last season game when we added an old head (Hughes) and a young player (Harriot), neither of whom had featured that season. It freshened up the team and gave us some real balance in midfield.

    There was a zip to our play with both pace and guile plus we had options such as Obika off the bench.

    Now, as you say, we look stale.

    And I think Chris Powell's knows it which is why he went against his natural instincts as "son of Curbs" to play Green before the more reliable but less explosive Wilson. It didn't work. Partly because two wingers left the midfield exposed and partly because Green isn't disciplined enough.

    Jackson didn't appear fully fit either.

    So does Powell go with Cousins? Excellent prospect but a heavy burden on his shoulders with so little experience. He has the skill and the engine. Does he have the mental and physical strength. I think we maybe about to find out.

    Powell can be cautious with young players. Harriot took a long time to win his place but once in the side kept it on merit. It was a risk that paid off. But there have been few others given an extended run.

  • edited August 2013
    The energetic and expansive approach was key last year. In the first game last season at Birmingham, Wiggins and Solly got forward time and again. Against Leicester, particularly in the first half the same happened and we looked like a team who would focus on attacking.

    The following game against Hull saw our approach negated as Hull harried and pressed us and we were lucky to get a point. We all know how the season panned out after that and it was our commitment, teamwork and endeavour that ultimately papered over some cracks in terms of relative ability.

    I only saw one pre season game, against ICT. It looked like Powell was trying to follow the Spain and Barcelona approach. By this I mean when Hamer had the ball Wiggins and Solly would push up and Dervite and Morrison would each position themselves on a corner of the 18 yard box. Hamer would roll the ball to one of them and try and play through Gower.

    I suspect this is something that he may have picked up whilst doing his A license over the summer.

    The worrying point that AFKA makes is that the commitment shown last year has not necessarily been evident in the first two games this season. Effort, as shown last year, can make up for less quality. Likewise, a team can have an abundance of quality players who may not work as hard. However, lack of quality and lack of effort is a combination that will produce only failure.

    I do to feel this bunch of players will not let us down with their effort. Their team ethic is excellent and it is rare that such a trait is suddenly lost...unless there is something that is big enough to break it. For me the only thing that will is if they feel that Powell is getting restless or disillusioned with what is going on at board level. My fear is that this could be the case and until there is some resolution to the off the field issues an unhappy Powell will lead to an unhappy squad.
  • In Chris I trust... the Championship is the toughest league in the world and its no joke when people say its a marathon rather than a sprint.

    Onwards and Upwards
  • Excellent article. A vital difference from last year is that it was all a big adventure back then. We had the bones of our league 1 winning team and a bit of hope for a new dawn. This year there is no kidding ourselves. We know we are skint and that our boys are, generally, not up to this level. Add to the mix a hefty dose if out of contract-itis and it is all very depressing. In CP we trust but he has his hands tied behind his back I'm afraid.
  • It can't be ignored that this is a team without a major influx of new blood/fresh ideas on the pitch. A year can be a very long time in football, JJ was once our inspirational talisman on the pitch, but older and more injury prone as he seems to have become, we lack that kind of iconic, exemplary captaincy in the field. Hughes was not young when he first joined, he is not getting younger - likewise Gower. Decent players both, but in their twilight years game-wise.

    Last season the introduction of Hughes and Harriot turned the whole team up a notch, this season unless a youth player really shines we lack that kind of momentum boost for the foreseeable future, and I fear that lightning may not strike twice. CP is a good manager, potentially a great one, but in the club's current state, I truly don't know if he can take us beyond merely mid-table survival at best.


    (We will probably now go ten games unbeaten just to prove me wrong...)
  • Lets not forget guys and girls that it was this very same side that not even 100 days ago very nearly gatecrashed the play-offs.....hang on in there!
  • Charlton will come good........
  • Please forgive my earlier flippancy .This is not an issue to be taken lightly.

    Like sirjohnhumphrey, I too wonder what the mood is at the Training Ground. Whether contractual issues are burdening the players and SCP himself or whether the gaffer is coming to the end of his tether with our owners remains to be seen. If either or both are anywhere near the truth, then it is obvious to me that there will be ramifications on the pitch. Yet another reason to question the Master Plan of TJ & MS, should there be one.

    All this of course could be pure conjecture and a positive performance at Barnsley could go a long way to reassuring us that we have been over reacting. However, another disjointed display will only add fuel to our concerns.

    As others have stated, the camaraderie of the squad was wonderful to behold in the last 2 seasons. There was definitely no "I" in the team - it was a case of all for one and one for all. And there was just one aim.

    I hope with all my heart that normal service will be resumed sooner rather than later & that our worst fears will be groundless.

    This Manager and this set of lads are fighters - we've seen that demonstrated time & time again. We need to keep the faith that whatever cr*p is thrown at them by the powers that be, they'll continue to give their all for our Club. And we need to show them our support....with knobs on.
  • Interesting read, gives me a better grasp of what is going on. Purely on a results basis I am not too worried, every team will go on poor runs at some stage. - better we do it now than do a Wolves in April/May I guess. If so many of the players are out of contract and uncertain of future, you would expect them to be even more motivated as they are effectively now playing for their future. Times are hard for players, look at how Kerkar and Fuller have fallen by the wayside along with countless other pros released over the summer. If they are potentially out of work in 9 months time you'd expect an extra sense of urgency and commitment moving forward.
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  • thenewbie said:

    It can't be ignored that this is a team without a major influx of new blood/fresh ideas on the pitch. A year can be a very long time in football, JJ was once our inspirational talisman on the pitch, but older and more injury prone as he seems to have become, we lack that kind of iconic, exemplary captaincy in the field. Hughes was not young when he first joined, he is not getting younger - likewise Gower. Decent players both, but in their twilight years game-wise.

    Last season the introduction of Hughes and Harriot turned the whole team up a notch, this season unless a youth player really shines we lack that kind of momentum boost for the foreseeable future, and I fear that lightning may not strike twice. CP is a good manager, potentially a great one, but in the club's current state, I truly don't know if he can take us beyond merely mid-table survival at best.


    (We will probably now go ten games unbeaten just to prove me wrong...)

    If there are no funds for one or two decent, dynamic midfielders then I think CP needs to be bold and give Cousins a chance.

    Feedback from fans who attended the pre season games was that he looked very mobile, assured and decent on the ball playing in the deep lying midfield role. CP himself even commented on the impression he had made on him.

    Give him a few games before the end of August and if it looks like he isn't ready then use the emergency loan window as I think the centre midfielders we have in the squad at present are not going to be up for a hard seasons slog in the Championship.
  • DanDavis said:

    Lets not forget guys and girls that it was this very same side that not even 100 days ago very nearly gatecrashed the play-offs.....hang on in there!

    Agree, lets give it 5/6 games and see where we are then.

  • Nice post.

    Stale, jaded, lethargic..we all saw it and it was the most worrying aspect of Saturday.

    And just not fit either.
  • I think Fanny Fanackapan has hit the nail on the head. I do believe there is some under current around the club especially around contracts and wages which may be affecting the team. Certainly I was surprised at what seemed to be a lack of fitness on Saturday but maybe that was because we were chasing the ball more than Boro, a Kind of optical illusion so to speak. Personally I haven't seen Cousins play but if the posters here believe he could do a job then we should at least give him a chance. Certainly our midfield is misfiring and needs some injection of energy and creativity.
  • I'm sure what Fanny and Dave says may well be a factor. My additional take was that pre-season was very 'samey'. Three years in a row now the ever important away training camp / jolly has been to the same place (Lepe), with largely the same players. There is nothing really fresh about that.

    Fitness levels i've no real issue with, they'll have all the stats and i'm sure every player is comparable to what they were a year ago, its that spark and sharpness that appears missing, and that's more worrying because that is likely to be a mental rather than physical impact.

    Only two games though, lets not forget that.
  • I had a meeting at the Training Ground yesterday regarding the Pierre Bolangi memorial garden makeover and spoke briefly to the gaffer.

    He said he was very down after the match last Saturday and again on Sunday ( and suggested that most of those present at the game would have been feeling that way too) but had now picked himself up & that everyone was very positive going forward to this weekend. He was his usual upbeat self & the impression I gained was that it's a case of moving on ......

    The Groundsman that we met with also mentioned that things were going to be freshened up , I believe with a stopover en route to Yorkshire where the lads would train etc in readiness for Saturday. ie not merely staying over at a hotel close to Barnsley.

    The atmosphere at Sparrows Lane seemed in line with my previous visits last season & although I didn't make a point of watching the training, I would say that the boys were working hard out there as always with plenty of shouts of encouragement to each other etc.

    Let's just keep the faith, please.

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