|Top Six Might Be More Realistic With This One-Dimensional Squad and Stubborn Manager|
Written by Pickersblue22 on Monday, 2nd Mar 2015 13:08
Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Norwich was both painful and disappointing. It is never nice to lose to your arch-rivals, especially given our recent record against them, but in many ways, this game re-affirmed what we already know about Town’s shortcomings.
There is a sizeable gap between Norwich’s squad and ours, contrary to what Mick McCarthy said after the game. We played exactly the same way from minute one to minute 90. That was to try and stifle their midfield creativity with a narrow four in the centre, and to knock the ball into the corners to try and force mistakes from their defence.
Both Norwich goals came from Wes Hoolahan bursting through and creating the chance, which shows how well our midfield did in stopping him, and with the ball, we used Daryl Murphy as an outlet, but Sebastian Bassong had the Irishman in his pocket all afternoon.
And yet we continued to play in exactly the same way. I don’t think this is the players’ fault; it is down to Mick that we only know to play one way.
For me this team simply isn’t quite good enough to make the top two. We can make the top six, but the hallmarks of our fantastic first half of the season seem to have disappeared. We have become inconsistent- just as we look to be getting form, we lose and have to build again.
Our problems start at the back. Bartosz Bialkowski has looked slightly shaky recently. Shot-stopping actually isn’t his forte as he is so tall that he struggles to get down to the ball. But he is comfortably the best goalkeeper we have, and that will keep him in the team.
The biggest problem we have in the defence is Tommy Smith. Smith is an excellent defender, but he has a mistake in him (think Derby and Fulham). I cannot remember the last time I saw him pass the ball to one of our midfielders. He either goes back to the keeper, passes to Christophe Berra to lump it, or he lumps it himself in the direction of Murphy.
Being a left-footer on the right-hand side, he has to go infield to bring the ball out of defence. One, there is never likely to be enough space in the centre of the park, and two, Smith is not comfortable enough on the ball to bring it away.
Luke Chambers playing at right-back is simply baffling. He was first put there because Mick didn’t rate Elliott Hewitt, and he did a decent job there. Now however, we have a good, solid right-back in Jonathan Parr, who would clearly do a better job there, and Mick persists with Chambers.
You want your right-back to be comfortable on the ball, and Chambers simply isn’t. He is nowhere near quick enough, his passing is not good enough, and neither is his crossing. I can’t believe that Mick thinks Chambers is better than Parr at right-back. It is madness.
The point of Chambers playing there was that the alternative was not good enough; now the alternative is easily good enough - we have already seen him play well at right-back. Mick now seems to think that Parr would do better at left midfield, just because he scored when he came on there against Millwall. Tyrone Mings and Berra are our best two defenders and are doing a great job at the moment.
In central midfield, I understand why Mick persists with Cole Skuse, as we miss him when he doesn’t play, but he brings absolutely nothing creatively, so you have to play a creative player with him, otherwise there is nothing from the midfield.
Kevin Bru is a lovely player, and has done fantastically, but I don’t understand why he was removed yesterday in favour of Skuse. Does Mick not realise that he can actually create, as well as break up opposition possession?
Teddy Bishop is a great talent, but he must be managed carefully as he looks worn out at the moment. He is a central player, so why Mick has played him on the right ahead of Paul Anderson is beyond me.
Anderson is quite possibly my favourite Town player. He works incredibly hard, but he actually has quality as well, and I really think he should start more games. Jay Tabb is similar to Anderson in that he works hard, but he has very little end product. He is never going to outpace his full-back, so why does Mick keep picking him there.
We have a natural left-winger who can’t even make the bench in Cameron Stewart. Stewart is exactly the kind of player we want in the team. He has real pace, unlike Tabb, but perhaps Mick thinks he won’t do his defensive duties. But so what? He isn’t in the team to defend. Of course he’ll track back as Mick will be stood a few yards away from him.
I find it infuriating that Parr comes on at left midfield and Stewart is not even on the bench. What must poor Stewart be thinking? He is what we are crying out for, and yet he is not near the team. Utter madness.
Chaplow has looked OK so far, but I think he will be more effective playing deeper in the Skuse role, breaking up play and keeping possession.
Up front, Daryl Murphy has gone three games without a goal, which either means that opposition defences are keeping him in their pockets, or he is feeling the pressure after being challenged to get 30 goals this season.
But we need someone to step up to the plate, and that could be Freddie Sears. He has looked really lively since he came in, but I have noticed that a lot of his best moments come when drops off the front and finds space to run at the defence.
I think he could be a threat on the left-wing, cutting in onto his right foot, and leaving space out wide for Mings to overlap. Sears has got the pace to get in behind a defence - he just needs the right service. He was by far our best player against Norwich.
David McGoldrick cannot come back soon enough. I fear that he might not be back for a while, hence the signing of Chris Wood. Before he was injured people, myself included, were berating his selfishness in front of goal, but he is almost our only player who can create things on his own. No-one else in our squad has his guile and quick feet. Like with Skuse, he is noticeable by his absence.
The signing of Chris Wood is an excellent one as he has scored lots of goals at this level before. But Mick must manage him properly. He should think about playing him, Murphy and Sears together. Wood is much more than just a target man- he has pace and is a natural finisher.
Quite why Luke Varney came on instead of him at half-time against Norwich is ridiculous, but we have come to expect that kind of thing from Mick. Varney will work hard, but he’s never been a natural goalscorer and he isn’t about to become one.
What we need is a Hoolahan. With McGoldrick injured, we have no-one to get between the lines and make things happen. We needed to sign Anthony Knockaert. That would have been a fabulous signing, as he was wonderful last season for Leicester, and would have made a massive difference to our team. Where’s Jonny Williams when you need him?
I think Mick is currently wasting some of his selections by picking players that are far too similar. We really don’t have more than one way of playing, which means it is very difficult to get promoted. Mick needs to release the shackles off this squad, and realise that he has some real talent in this group of players, which is currently not being used.
Mick seems to favour character over ability, which is all very well, but we can wave goodbye to promotion if that continues, because watching us smash the ball up the field for ninety minutes in the derby was painful. Surely Mick sees what the rest of us see.
So, to the rest of the season. Mick needs to realise that we have become inconsistent, and that is because teams are raising their game when they play us, and we have to find ways to counter that. Continuing to play long balls simply won’t work. We must be more flexible if we want to unpick the best defences in the division.
There is now the very real possibility that we won’t finish in the top six with Wolves and Nottingham Forest flying, and Brentford breathing down our necks. We have to accept that our current squad isn’t good enough for the top two, and we should try and consolidate our position in the top six. We still have to play six of the teams with us in the top nine, more than anyone else, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.
Perhaps not finishing in the top six will force Mick to realise that to get promoted we need more quality in the squad. He should be looking for quality and not for characters that he likes. A manager like him should be able to deal with egos and strong personalities. At the moment it seems that he is not able to. The squad needs work, but let’s get behind the boys for these last 12 games of the season.
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