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Author Topic: Moving on  (Read 892 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Moving on
« on: August 24, 2020, 12:58:05 PM »
Well, we somehow got over the line and Smithy has stayed at the helm. At least for the time being. On balance I think that retaining him is a fair outcome. Without a European address we were not going to attract a big name continental tourist, we certainly didn’t want to go down the Pulis route (though Uncle Neil getting the Middlesbrough gig was a big relief) and we didn’t want to go back to the Tony Xia cul-de-sac of panic with a succession of short-term chancers.

Sadly predictable picture no. 1

In a strange sort of way, I thought Deano was more guaranteed to keep the job if we had gone down. After all, a manager who ‘knows the division’ to coin a phrase would have been a priority and that is just what we would already have had.  Whether he can stabilise us, let alone make significant progress, is a matter of some debate but the improved form following lockdown gives him the chance. I dare say, however, that someone upstairs has had a quiet chat which included the words "By Christmas, or...".

My own opinion was that the more urgent needs were to improve the coaching team and the scouting. Lo and behold, in comes Craig Shakespeare and out goes Suso. In terms of scapegoating, the departure of the latter rivals the government’s hanging out to dry of Public Health England but, if that was the spanner in our works, it had to be done.

Sadly predictable picture no. 2

How much input Deano had on last summer’s transfer targets is open to question but I hope it is a bit more this time round. Similarly, how much coaching does a ‘Head Coach’ do? The tactics, selections and subs are his call and he badly needs to re-consider how to make his approach to all three areas more effective, but I doubt he micro-manages to the point of showing centre-backs how to clear set pieces. Putting the two together he may have a case for saying that with better signings we would not have been so fragile at the back nor so toothless up front.

There is no doubt that pre-covid we were heading back down big time; I am not sure that we can reasonably call a deadly pandemic a stroke of luck, but you know what I mean. Apart from getting a second bite at the cherry the rest and reflection time gave one or two of our underperformers the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Douglas Luiz was the biggest beneficiary and now looks something like the player we thought we were getting. Whether a more balanced team selection helped him or whether his form helped to balance the midfield would make an interesting pub discussion but there is no doubt that things do look a bit brighter in that particular malfunctioning department.

The other big beneficiary was SuperJohnMcGinn who got an unexpected chance to ensure that he had not had a totally wasted season. The good news for us was that his indifferent form and eventual kamikaze injury kept the wolves from the door. On the flipside his market value has been severely dented and remember to keep an eye on Leicester, where the manager is a long-term admirer and has an eye for a bargain.

As ever, Jack’s alleged summer courtships have kept the click sites and red tops in business but at time of writing it all appears to have gone a little quiet. Long may that continue though the fact that both Manchester clubs underperformed in Europe may re-kindle a bit of interest and expect Arsenal to come into any bidding war that transpires. I take the view that it is a win-win for us. If he stays, we make quite a statement, keep a unique talent and his presence should help attract decent signings. I do not think an England career would suffer as I take Gareth Southgate to be sensible enough not to worry what colour shirt you wear in the day job.

Or indeed what colour jumper

But if he goes, we pick up a small fortune and our players will be forced to look for other options rather than the default ‘pass it to Jack at any cost’. Before lockdown you could sense the indecision in the attacking half if Jack was not available; it made us far too predictable and gave defences the easy option of having to foul only one player. He owes us nothing and, as has been said many times, we thought it was the end of the world when Andy Gray left. You might also add Bruce Rioch, David Platt and Dwight Yorke. Life will be different, but it goes on all the same. And we might get £80 million to spend in the sweet shop.

What scares me most is the minimum required for us to make a mark on the division. Regardless of us giving them a bit of a fight in the last quarter at Wembley it will take us, even with superb recruitment and management, the best part of ten years at least to get anywhere close to Citeh’s regular standards of team work or Liverpool’s athletic consistency. Funnily enough we have not looked too outclassed by Liverpool’s adult team this year and especially when we were 1-0 up with three minutes of real time, three minutes of substitution time and tree minutes of Klopp time to go. And without Jack that day, which gives a bit of food for thought.

Forget the top two, what has surprised me is how much better-organised, tactically savvy, and physically conditioned many of the bread and butter sides have become since we were last around these parts. Given what we saw last season it may take a few years to reach even Southampton’s standard. And, yes, some clubs can identify a proper centre-forward. A look at the new fixture list reminds me that there is no such thing as an easy game, and certainly not even the promoted sides, though it hurts me to say it, and some of those ‘double away’ weeks look distinctly scary. The way the fixtures have fallen, please God we have thirty-odd points by the end of April.

A welcome positive is that we look to be treating the Academy seriously again. On several occasions I have made use of the H&V fanzine to bemoan the almost institutionalised annual waste of youth talent over the past 15-20 years. Thankfully, the owner’s business plan, as far as I can tell, is partly predicated on a production line of home-developed talent. Under the new management of an outsider, as opposed to a favourite son, the Academy looks to be cherry-picking serious talent from elsewhere. Apart from developing that talent the bigger challenge will be the manager’s courage in bringing it into the team. Squad numbers and warming the bench are all very well but will not take us forward. We need to create a real and recognisable route to the top.

The summer’s real fun is not, however, in identifying young talent but in using social media to advise the club where to buy ready-made seniors. No two of us agree on the entire shopping list but as most of us want to see the goals go in the purchase of a proven striker would, I guess, be at the top of most lists. This time last year we became quite excited when the man-mountain Wesley turned up, and - though to a lesser extent - when Samatta came. As I was excited three season ago when I first saw Keinan Davis.

All three remain on the books but would you place good money on any of them (or all three combined) scoring into double figures? We can but hope that Wesley does a Luiz or that Samatta can add a bit of devil to his game. A bit of mobility from either would not come amiss. Or will we finally raid Brentford for new blood? Whatever, I would like to see two strikers, even if one Davis was there simply as a decoy to rough up the centre-backs, and Jack tucked in just behind. Perhaps the opportunity to attack a bit more effectively lies with Luiz and McGinn and that more balanced and confident midfield?

Well, if nothing else, the close season does give you the time to dream.

Colin Brown

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Re: Moving on
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2020, 11:31:12 PM »
Great article.

Offline JD

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Re: Moving on
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2020, 05:06:19 AM »
Excellent article Colin.

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Re: Moving on
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2020, 03:18:47 PM »
Excellent article, Southgate needs to read it.

Offline ldavfc4eva

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Re: Moving on
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2020, 07:17:41 AM »
Great read Colin


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