Worrying signs and muddled thinking - Knee Jerks
Sunday, 10th Dec 2017 13:05 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola's weekly look back at the key talking points from the last game features some positives around Ilias Chair and Pawel Wszolek but also big concerns about direction of travel after a 3-1 loss to Leeds.
Well, he looked extremely comfortable on the ball. Busy, tidy, with a couple of nice through balls during the first half. There's definitely a bit of hope there. But overall, he was lost in the maelstrom of four central midfielders trying to play together and was then withdrawn probably too early.
It was great to see Ned and Hall come back - that is big news. Although, obviously, we conceded three at home regardless. First half, apart from one customary mistake, I thought Ned was fine. He may have tired a bit in the second, which would be understandable. Hall looked fine too, so maybe some hope lies ahead. We desperately, desperately need to find a way to keep some clean sheets. Allowing Kemar Roofe, who Leeds fans have basically written off as their version of Washington, a hat trick is a real indictment of our defence.
One bright spot was Pav. Probably wasted at right back, it was nevertheless good to see him get a whole game. I thought he got forward well, twice getting to the byline to play decent balls across without reward. One was on the end of a genuinely brilliant move that cut Leeds apart right through the heart of their team, and would have been goal of the season had Freeman managed to tuck away the cross. And then he scored a fortunate goal at the end, thanks to yet more comedy goalkeeping at LR. Of the last five goals we've now scored at home, three are down to catastrophic goalie errors, which says a lot about our 'fire power'.
I saw plenty to like from Bright. He looks strong, has a bit of pace, decent on the ball. But he didn't really get much of a chance. He came on and seemed to be inexplicably asked to tuck inside rather than offer us a genuine wide option. Then he was bizarrely switched to what looked like full back. Then possibly wing back. And towards the end he did finally play a bit further forward. What chance did he have with that kind of muddled thinking? Four positions in 25 minutes. Poor kid.
Well, I'm ready to join the pessimists I'm afraid. I had some hope after the Brentford comeback that it might spark something, and maybe it would have without the Mackie sending off. Instead, we've lost another two. Six games, one point, scoring just four goals. I feel for the players, because there's no lack of effort and at times yesterday, particularly the first half, we looked ok, without ever really looking threatening. But we can't keep clean sheets and we can't score goals. The early season gung-ho attitude that saw us raining in shots all day (even if they didn't yield much) has now gone. Yesterday I don't think we managed a shot on target - because I'm not counting our goal as a shot. Because it wasn't.
Yesterday we were up against a truly awful keeper, who Leeds fans are terrified of. We had Smith up front. The plan was surely to properly test him. We didn't. In fact, we did, right at the end, with a harmless chip, and he missed it. So here was a lame duck goalie with a recent history of clangers, and he barely had a thing to do. Smith was dominated by their centre backs, but when he did win flick-ons, as usual Washington was nowhere near them (to be fair, Washington was nowhere near the ball all afternoon). We have a striker who thrives on crossed balls into the box, but no wingers and no width - even when we brought on a winger he didn't play on the wing. So Leeds strolled away with three easy points that they fully deserved.
This is now serious. And unlike last time Ollie was in this position in our second season back in League One, there are no magical Lee Cooks on the horizon. He has to make do with what we have and what we have is just too easy to play against at the moment. We're miles away from those Sheffield and Wolves results. What's happened?
It's like deja vu. Spending loads of time defending him, saying we should stick with him, that we can't keep changing managers when the same problems remain. It's the noughties all over again. A new manager still won't have any strikers (although he might at least start Sylla every game and give the guy some confidence), and he'll still have defensive injuries, but you start to wonder.
I like Ollie, I think he's brought out some decent performances in this team and he's made solid signings. But, hypothetically, how much longer can this go on? I think the stat was we had only lost six in a row once in our entire history up until December last year. Now, had it not been for an extremely fortunate (if immensely enjoyable) comeback against Brentford, we would have lost six in a row three times in under 12 months - and we weren't even playing for three of those months. We haven't won away since February. Our home form, so solid early on, has collapsed. At the moment, I'm hoping there are three worse teams than us this season, and banking on the fight this team undoubtedly has to keep us up, but a loss to hapless Birmingham next week and we are right in the mix, if we're not already.
A Birmingham loss would make six out of seven. A loss to rampant Bristol City the following week looks pretty nailed on. So that's seven out of eight. It's hypothetical and I don't want a change of manager, but how many can you go without falling on your sword? Perhaps more importantly for Ollie, how long can this go on before the Twitterati convince Fernandes that his trigger finger needs its annual scratch?
Yesterday wasn't a terrible performance, but the second half was a bit nothingy. We were probably better than them before the break, but they came out hungrier, possibly switched one or two things around, and scored three despite not having a recognised striker on the pitch. The answers Ollie had were muddled, with Osayi-Samuel being shunted around and Sylla thrown on to no real effect because of a lack of service from wide areas. I appreciate if we play two wingers we look vulnerable through the midfield, but he needs to find some way to sort this and quickly, because at the moment it's simply too easy for teams to beat us and we're sinking very fast.
Pictures – Action Images
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