1964white wrote:So a relegation battle would be no surprise then ?
It is certainly a possibility. If you look at the last few seasons we have consistently been mid table at best. Last year was possibly, and quite probably a one-off in terms of us threatening promotion. As I have mentioned previously if you take Chris Wood out of last season's team then we are mid table at best - similarly you could take Ross McCormack's goals away in previous season's and we would have been nearer the bottom than mid table.
You had the misfortune to witness a lot of awful matches last season but also saw us win a lot of those matches by the odd goal. These results were usually down to a combination of 2 or 3 things from the following list of 4
a) Usually us scoring one of our few chances through either Wood or a Bartley/Jannson header from a set play.
b) Bartley and PJ defending really well
c) Green performing heroics
d) The opposition squandering their best chance(s)
We rode our luck for a large part of last season and the results largely masked us actually being a very ordinary/poor side. A bit similar to when Blackburn won the league title we only had 4 decent players (whereas they had Flowers, Hendry, Batty & Shearer we had Green, Bartley, PJ and Wood). The summer saw us take too many gambles transfer wise and whilst initially it all looked promising now the decisions made in the recruitment of players look like cheap options that simply aren't good enough. I made the compariso to Cellino's first season in charge where he recruited from Italy and initially a lot of players impressed (people being wowed by Bianchi's composure in midfield, Antenucci's creativity and ability to score spectacular goals, Doukara's initial good form etc). Signings that first looked promising (the swedish midfielder lad on loan from AC Milan for example) but quickly it became clear they weren't really any better than the players they had replaced, just cheaper.
So realistically at this point in time we have gone from a team that was solely reliant on Wood for goals to a team that now hasn't got Wood. Somehow we have to make up for the lack of Wood's goals and to do this TC has been given a cheap option loan striker that has hardly kicked a ball for a season (no wonder he still doesn't look fully fit), an injured striker (Ekuban) that has come from having a good season in Albania, a swedish striker (Cibicki) who doesn't appear to have any physical strength and would appear to not be what TC wanted judging by his lack of minutes, a young dutch striker (Grot) that has o real pedigree for scoring goals or a player signed last season (Roofe) but who has seemingly lost the pace he had and has no physical presence (contrast him to Ollie Watkins for Brentford - both similar players but one a huge threat and one anonymous). Our lack of goals is not down to TC but the lack of signing a ready made player (even a Nugent/Rhodes type signing would have been a better option).
Defensively we were fairly tight last season but only when PJ and Bartley played together. For whatever reason their individual strengths combined well. We heard various names being mentioned in the summer yet ended up relying on a loan signing (Pennington) who hadn't played much due to injury and the majority of his matches were at league 1 level. A player (Cooper) that was seen by many as inadequate back up last season yet has probably played more games than anyone at centreback this season and a young inexperienced midfielder (Shaugnessy) that has been converted to a centre back.
Midfield wise and although we have strengthened a bit attacking wise with Saiz and Alioski TC has still had to fill the rest of his midfield with a player that was continually overlooked (O'Kane) by Monk and a player that is widely not highly thought of (Phillips) by a lot of fans. For some reason Klich hasn't had much of a look in but that doesn't mean that he is good enough (similar in a way to how the likes of Luke Murphy was deemed better by virtue of not being in the team yet never really looked the part when selected). Midfield is possibly the only area where you could claim we are stronger this season but it is still a weak area for us and just like last year we are very easily over run at times).
In goal and again the powers that be appear to have taken the cheap option. They could have signed Stockdale, last season's championship Keeper of the year, but no doubt he would have requested high wages. This may also have been the case with Green as he likely was offered an incentive laced contract by Cellino and as such when he signed his new deal probably got a pay rise. For all TC probably wanted a ball playing keeper it would have been down to Orta to come up with the potential signings and having spent money on FW I would have thought TC was under pressure then to play him. Green leaving was a straightforward money saving decision as Lonerghan would have been on much lower wages having been back up at Wolves.
So all in all we are a weaker team than last season where Wood's goals and a solid defence/keeper papered over a lot of cracks for the first three quarters of the season. We are a team that has lost all the glue (Green, Bartley and Wood) that kept that paper in place and replaced it with a bit of spit (feel free to use your imaginations to change the letter p there).
TC may have had the answers to what went wrong for us last season but last season he would have had a better team. I would also point out to those reaching for the trigger that if Pep Guardiola didn't have his reputation he would have surely been fired last season at Man City. However to change a team's style of play even with the quality of players City have takes time and TC is trying to do the same thing with us but with players picked up at the opposite end of the price spectrum to those at City. If we simply sack the manager every time things go wrong we will never address the real problem which is the quality of signings made by the club over the last 10 years or more. Signing unknowns and hoping they all blend does occasionally work but it requires as much luck, if not more, as it does judgement.