A View From The Swimming Pool – 14/2/16

Well it all started so well, as I managed to grab a sun lounger right by the side of the pool and listened with relish to QPR’s humiliation at the hands of their near neighbours, Fulham.

If truth be told I was slightly conflicted about that one but felt on reflection that Fulham’s victory was probably the best possible result overall given that the rules didn’t allow both teams to lose.

Now it was Brentford’s turn and everything was going like clockwork as Mark Burridge’s dulcet tones came over loud and clear and I looked forward to listening to a description of an improved display after the capitulation at Brighton.

I couldn’t really question the team selection. Hofmann deserved his opportunity after neither Vibe nor Djuricin had fully convinced lately and Yennaris and Canos would ideally provide us with legs and enthusiasm and some support for a striker who is not the most mobile.

It all started well with early chances for Yennaris, one that he should surely have taken, and Judge, before disaster struck after a mere five minutes with a long ball over the top being chased by Hooper with Barbet trailing in his wake.

The ball ran through harmlessly to Button but the coming together of Hooper and Barbet on the edge of be area was instantly adjudged a red card offence by a referee still in the Brentford half with no apparent clear view of the incident and who made an instantaneous and game changing decision without feeling the need to consult his assistant who was up with play and had not signalled for a foul.

A red card it was and as Barbet reluctantly dragged himself off the pitch, Dean Smith’s carefully worked game plan was in tatters almost before the game had started.

The Bees switched to a 4-4-1 formation which in reality meant 4-4-0 as Hofmann, isolated and outnumbered, disappeared from sight and left us without any real attacking outlet.

More crucially, Brentford no longer had an out ball or anyone capable of holding the ball up and giving a beleaguered defence some respite or any much needed time to reorganise or take a breather.

In retrospect I wonder if it would have been better had we withdrawn Hofmann rather than the unfortunate Kerschbaumer and concentrated on packing the midfield?

Sheffield Wednesday smelled blood and attacked relentlessly and it was now simply a question of whether a revamped Brentford back four with substitute Jack O’Connell now partnering Harlee Dean, could defend properly and keep them at bay.

Well the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak as it quickly became obvious that it was a merely a matter of how soon and how many.

Brentford shipped three soft goals before halftime and they all owed as much to muddled and inept defending as they did to attacking brilliance.

The second half was a damp squib as we concentrated upon damage limitation and the Bees avoided further embarrassment until the last minute when David Button conceded a fourth goal from an eminently saveable effort.

Our Man of the Match was Mark Burridge who played an absolute blinder. He succeeded in describing the shambles on the pitch without either gilding the lily or indulging in destructive criticism. He simply told it as it was and did an expert and professional job.

What is quite apparent is that this is now a team increasingly bereft of confidence, shorn of some of its best players, that is simply trying to limp through the remainder of the season unscathed until major squad surgery can be scheduled in the Summer.

I have already written at length about the rationale for such a reactive and seemingly unambitious strategy and I am not about to change my tune and criticise it as I well understand and accept why we are now in this position.

What I find of more concern is whether the players that currently remain available to us are fully capable of achieving what I feel are the two minimum requirements for the remainder of the season of keeping us competitive and maintaining interest and excitement amongst an increasingly concerned, demanding and critical fan base.

I am firmly of the view that sometimes it is necessary to take a backwards step in order to progress and now is certainly a case in point.

Our future progress is predicated totally on a combination of how well we clean the stables and how effectively we recruit fresh blood in the close season.

The last third of the current campaign is far too long to stand still and simply tread water and ideally we should be using the time to test out new formations, discover more about the players that remain and whether we should maintain faith in them, and ideally concentrate on improving them and eradicating some of the careless errors that punctuate our play from week to week.

All that in conjunction with winning some matches and keeping the fans interested, entertained and involved rather than counting off the days until the end of the season and looking over our shoulder at the teams below us.

It is unfair to read too much into a match where we went a key man down so early on and it is not so long ago that we comprehensively outplayed Preston on their own patch, so it is premature to panic but it cannot be denied that there are some worrying signs and that the warning bells are beginning to jangle.

What is particularly concerning is that the same worrying traits reoccur with monotonous regularity week after week and we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes or show many signs of improvement.

We have now conceded nine goals in the last four games and it would be hard to credit our opponents for any of them as they were all caused to a greater or lesser extent by avoidable individual errors.

We are a soft touch and have not kept a clean sheet since Boxing Day and have never really looked like doing so. We lack pace in central defence and are horribly vulnerable to long balls over the top as was clearly demonstrated by the horror show of a second goal yesterday which came from a long, straight goal kick which was criminally allowed to bounce before Hooper showed great skill and anticipation to score with an instant volley.

I would have thought that defensive solidity would have been a coaching priority in training and I’m sure that it is, but our efforts do not seem to be having much effect where it matters, out on the pitch.

There seems to be a lack of cohesion and we do not have mini partnerships developing on the pitch similar to the one for example between Odubajo and Jota last season and it would be so helpful if Colin and Bidwell could develop a similar relationship with a wide midfielder as it all looks so disjointed at the moment.

Dean Smith is beginning to take on a haunted look and I feel sorry for him as he can only work with what he has got.

Hopefully he can entice some pace, tempo and brio from a midfield quintet that looks slow, weak, small and overmatched.

Personally I believe that much of the problem stems from a lack of confidence which will only be restored by a win or two.

I am not so sure though if we can either rehabilitate or get much more out of our three ailing strikers, none of whom has contributed a jot since the turn of the year.

Leaving aside the screamingly obvious fact that our favoured 4-2-3-1 formation suits none of them, Vibe is shattered after a year of nonstop activity, Djuricin has shown nothing since his return from injury and Hofmann has much to do to prove himself after a performance of appalling sloth and ineptitude yesterday.

Unless Dean Smith or Richard O’Kelly are miracle workers I honestly have no idea how we can squeeze some performances, let alone goals, out of any of them.

Maybe the answer is to attempt to shake things up by bringing in a couple of short term loanees who can ideally plug a few gaps and provide a fresh impetus or something different?

Perhaps Alan McCormack will return from injury and add some steel and competitive edge?

Forgive me for even mentioning this but I also feel that we are too naive and nice. Every team we play seems to make a habit of committing strategic fouls which frustratingly nip our threat in the bud. Alan Judge has been a particular victim of this practice recently, and perhaps we need to follow suit where necessary.

As you all can see, all I have are questions and concerns and no real answers, and maybe we simply have to accept the situation for what it is and just do our best to be patient and fight our way out of it.

I have been supporting Brentford long enough to be more than grateful for our place in the Championship and am happy for us to consolidate slowly and gradually.

What does worry me is if we are not competitive.

We now have two eminently winnable home games coming up against a Derby County team in free fall and Wolves.

Let’s see where we are after these two matches before we get too concerned.

Two good performances and a minimum of four points gained would go a long way towards restoring our faith as well as a sense of calm, trust and patience.

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13 thoughts on “A View From The Swimming Pool – 14/2/16

  1. I reckon Macca could be important, as he was under Marinus and Lee Carsley, getting on the others players backs and driving them on, whilst breaking up opposition attacks. What concerns me is the seeming decline in fitness, speed and organisation since Lee Carsley went. Once LC got going, after the first two matches, even when we lost we never looked ropey or disorganised. I came to games confident that we would get the best out of the players we had and not disgrace ourselves. Since those days we have slid on all fronts this being consolidated with the sale and loss of important first teamers.

    I am getting worried about Dean Smith’s abilities as a manager. Pondering over it I wonder if he is trying to play a system that is a little foreign to him? The fast movement seems to have gone, we are now far more static in our playing style. Maybe given time he will be able to shape the team and tactics more to his liking. It’s a little sad to say goodbye to the frantic, skilful excitement of our style under Warburton or Carsley but needs must.

    I expected us to build and build, adding to an already successful base, with no fear of relegation. I am not so confident now. We have a massive job in the summer and failure to get it right could see us in the lower regions of this division. That’s not to say we can’t do it but it looks like the foundations are a little more shaky than I originally believed.

    Still, in Matthew we trust and let’s hope it’s onwards and upwards…

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  2. “Something” is wrong, and I really can’t put my finger on it. The thing that puzzles me most is how Lee Carsley took on a team that was a mess, and turned them into a real cohesive unit, and post Carsley, with basically the same team except Tarkowski (jota doesn’t count cos he wasn’t playing), we have gone back to being a mess.

    Is it the manager (or, if you must, Head Coach), the set up, the training, coaching (what coaching is my response to that one, since we make the same mistakes time and time again, corners are just a waste of time, shooting on target, hardly) or just morale. Who knows, but something is not right.

    My brother is a bit more philosophical – he didn’t expect us to win either of our last two games, but I am forever hopeful. I am worried, and will remain so until we get 50 points.

    Sorry to be so negative and unconstructive.

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  3. Peter that only related to recruitment not all the other aspects of the team such as tactics, training and formations etc.

    The stats analysis is only used to identify and short list prospects before they are scouted by humans.

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  4. I am genuinely perplexed by our performances.

    I compare the Preston team and performance with the last two performances and it baffles me. In the last two games the performance in the first half and second halves baffle me, almost like two different teams. The sending off really did knock the stuffing out of us, but these things happen in football. Where is the resilience which is needed in such situations to bounce back? The never say die motivation?

    That is why I say “something” is not right.

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  5. Stay by that pool mate – I froze my nads off at Hillsborough – god it was bleak – and costly!

    For someone who wasn’t at the game you’ve pretty much nailed it in your summary, the only area of disagreement from me was the starting line up which I really didn’t fancy, not that we have too many options when facing up to the bigger more physical sides. Anyway it is all academic as the hasty red card from the useless referee killed it before it began. Not that this should excuse the defensive failings for the goals – ridiculous.

    The squad is thin, weak and lacking any kind of a leader – I have the same sense of foreboding that I had when MD was our coach. This slump is going to take some stopping and turning around. I can take poor results, but as you say not being competitive is criminal – how have we allowed the squad to be this unbalanced?

    We simply have to dip into the loan market and try to find a few points form somewhere.

    Then comes the major surgery in the summer, and believe me it is major.

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  6. We really need a hard man, leader. McCormack maybe will add something. A Leadbetter would be perfect. Unfortunately this model is rarer than a striker!

    I, too, am out of ideas.

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  7. If you want strategic fouls, then the boy McCormack is your man! In all seriousness he’s got to play once fit.

    I keep on hearing this thing about experimenting in the next couple of months. By all means once we’re safe, but while we’re stuck on 40 points with four points out of the last seven league games, I’d call the idea more than a touch crazy.

    Enjoy your hols Greville.

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  8. To be fair I always thought we’d struggle in January – even before we lost Jota, Tarkowski and Diagouraga. Casting my eye back over my prediction chart from October, I had us down to lose against Birmingham and Boro, draw with Burnley, lose at Preston, then get a win against Leeds – so 4 points out of 15. We actually did get 4 points out of 15 – although obviously not quite how I thought we would! Looking at February, I had us down to lose at Brighton, pick up a point at Wednesday (!), draw against Derby, then finish the month strongly, by beating Wolves and Rotherham. Right now, I’d take another 4 points from these next three matches. Going into March on 44 points wouldn’t be awful.

    Looking farther forward, I think we have to be thankful that we have the following to play in March, April and May:

    Charlton (H)
    Blackburn (H)
    Bolton (H)
    Bristol City (H)
    Fulham (H)
    MK Dons (A)
    Huddersfield (A)

    Quite frankly, if we can’t conjure up three or even four wins against that lot, we probably don’t deserve to retain our Championship status – even with our depleted, disjointed squad.

    Continuing to be uncharacteristically upbeat about what will happen between now and May 7, we have 15 matches left to play. On paper, we have to be confident about winning at least 5 of them, which will see us achieving the fantastic feat of playing Championship football for three seasons in a row. I remember driving 400 miles (round trip) many years ago with my Dad to watch us get battered 4-0 at Wigan. Back then, being an established second tier club seemed like nothing more than a fantastical dream!

    For now, I am nervously looking forward to heading to Griffin Park on Saturday to see if we can be the latest team to dent Derby’s promotion hopes. To be honest, with Wolves and Rotherham to follow in quick succession, I actually think that a point (and a good performance) against Derby wouldn’t be too bad. Of course, what I would really love to see (as would us all) is a return to the high tempo football played under Warbs and Carsley (and at times, Dean Smith too).

    Yes, we have problems and yes it’s been an up and down campaign, but Saturday is another game and another chance for the players to show what they are made of. I’m hoping that the likes of Canos, Woods, Judge, Swift, Colin and Vibe take the bull (er, ram?) by the horns and give us all something to finally get excited about come quarter to five on Saturday evening.

    Enjoy your holiday, Greville. (Spain? Portugal? Greece? Cyprus?)

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