Guest Post by Rugby Irons
I have made a number of comments on the Managers style of late and also the player’s performances. I feel after the revelation of the weekend’s showing I should clarify my views.
Mr Pelligrini ( MP) had a sharp wakeup call after the first four matches and this led me to question whether the players were fit enough, especially mentally, after the losses to Bournemouth and Wolves . We let in two ridiculous goals and it cost us at least two points and any momentum. You can never rely on players to perform but you can at least prepare them to be able to last 90 minutes.
The Everton game changed everything. MP has to take some credit for this, but frankly the players seemed to step up a gear. They were fitter and were showing a greater resilience. This carried on into the Chelsea and Utd matches where the change of attitude and increased fitness were paying dividends. But then Brighton changed it back again where we lost that extra buzz.
As the injuries grew and the squad became disjointed we went backwards. We were losing games and conceding again. This is where I wanted MP to step up. For the first time watching the Spurs Cup match it looked clear to me that in wanting to defend we lost our confidence in attack. Spurs went forward at almost every opportunity whereas we went backwards and sideways. I always thought this was just Noble being Noble but he wasn’t playing and we still did it. Antonio, when 35 yards out from goal back passed to Fab some 60 yards backwards. This is ridiculous. But watching the rest of the game no one gambled. That was until Arnie came on and all of a sudden it changed again!
This brings us to Saturday. Would there be a change of mentality as we were at home or would it be another poor display? It has to be said whether intentionally or by default MP picked a team that had a different dynamic. With Arnie, Diangana and Snodgrass starting, he had skills going forward but the attitude of letting Diangana have a free run made all the difference. Yes the usual suspect was at fault for their two goals, but the energy from the whole team didn’t wane and the positivity at the end was clearly spreading. You can always learn a lot from the reaction of the players when a goal is scored and there is clearly a much greater bond between them that you might expect from a team in its position. Arnie is clearly the leader of the pack and for a beast he shows great compassion for his teammates. MP looks to have steadied his ship and I believe the players are now taking over on the field and being stronger mentally and physically. Let me ask, when was the last time there were genuinely five or six players who could have been man of the match?
This isn’t to say it’s all roses.There are still clearly problems with some of the players. My view is Adrian is a better all round keeper (hence being captain in the Cup) but there is no doubt that Fab is making some very good saves. Cresswell was at fault for goals on Saturday, shutting off twice for their first and not being on his post for the second. Lazy defending, no more than that. Up to that point he was doing ok too.
The central pair have frankly been a revelation and the underestimated player of the season, Zabaleta, has been a warrior. The current midfield three has real guile about it. Snodgrass is a much cleverer player than given credit for and Obiang is just doing his job to a higher standard now. Rice has been getting the plaudits but frankly on Saturday he was simply imperious. He just ran the show.
Diangana has been MP’s lucky break, getting a player that has given us an option just as we lost a big player coming into form. Arnie, well he’s just Arnie isn’t he? We’re frankly lost without him but as our leader he is the jewel in the crown.
Which brings us to Felipe Anderson. He is the epitome of what’s been wrong. Lazy, not fit, poor decision making, limited influence, lack of assists or enough goals. He deserved all the criticism he got. The very least we deserved for his price tag is 90 minutes of effort. And then MP in his quiet stance made it clear he was here to stay in the team. He looked to have him not so wide on Saturday and his work rate and influence was so much better. Although he had a great game, will he be a DiCanio and go missing up north on a cold Saturday afternoon. This Saturday for him is more pivotal than for any of the others, what will we get?
As for the others, Arthur needs to sort himself out as he needs to the left back but he’s currently no better than what we have. I genuinely think that Noble has put himself in a position where he may struggle to get back in the side and not change the momentum if he does. That just depends on Snodgrass’s next yellow! Fredericks looks good to me but Zab behind Diangana is more secure. Chico is a lazy so and so and he is making it so much easier for Carroll to come into the team for his four or five games a season which must be close. Chico is a great finisher but he makes nothing happen he only scores when it’s on a plate and the team just isn’t set up for him. MP gambled on bringing him on, on Saturday and if we have lost from only having two midfield players, he would have got panned. But we didn’t and I want to say that although Ant is having a tough time, I don’t see him giving up. He’s trying his best, but ultimately as Snodgrass has proved if you stick at it, something will change. He just needs a goal and then he’ll improve.
Which brings us to where we are now. Well, as kings of the inconsistent, who knows? The Terriers are in trouble and on a cold wet Saturday afternoon we will see if we are still southern softies or whether the new found fitness and resilience will take us to the next stage of going up the table. Most importantly is how will Mr Pelligrini will set us up. Will he pick the right players, will they be up for it, and can he repeat the last game?
This Saturday is perhaps the real barometer of where our season will go. This is where he will really earn his corn. Onwards and upwards hopefully.