Villa talk, strengthening our defence and getting the “mentality” right

So another international week goes by and I guess, in other times, we would be decrying the timing of this in relation to a crowded fixture list. We would be hoping that our players would return home unscathed and ready for that crucial end to the season, but for us I guess it doesn’t really matter now!

The result against Southampton, a while ago I know but it was our last one, was probably one of the most disappointing of the season. It was disappointing because of the meek manner of the defeat but also in the context of our good form of late, I think it was something like nine wins out of our last fifteen games. There is no doubting that the some of the football we’ve been playing of late (last Saturday excepted) has been promising however, the fragility and inconsistency of the team and the individuals within it still remains at a level that is worrying. It’s almost as if is this is the price we pay for the good performances. We are like a high performance car that breaks down regularly rather an steady old reliable old hatch back! Trouble is, even allowing for this, we don’t have the horsepower to challenge the race leaders!

That is the reality of situation regardless of who we employ but we are not helping ourselves. The defence in particular of late has been extremely poor. As I mentioned in previous pieces even when we thrashed Wigan Jose Reina prevented it from being something like 4-4 with a series of high class, point blank, stops. We were poor against Spurs and shocking at St Mary’s. Perhaps the most disturbing thing is that it is difficult to pinpoint one area of the back four where we are weak, it seems to be randomly spread around according to how and who we play. Against Southampton it was Martin Skrtel’s turn but before that Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher have also contributed. The most consistent offender ever since we signed him is Glen Johnson, surely we have to ask ourselves does his attacking abilities outweigh his defensive fragility, in particular his inability to pick up and or track players? BR is the sort of manager who likes the full backs to push on and Johnson, incomprehensively in my opinion, continues to be first choice for us and England so I guess it is.

BR in a roundabout way, I think, seems to acknowledge the problems we have at the back. A few weeks ago he talked about us having to buy “some men” in the summer. I don’t know what this says about his opinion of others in the team or the widely assumed policy of FSG, where accent is on youth, but this sort of clumsy talk hasn’t stopped BR in the past. Presumably he was referring to a replacement for Jamie Carragher, but who knows? Carragher’s retirement, the increasing inability of Sebastian Coates to establish himself, the erratic play of Skrtel and Agger and the general reluctance of Johnson to do anything that remotely resembles trying to prevent the opposition from scoring suggest, more than one defensive acquisitions is needed. BR seems to agree, I think!

“That is the area which needs to improve and to do that we need character.”

Whilst agreeing that we need to improve I don’t necessary feel the key issue is someone with “character” more important is someone who can stop the opposition from scoring. Eric Morecombe had “character” however, when he was alive I wouldn’t have fielded him at centre back! However the “mojo” of his players, as opposed to basic ability to play football to the strengths of the team, is something BR seems intent on harking about

“I don’t think massive surgery is needed. Maybe if we had a few more of Daniel Sturridge’s capacity in the group that could set us up. Technically we have shown we are very capable, tactically we have not been found wanting like in the recent two games against Arsenal and Man City. The condition and intensity of their work is high so that only leaves one thing – mentality.”

I don’t know if any one agrees with me on this but just what do managers mean when they use the word “technically”. Does it refer to the right way to pass a ball or take a shot or make a tackle if so all players would be clones of each other or is it just a meaningless phrase that everyone seems to use without giving it any real thought ie. just pure bullsh*t? As for BR emphasis on “mentality” well I’ve no doubt it does play a part however organising your side, playing to it’s strength and the oppositions weaknesses, making sure they do the basics right, cutting out the mistakes and doing your homework before a game rather just going though the same old routine, and hoping that things will gel, also play a part?

However, although this is becoming more of a difficult mantra to trot out as the season goes on I guess we must be patient and give BR the time. I don’t really know where he or we or I stand with each other now so all we can do is get on with it? Today we have the opportunity to right the poor home game against Aston Villa however, more importantly, it will the opportunity to bounce back from the poor performance against Southampton. This is the sort of fixture that will test the side’s “mentality” and BR’s ability to harness it. Villa know they need to win, they are in a relegation scrap, although we have nothing to play for, BR does. He needs to motivate his players to show that they can bounce back after two Saturday’s ago. Failure and excuses of “a poor day at the office” or “we just didn’t get going” will begin to say more about the “mentality” of manager as well as the team.
rediction? 2-1 to us.

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