I believe this sort of run was just waiting to happen. All season we have looked defensively vulnerable even when we had a full compliment to choose from and for me its the foundations of the side that are weak. Offensively we have some talented quality players but with the recent injury upheaval and subsequent loss of form more pressure has been put on our defensive side of the game and we have been ruthlessly exposed even by average sides. A little mystified why GJ has brought in even more unproven offensive players to tackle defensive frailties that lie in midfield and in the back line. I don't think it would take a great deal to put right but feel our next incoming player should be a specialist holding defensive midfielder with experience. Asa Hall unfortunately is reaching the end of his career and doesn't have the pace or energy required at this level, ruthlessly exposed by a young and eager Stockport midfield last week. Matt Buse another that could possibly play that role is often caught too far up the pitch and is lightweight in the tackle but look around at what we do have in that department, a player to sit more and protect the back line - it looks pretty sparse to me. I do not believe we should be apportioning blame on our defenders we always look vulnerable to counter attack and when the front players are not at their best and pushing back the opposition we can look hopelessly exposed. The times Cundy was caught in possession with no cover last Saturday was criminal and cost us dearly and it is also exposing Cameron who has also had to deal ewith a young wing back on his side. I feel our biggest issue now is confidence and belief. Suddenly we look slow and ponderous in certain areas, giving the ball away cheaply conceding soft goals so results as of late are unfortunately inevitable. Sure we would look a heck of a lot better with the experienced Liam Davis back there but that would only be papering over the cracks.
Pete could well be right that the warning signals had already been flashing for some time. I haven’t been able to go to enough games this season to make much of a judgement. Yet when we were climbing steadily upwards, scoring 4 goals in away matches, almost on a regular basis at one point, I can understand there might have been a reluctance to tinker with anything, particularly as the results were taking care of themselves in such impressive fashion.
I agree that there was always a question whether Asa Hall could continue being the linchpin of midfield game after game in the higher league. Hall is not short of qualities, and with good and energetic players around him, like Andrews and Armani, Asa’s experience still had it’s place, even if the full 90 minutes of every match was too much to ask … but no immediate problem when we looked to be almost overloaded with midfielders early on. Matt Buse also isn’t the finished article, and probably wasn’t anticipated to be making many appearances in the starting eleven, but we’ve had to throw him in, and there are aspects of his game, such as those Pete mentions, that aren’t quite there yet consistently.
A replacement for Liam Davis ? That was always a tall order, and so far it’s left us weaker. It could be a case that defensively minded players that can fit into the side, and are better than we’ve already got, just haven’t been available, or willing to join us for the time being. But I would certainly assume that we’re looking, and that by hook or by crook they just have to be found within these next few weeks as we head up and into the new year.
Just a fortunate win courtesy of a lucky deflection can boost confidence and set things along a different path. But overall, I’m sure that Gary Johnson recognises some more substantial changes are needed than just trusting to luck that our fortunes must be due an upturn. I can’t see the current regime being willing to see this drift, and so would be confident the hard background work into getting the players Gary feels are needed is already well underway. The sooner we see the fruits of that work the better.