At the end of August we were riding the crest of a wave. Another fine victory over Manchester United had put us into the top four going into the first international break and the majority of the Jack Army including myself were confident that we’d once again finish comfortably in the top half of the Premier League.
So what has gone wrong since then? Eight league games, a single victory, only five goals scored of which just three were from open play and even one of those was an own goal! Every team has bad games but I’m starting to think there’s more to it than that. In most of the eight games we’ve played the performance levels have not been acceptable. I’m especially looking at Watford, Southampton, Stoke and Norwich.
In each of these games we were toothless going forward and gave away very poor goals, which is just about the worst combination for any football club.
Individually a lot of our players are simply not performing and need to take a long hard look at themselves. Bafetimbi Gomis is a name that immediately springs to mind. His offside stats for a start are embarrassing, he is wasting so many attacks it’s unreal. For his size he often gets muscled off the ball too easily when we really need him to hold the ball up and of course the goals have now dried up. Which begs the question why hasn’t he been dropped? Eder was signed for £5 million in the summer, he must be thinking “why did I come here?” He was given just five minutes again at Carrow Road just like he is most weeks, what is he supposed to do in such a short space of time?
Complacency is a disease in football, but the Frenchman can now afford to be complacent as it appears he’s become un droppable. Sometimes players need a kick up the backside to get a reaction out of them. Garry Monk did that by dropping Gylfi Sigurdsson for the game against Stoke and when he was restored to the line up against Villa he had his best game of the season .
Talking of Sigurdsson and can anyone explain to me why when you’re a goal down you would take him off and bring on Leon Britton. Now we all love Leon, but when you need a goal why is he coming on? It make no sense, Sigurdsson is one of only three players who have scored for us in the league this season which is another worrying stat considering we are almost a third of the way into the campaign.
We are not seeing him or Jonjo Shelvey shoot from long range anymore and when a lot of teams sit deep against us it’s an option that we need to utilise more often. They are two of the best players in the league when it comes to shots from outside the box but both now seem reluctant to have a go. Surely we should be playing to our strengths and both have the ability to bang one in from 25 yards. Neither player has scored from open play yet this term as a result and neither has Ki. The three of them scored 18 in the league between them in 2014/5 but as yet they have just two, both score by the Iceman.
Substitutions are another thing that baffles me. Mo Barrow is not a player that excels when he starts but from the bench he makes a real impact as shown at Villa a couple of weeks ago. Yet for the trip to Norwich he finds himself out of the eighteen. Marvin Emnes is another player who isn’t a great starter but is known for making a good cameo as a sub yet he’s been bombed out of the picture completely. Wayne Routledge is undoubtedly a better player than both but as this afternoon showed he isn’t as influential from the bench as either of those two. Having players who can make an impact in the second half can be a huge advantage so it’s disappointing to see us not utilising these options.
And what about our defending. Set pieces are once again becoming a problem for us. Do we not practise them at either end? We barely ever even have an effort at goal from one (unless it’s a shot direct from a free kick) and defensively we look like conceding in every game. I have to question how we are organising ourselves at corners. Who’s picking up who seems to be an issue, I remember at West Ham last year Angel Rangel marking Andy Carroll at a corner which was absurd and today we saw Ki marking Cameron Jerome and predictably he lost him at a free kick which nearly led to a goal. Why aren’t one of the centre halves picking up the main goal threats? The same thing happened for the Canaries goal today. Two players completely unmarked, Fabianski in no man’s land and an easy tap in for Jonny Howson to win the game for the hosts.
It’s been the story of the last few weeks, Stoke winning a penalty against us was a catalogue of errors on our part, Villa’s goal was scored from our own corner and don’t get me started on Arsenal’s second last week. Even Mr Reliable himself Ashley Williams isn’t performing at the moment which is probably the biggest worry of all. He’s been directly at fault for more goals over the last couple of months than in living memory.
Despite all this I’m nowhere near at the point of saying Garry Monk should go. He did a great job last season and deserves the opportunity to turn things around and I believe he is capable of doing so. His inexperience is starting to show though and he’s making mistakes that he wasn’t making in the early part of his reign. Performances and results are leaving a lot to be desired and his decisions are becoming questionable. This will be a big test for him, undoubtedly the biggest of his reign so far. Let’s hope he comes through it.