After the home game with Burnley things were as positive at the Liberty Stadium as they had been all season. A joyous last minute winner from Fernando Llorente had put us six points ahead of Hull and our chances of survival were considered very good.
Fast forward five weeks which have yielded just one point and we now find ourselves trailing the Tigers by two points in the final relegation spot and our chances of pulling out of it are regressing by the week.
We look like a side bereft of confidence, incapable of creating chances let alone scoring and our defensive frailties have been costing us at the other end.
If things don’t change urgently then this season will only end one way but it’s not too late to turn the tide again although we must now change our approach if we want to secure an unprecedented 7th consecutive top flight season.
When we start to struggle my immediate reaction is to call for Leon Britton and that’s not for sentimental reasons. He still controls the tempo of games, rarely gives the ball away and is always an option for his team mates to pass to. The team moves the ball so much better with him in the side and I have found it surprising that he hasn’t even been on the bench recently. He would have been ideal to come on against Spurs last week to sure things up when Naughton went off. Instead Ki took his place and he really isn’t the man to help you protect a slender lead late on.
Jack Cork’s injury means there will most likely be a place up for grabs at Watford on Saturday and there is no doubt that Leon should be given it. Players like him are the lifeblood of the club and we need that more than ever in our current predicament.
We’ve also got to move Gylfi Sigurdsson from the left to his preferred number 10 role. I was never a massive fan of playing him on the left but initially we picked up results playing that way and with Martin Olsson getting forward from left back it meant we still had some width down that side of the pitch.
But it hasn’t worked so well in recent matches so we now need to play with two proper wingers and Sigurdsson in behind. He’s without doubt our best player so we have to make sure he’s receiving the ball in areas where he can do the most damage. We’d probably be already relegated without him this term, he’s been that good so let’s utilise his in talent in the space behind Llorente rather than wasting it out wide.
Who the wingers should be is more debatable. Being honest they’ve all got their faults but I’d probably go with Luciano Narsingh on the right and Wayne Routledge on the left. Jordan Ayew could go there but he’s flattered to deceive for us so far and I don’t really know what his best position is. Jefferson Montero meanwhile should be on the bench at best, you can’t rely on him in this situation.
Paul Clement appears to be a cautious coach by nature but he now needs to let the shackles off. The fact is draws won’t do much in our current predicament. We need three wins from six in my opinion to give us a chance of staying up so we have to try and play without fear and focus on how we’re going to hurt teams rather than containing them.
On paper the remaining fixtures don’t look too bad, there should be opportunities for wins if we adopt that approach but the time for talking and playing it safe is over. We need to take some calculated risks to ensure survival and the changes above should at least improve performances and hopefully results will follow.
So come on Clement, if we’re going down lets at least go down fighting because at the moment we’re going down with a bit of a whimper!