|Problems at the Boleyn House|
Forget about Carroll, our biggest problem has been the gaping hole in the middle of our defence. From the moment Tomkins hobbled off against West Brom it was only a matter of time until Anelka broke our trembling hearts. The subsequent set piece pantomimes were almost too much to bear as we were a comical mess. Baggies fans were surely disappointed to not take all three points against a shambolic Hammers side as we realised that our only chance was to score goals and hope for the best at the back!
The calls for Big Sam’s head are harsh – on-field we have enjoyed none of the luck that buoyed us last year, while the injury crisis has been almost unbelievable. Allardyce and the board gambled on Carroll’s fitness – but in all honesty the ankle problem seemed minor back in June, but they cannot be blamed for losing all three first choice centre backs and the subsequent farce serves as a visible example to young observers as to how important position sense in defence is to a team’s cohesion.
If Allardyce is to go, it should be when the team is stabilised and because we want to change our style, NOT as a panic response to bad results with a team that has lost it’s structure. A new manager will not suddenly undo the injury crisis – time is the only healer there. The unwillingness of many players to join us in the transfer window is probably a blessing in disguise as there are few available who have anything to offer beyond a short-term plaster role. At present, Allardyce is one of the best equipped managers to handle the pressures of the looming relegation battle. We would be best served to look at Mackay and all the other options in the Summer.
The criticism of Roger Johnson has been unfair – he was asked to adapt with only 2 days preparation to face one of the most fearsome strike forces in world football. Whether he can make a useful contribution remains to be seen, and there can be no doubting that he has not played at the highest level for a number of years, but with Reid not scheduled to be back until the end of January, and Collins’ absence still ‘indeterminate’, We need him to forge a partnership with the returning Tomkins asap.
Cardiff today is another crucial match. Forest and City were mere distractions from the most wounding result of recent times when we surrendered a winning position against Fulham. From an optimistic perspective, of our next 7 Premiership fixtures there is a realistic opportunity to try and get something from six of them, and maybe the second leg against Man City can provide and opportunity to recover some self-respect. The imminent return of Andy Carroll is as important symbolically as it is in practical terms as it signals a return to having a proper offensive threat and his contribution at defensive set pieces should not be underestimated. Four points from the next two games would undo most of the damage of the last week. Whatever happens, we better start getting points on the board soon as our run in looks painful with Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Man City all likely to be desperate for points in the tightest Premiership campaign of living memory.