OK, let's get one thing straight, this IS a crisis [DEF: 'a time when a difficult or important decision must be made']. With five defeats in our first six games - mostly against quite modest opposition - and with a whopping sixteen goals conceded things are really bad.
Even worse, our fans are fighting with each other and the media are having a field day, linking our difficulties to the demise of working class Britain and fuelling rumours of feuding in the dressing room. Skybet have added petrol to the mix by quoting SuperSlav as the Premiership favourite to next get the sack, with odds of 8/11!
After the game Bilic said "It's my responsibility, it's my team, I know how it works and I'm not running away". Slav, we don't doubt you for a minute. You haven't become a bad manager overnight and every team has bad runs. as the wider media circles the club looking to feast on our problems, we need to stick together right now.
However, we also need to be honest about what has gone wrong. At yesterday's post match conference Slav looked shellshocked and bereft of ideas. He muttered that he couldn't identify what to do next - well, for what it's worth, here are a few thoughts to consider about our situation:
1. First up, our defence has lost it's confidence. This started with an experiment at right back that has gone horribly wrong. ever since Karl Jenkinson's demise we have been playing makeshift games. Splashing gazzillions on a 'marque' striker (we never got one!) while overlooking the need to spend the modest amount needed for a decent right back was poor judgement. Sam Byram is still developing, while neither Antonio nor Nordtveit are true defenders. Michail Antonio's form since reverting to right wing is one of the few positives about our efforts over the past month but highlights the double waste of having played him at right back. Alvaro Arbeloa's arrival will steady this but has been undermined by the lack of stability at left back. Sometimes luck isn't with you! Nevertheless, when we finally can field a back four of Cresswell, Reid, Ogbonna and Arbeloa one suspects that the laughable defending of late will improve.
2. Letting James Tomkins go was a mistake. At a time when we are struggling to retain our identity at a new stadium we need the homegrown players to remind us what we have come from. Captain Claret can't do it all himself and he looks withered by all the problems. Similarly, why can't Reece Oxford get a run out - at the very least it would cheer the fans and in all honesty we could do with a defensive-minded midfielder in front of our leaky defence. Starting a League Cup game without a single English player could be seen as a poor reflection on our famed academy system, but the fact is that we do have young players but do not seem to be managing them properly.
3. We need to adapt tactically to the bigger stadium. we have a host of wide midfielders that we brought in to use the width of the new stadium. We are trying to play as a more dominant team and have largely ditched the Leicester-style counterattacking that served us so well when we scalped the big six last year. In reality, the visitors are making better use of the greater space and we have been repeatedly caught out on the break. In short, we are trying to play too open and offensively. The increased running burden in midfield is showing on Noble and Kouyate who both look tired. It's time to drop one of the attacking midfielders and play three across the centre. Slav, we need to go 4-3-2-1 instead of the 4-2-3-1 that is killing us at present.
4. In contrast to last year, our Summer signings have not impressed. Feghouli looks promising, Nordtveit is solid but not offensively good enough to be a right back, but Tore, Calleri and Zaza have fluffed their lines. Although everybody is focussing upon our problems at the back, we have only scored 7 goals in eight games which is simply not enough. Thankfully, this latter three are on loan but I doubt if anybody would complain if they returned to their parent clubs right now! Zaza in particular is a concern as he is approaching the game count that triggers a mandatory buy out clause for £20 million. Yikes! Oh how we need the abrasiveness of Sakho and the pure physicality of big Andy. Let's hope Slav has made peace with Diafra and that Andy stays fit for a month or two. At least if the bad fortune continues we might get some joy chasing games with long balls if, instead of Zaza, Carroll is in the box.
5. Lady Luck has deserted us. We can't get a bounce of the ball right now. Last year we scored at the right times in games and then seized the opprotunities as the opposition got desperate and pushed up. This season it's been the par opposite - conceding just before half time and then getting put to the sword as we tried to rescue things. We need to pray to the footballing Gods for a rapid change in fortune because the Middlesboro, Palace and Sunderland games are starting to look like season-defining games for Slaven.