Nothing left to lose
Its certainly looking we will wake up on Christmas morning with our Lurganman leading the way.
Yesterdays ‘we are standing by our man’ statement more or less confirms that Neil will see us to the Cup final and then the final game before the winter mini break, which happens to be a derby game.
You wont need me to remind you that in the corresponding fixture last season we lost, and went on to have an excellent camp hitting on a new system that ultimately brought us the ninth league title. It looks as if the board are hoping for the same again.
Now I am all for this mini break turning into a ‘council of war’ and attempting to arrest our slide with cunning strategy, but my bugbear is the lessons learned in last years Middle East brainstorming sessions have been ignored, leading us to needing another plan.
After the Dubai break last year it was deemed necessary to play two strikers at all times with Odsonne to play as the deeper of the pair. He drops deep, usually to the left hand side of the midfield area, which makes me cringe every time. Not because he felt forced to come very deep to get involved in the play, but because when he does collect the ball in the middle of the park and looks up now, there’s no other striker there now.
He has vision and a great pass, and it was Leigh who was selected as the one to benefit from that pairing last year, and benefit he did. The Thumb was perfectly suited for an off the shoulder role, his through ball provider seemed just as happy to assist this way. And it was successful, bringing both silverware and adulation. That decision kept Neil in a job I thought.
And that’s why I’m double shocked to see that system has been dropped, we are back to what was deemed insufficient then, and surprise surprise it’s proving insufficient now.
We all know Leigh wasnt in great shape mentally or physically at the start of the campaign, so beginning the season with the two up top that ended it wasnt an option, but thats really no reason to scrap the whole experiment, especially after it delivered.
Im not one for personal insults online but I am very very disappointed in Mr Griffiths and will leave it at that. But could Paddy Klimala not have been given a chance early season in that role while Griff was doing a boot camp crash course to get in fighting shape?
Hindsight would suggest it could have helped.
Then we saw a dithering Ajeti decide to become a Hoop, and one of the first things he said was I’m looking forward to forming a partnership with Odsonne Eduoard.
This immediately peaked my interest at the time for a few reasons. It was clear Albian hadnt spoken to the big Frenchman yet here he was obviously sold on a partnership with him. It could only have been Lenny then planted that seed and sold the vision to him, and the Swiss player must have liked the video reel of his future partner.
But yet things haven’t played out like that, they havent partnered up.
When Albian made those partnership comments I felt sure our main striker was going to leave. He had two years left on his contract, the usual cashing in time for us and most clubs, and had collected a league title every year since joining on loan initially.
I believe he wanted to leave also, had mentally checked out after helping rescue the last campaign, and here he was finding out from our new striker that he had been sold the dream of partnering him this season.
Neil clearly tried to play mind games with the Frenchman, put some public pressure on him to stay and sign up for another season, probably allied with private pressure to do the same.
Hes still here, so I guess on some level we could say the plan worked.
But why oh why did we return to playing him alone up top? Ajeti who was promised the other berth isn’t getting it. I would understand if it was a ‘not broken dont fix it’ scenario but we arent firing on all cylinders, have a total sieve at the back so goals are the best option, but we persist in giving Eddy a role that does not bring out the best in him at all?
Thats far from joined up thinking and Ajeti himself could easily have a grudge now based on broken promises plus he could well fancy a better goals haul than our talented but not prolific striker.
We just watched the Buddies go to a three up top at Celtic Park pressing the defence, something which helped bring them joy. I read our title rivals employ a similar system. 4-5-1 used to be the European system when you needed an extra man in midfield to nullify the opponent and screen the defence, but somehow the one single striker has again become our bog standard setup.
How must the SPFL defences feel seeing Eddy alone? They could well be thanking their lucky stars? I reckon Goldson is praying for it.
So I feel a bit of Deja-vu as we book the exact same winter break with the exact same conundrum. If we emerge with the exact same answer to our problems ie lets go two up top from now on as Eddy isnt best suited to leading the line, I would fear for the nearest brick wall.
Of all questions that could be asked of the coaching staff, the striker conundrum is by far at the top of my list. I would be delighted to see a pairing against Lille, proper strikers none of this Moi supporting malarkey, but it would be a huge case of much too late as far as the league is concerned. And as much as I admire Lenny for having given us so much, witnessing huge mistakes and basic lessons not being learned only serve to help me feel wanting a change is for the best, with little guilt involved.
Goals not only win games but they change them, and football is an entertainment after all with scoring the icing on the cake. When our clubs traditional style of play is taken into account, getting the attackers on the field of play would only seem natural to me, and would gain fans among a support that would much rather their team go out in a blaze of glory than with a whimper.
Neil will lose credit and what little is left of the fans patience if he sticks with this setup.
Go for broke would be my advice. Get the strikers on the field.
Unleash the Dogs of War while you still have the chance Lenny.