The Late, Late show
Footballing wise it was a pleasant weekend. I thought our fixture would be a routine victory by a couple of goals, instead we were treated to a six goal thriller with extra late drama.
Then results elsewhere went our way allowing a seven point cushion with roughly two thirds of the season remaining.
Firstly Im happy the top two teams in the league were given genuine competition. No one should want the league to turn into a straight forward romp, it’s good for the players to have genuine obstacles to overcome, or not. The weekends football was a great example that any sort of performance is enough domestically, it’s a falsehood that we are only challenged in Europe.
Hence the need for late goals, lots of them. They happen too often to be luck, thats clear now. I like to think the overwhelming reason is our second wave of attackers, the fresh legs prove too much for mentally and physically tired opponents. Thus I hand credit to the manager who continually calls for those switches rather than simply putting total faith in the starting eleven to pull out the victory. He helps the team achieve these late goals that crush hope elsewhere. Like I say, they are no accident.
Why we need plenty of late goals is an altogether different question.
To these eyes there’s a multitude of reasons.
Top two are the referee and the physical battle. It’s not a level playing field when almost weekly opponents can leave the boot in, rough you up and disrupt your gameplan, and receive protection out on the park while doing it.
We are up against it before we even take the field, and unfortunately there’s a battle to be won, not just a game of football.
Ten men behind the ball clogging the penalty box up doesn’t help our cause, and of course the Tangerines weren’t facing the best team in Europe during the week to fully sap the energy.
Not having a settled midfield might be another reason there’s so many late, late shows.
Scoring lots of goals at the death isn’t neccessarily a bad thing. Time and time again Man United won the match in Fergie time, and the cry wasn’t we should have the points already wrapped up and shouldn’t need those late goals. The cry was Hoorah.
Becoming the match winning hero must be one sweet emotion, scoring a fantastic solo effort just before the whistle should leave young Abada on cloud nine with a bit more confidence in his own ability to finish raised a notch. He really needed to net, as Maeda was open for the tap-in to his left, it would have looked terrible to fluff that opportunity. Instead he made it look easy with the dink which always sends supporters into rapture, especially on Saturday.
There’s extenuating circumstances for the necessity of late goals, which can’t be fully laid at the managers door. The players themselves are scoring more than ever, 19 in our last five league games, and we are ten points better off than this time last season. Thats clear progress, delightful.
However, despite all the positives, a small undercurrent of uncertainty lingers. It’s my belief many can see the potential of the club right now, and every time the team doesn’t reach the next level the uncertainty builds. Our midfield was woeful at the weekend, perhaps unsurprising as they were newly assembled and Hatate never gets a break. Ange was consistently selecting a defensive midfielder and we had an uptick, the day he doesn’t the midfield looks disjointed and it almost cost points.
The defense wasn’t inspiring and quite a few would drop Jenz for Starfelt. Central defense is still in transition, a work in progress, and not the finished article.
The same might be said of the right back slot, JJ seems the top candidate to be moved on and replaced. I believe a substantial number of supporters would be happy at Seigrist between the sticks, age alone says there’s a chance this is Big Joe’s last hoorah as first choice, more transition.
Calmac, Kobayashi, even Abildgaard all need game time.
It seems like we are always in transition, going somewhere but where exactly is hard to tell right now.
There’s a feeling we could be on the cusp of something special under this manager, there’s a ten out of ten performance just around the corner where everything gels perfectly, but yet it eludes us for whatever reason.
We wish for the club to explode onto the European scene now there’s a clear route and we have some quality. It’s proving a bridge too far, even when we are relatively strong, which puts a dampener on those ambitions. And of course many don’t consider the league enough, there’s your conundrum.
When pressed on this Ange stated the answer is to keep building, every sale should allow a better standard of player to be recruited. Keep moving the bar higher and higher basically. Being ‘agile’ in the transfer market would help he stated.
That’s all fine and well but the fact remains we have a wage ceiling and English Championship clubs can offer a better pay packet plus a route to the biggest league in the world.
It’s clear everyone wants the club to move to the next level, but it’s a lot easier said than done and might need a new financial model, not something the board would entertain I imagine.
I suppose becoming traders so to speak could raise substantial funds to bankroll the move to the next level, but that’s just not us at the moment. It’s also risky, the bottom could fall out of the market, players themselves like being a free transfer so we get zilch for a star, Ange won’t always be around to spot a bargain and the PLC weren’t great purchasers when they held the biscuit tin.
Most clubs out there crave the next level, few ever achieve it without being bankrolled.
It might actually be the hardest thing in football without big funding,,, it takes luck and planning, spirit and strategy, and it never happens overnight but over the long term. There’s always a lot of bigger fish in the pond who don’t care about your plans. The refs themselves can help drive better players away, ala KT.
This collection might hit the next level, then again they might not, the uncertainty is part and parcel of the beautiful game.
Enjoy the ride is my advice.
And all these late, late shows.