In my match preview for Stand or Fall 1901 I posited that this game was a no win situation for Sami Hyypia due to the likely situation that Blackpool would be absolutely dreadful. Dreadful they were. That we didn’t beat them sums up much of what’s gone wrong at the club in the last two years.
That may be a very negative statement but it’s not meant in the sense that nothing has gone right. There have been plenty of positives too; two play off places, a series of top names gracing The Amex, consistently high crowds, at least in terms of tickets purchased, and a chairman who is a fan rather than a barking Balkan billionaire, foolish foreign fief or crackers Cagliari criminal.
However losing two managers in two seasons has left us with a squad made up partly of Poyet men, partly Oscar and partly Sami. While David Burke is the constant there’s little doubt that it’s impossible to find a player who would fit neatly in to all three, very different ways of playing. This is a squad that does not gel. Some fans’ answer to this is to question if we should not be making a further managerial change. I had thought this was restricted to North Stand Chat’s lunatic fringe. Last night, after the game, I heard it muttered by some of our loyalist travelling fans, the sort of people who do go to Derby or Blackpool on a Tuesday night and drink their tea out of Albion mugs.
If you could sum up last season under Oscar Garcia it would have been “frustrating”. That’s not revisionist. That’s exactly how I described it to another team’s website for one of their previews in the middle of the season. Yesterday we were back to that again. Sixty percent possession. Twenty Five shots. Wouldn’t have scored if we were still all running round now.
It could have been so different of course. Adrian Colunga, put clean through about thirty seconds in to the game, should have put us 1-0 up. He had the option of placing it or putting his laces through it but instead miskicked it straight to a grateful Joe Lewis who was magnificent all day. Had we gone one up that early I’d have feared for Blackpool. Instead they were able to sit back, waste time and pick up a point, just like every sub-par side visiting The Amex seems to have been able to in recent times.
Twenty five shots and all that use of the ball would suggest to some that we dominated and were unlucky. Dominate we did, unlucky we were not. The simple fact is that when you have all that you should be making it count. The Albion were completely devoid of cutting edge. We badly missed Ulloa. We showed why using wing backs isn’t universally popular; because you leave great big gaps for your midfield to fill in, because full backs are never as dangerous going forwards in terms of pace and final delivery as actual wingers and because it makes your shape narrow and predictable.
It shows too that the “money ball” approach to signing players is flawed. There is genuinely no point in having two players for each position if each of them is fairly much a replica of the other, so that you do not know your best starting option and so that plan B becomes plan A by osmosis. Yes you can rotate the squad but did Burnley rotate last season? No, they most certainly did not. Constant rotation merely means lack of familiarity.
The frustrating thing is we have some quality in key areas. Yesterday Greer and Dunk shone in the centre back positions, Holla showed he’s a true box to box midfielder and Teixeira again caused problems when he was on the ball. Paddy McCourt’s cameo was sublime, playing an outstanding cross field through ball that was simply too good for anyone out there and very nearly chipping in to the far corner after footwork that was far too dainty for a man who looks like a street drinker. But that was it. In every other position we seem to have the average covering for the mediocre. At least in that system.
Sorry. This is a rant, it’s not a match report. I woke this morning wondering if the Harvey’s and the frustration of explaining for the thirty fifth time to my son how we didn’t score against a poor team had made me in to an unreasonable grouch. But this morning, after a coffee and a think, I feel the same way.