By Karl Coppack
YOU can’t beat the summer. Driving round with the windows open, wearing shorts that would put Tony Soprano to shame and enjoying a light breeze coming off the sea with a Cornetto within easy reach.
After months of overcast drudgery, of sleeting rain and cold that turn your legs blue it’s time to be woken into nature like a flower moving into bloom. A yawn, a stretch of the muscles and a delicious feeling of malaise in the heat. We’ve earned this.
Well, yes lads I know it was sunny at the Wigan game but strictly speaking it’s still only March and you should be working rather than contemplating holidays and golf breaks. Aston Villa rather than Algarve Villa, if you will. I know we’ve won a cup and there might be another to come but could you see your way to running around a bit when we need you to? Thanks ever so.
Kenny rightly pointed to the fixtures we’ve had and that tiredness is a factor but isn’t that what squads are for?
How is Carra getting the nod ahead of Coates at centre back?
Why bring Shelvey back from loan if you’re not going to give him a run in whatever his position is this week?
If we’re throwing games away like confetti why not let us have a look at Suso or Coady while we’re doing it?
There’s a broader point here too. Why are we so tired?
Is it because we seem to spend most of our pre-season games playing people who won’t play for us (Aquilani, Cole etc.) or about to be sent on loan rather than build our core fitness for the long road ahead.
Yes, we’ve played in every domestic fixture this season but there aren’t many ever-presents. We’re hardly blessed with pace anyway so burnout shouldn’t be a problem.
Perhaps the tiredness he spoke of is a mental one. The QPR debacle certainly points to a mental weakness that wasn’t evident in 2009 (we barely had a lead in Rafa’s last season so it’s hard to judge that year). At 1-2 we looked terrified and at 2-2 we simply assumed the game was over and they’d be happy with their point.
Interestingly on Saturday Wigan kept the ball when they went 2-1 up and didn’t look at all troubled – and that’s a bottom three side.
Four of the five defeats share similar characteristics. Distracted (possibly) by the non-handshake/half time battle at Old Trafford to build on a decent first half and a late rally v QPR and simply not being arsed at Sunderland and Wigan.
It’s significant that we played well at Stoke and Everton as they were games that genuinely mattered. Of course, all games should matter but that isn’t always necessarily so.
Put Saturday’s side on the pitch in the semi and the performance would be completely different. That would suggest that the problem isn’t about mentality, it’s about the different mentality for the games where there’s little to play for other than points (QPR, Wigan, Swansea) as opposed to playing for pride (both derbies, Chelsea and Arsenal away) or trophies.
Bring on the tough teams and you’re going to get something, bring on a lower League time and you might as well spend the afternoon pairing your socks.
We’ve had parallels in the past with 2004-5 being the prime example with shocking performances away to Crystal Palace and Southampton. Cup seasons are fine once in a while but sluggishly trolling around the pitch isn’t the greatest preparation for the biggest ninety minutes of the season.
Surely it’s better to make a name for yourself and turn around a shite game rather than turn up at Wembley and expect your name to be on the team sheet.
If this is the case it’s not going to go unnoticed by the management team so what exactly are they doing?
I’d like to think that the first team would be scared to go into training on Monday for fear of being held up by the throats Darth Vader style while being asked to explain the Wigan game but I’m not sure clubs do that anymore.
Certain fingers are pointing at Dalglish and damning sentences beginning with the words ‘I love the man but…’ are running through posts on the fora but there’s more to it than that.
Comparisons with Hodgson are silly as one’s a manager and the other’s Kenny Dalglish and if that’s illogical then logic can go and fuck off.
One thing they both have in common, although not many said it at the time about the Owl is the betrayal of the players. For Torres ambling onto the pitch with the gait of a man who’s finally left Woodstock there’s Adam’s lazy arsed closing down and Suarez’s need to take on fifteen defenders when he gets the ball while another man stands in a better position.
The players owe the manager big time and they can’t just pay him back in the Cup games. It’s a cliché, I know, but that badge means something. If the players know of its meaning they can start playing with pride and energy rather than thinking about good tee times on the continent.