Sunday, 16 March 2014

Confused? You will be

Yesterday afternoon, as I watched that most paradoxical of footballing events, a dull thrashing (one bloke near me actually nodded off towards the end of the first half), it occurred to me that this has been a highly contradictory and confusing season for Watford fans. Consider the following:

  • We’ve scored six goals once, five once, four twice and three four times, and yet there have been long stretches when it was hard to see where the next score was going to come from.
  • Conversely, we’ve conceded three or more goals eight times, yet the defence features some of our strongest players. (Angella, Cassetti, Doyley and Pudil will surely all feature strongly in the Player of the Season awards.)
  • We’re not a remotely nasty or violent team, yet we’ve had four players sent off, and I read a couple of weeks ago that we’d been awarded more yellow cards than any other team in the Championship.
  • In the autumn, we were invincible away, but couldn’t buy a win at home. Now the opposite is the case.
Obviously, some of these patterns can be attributed to the change of manager halfway through the season. The high turnover of players can’t help, either. Yesterday’s two debuts took the total number of players used this season up to 35 – that’s three whole teams worth, plus change. Poor Troy Deeney has had to try to forge a working partnership with Forestieri, Acuna, Fabbrini, Ranegie, Park and Anya, and life’s too short to try to list all the combinations of players who’ve been used in midfield.

Even here, there’s a contradiction: despite the riches of our squad, the 18 players who featured on the pitch and the bench against Barnsley actually picked themselves – thanks to injuries, suspensions and loans, the only other member of the first-team squad who was available for selection was third-choice goalie Gary Woods. Hence the naming of a bench featuring two midfielders and four central defenders. Against more demanding opposition, we could easily have come unstuck.

Perversely, it reminded me of the days when Sean Dyche was in charge – when money was so tight that the team more or less picked itself, and when promising youngsters got a chance to show what they could do in the first team, gaining valuable experience in the process. (In the current squad, Ross Jenkins still ranks third in the list of first-team appearances, even if he has been effectively declared a non-person by being denied a squad number.) Compare and contrast the fate of Uche Ikpeazu, so short of opportunities to play football that he’s been sent on loan to Crewe, who then complained that he’s not fit enough.

Where am I going with all this? I’m not entirely sure. Like I say, I’m confused. If there was an end to the relentless shuffling of the pack in sight, the emergence of a settled first team which then, carefully augmented in the close season, could make a decent challenge for promotion next year, then I’d be happy. But, as Matt Rowson pointed out recently over on BHaPPY, an equally likely scenario is that a large tranche of the current squad will disappear in the summer, to be replaced by a fresh batch of undoubtedly talented players who won’t necessarily adjust immediately to the championship. And then the whole confusing merry-go-round will start again.

1 comment:

Steve Resco said...

Excellent - very enjoyable commentary.