The Premier League and Performance
MM constantly tells us that the team, basically comprising the players who won us promotion, is much better now because of the experience gained of competing in the PL for a third season. Is that true? Here is my assessment of the players concerned.
One of the successes of the season, having already saved us points as well as our goal difference. Brilliant in stopping head-on shots, he has improved his ability against crosses. Even so, he is still making the odd mistake, which is probably inevitable, given the porous defence in front of him.
Assessment: good PL standard.
Solid and dependable,if lacking in flair and a little bit of pace. Like other squad members, had to play out of position and did a reasonable, if under-stated, job in midfield. At RB found wanting against nippy wingers.Has been injured this season but, even so, is below RS as a RB.
Assessment: some improvement but barely to the level required.
Less likely to make the idiotic mistakes that characterised his play during the previous two seasons but has yet to fulfil his early promise. Possesses all the physical attributes to become a PL centre back but lacks the almost intangible positional sense required for the job. Drifts out of position and is easily turned, a problem that is even more glaringly obvious in his current position of RB. Performs adequately as an overlapping back.
Assessment: Championship level.
Big man with an even bigger heart. Unfortunately, he lacks the speed, skill and mobility to operate in the PL. Drifts out of position, poor distributor of the ball and easily outpaced by nippy wingers. His selection at LB for the QPR game upset the balance of the defensive unit and arguably caused the run of defeats.
Assessment: sub-Championship squad level.
The success story of the season. Villified by many fans last season (including me), he has made astonishing progress. For me, he has become the person, whom MM should ink in on the team sheet before considering ten others. His tackle in the box last Sunday to save a certain goal was superb.
Assessment: PL level in a problem position for many teams.
Since the tackle on Zamora last season has lost his competitive edge as an enforcer. Paradoxically, while at times he seemed to relish his newly found reputation as a hard man, it also adversely affected his ability to fulfil the role. Woeful distributor of the ball, momentum ebbs away when he receives a pass. Occasionally confounds his critics by a driving run forward and an accurate, meaty shot.
Assessment: Championship level, having lost the qualities that could have seen him progress in the PL.
Occasionally, last season, seemed to be establishing a reasonable understanding with Stearman in the centre of defence. Then, one or other of them - or both- made a silly mistake and this showed up their joint shortcomings.Very inconsistent but essentially a limited player. A promising start this season in partnership with Johnson quickly unravelled. Good in the air but slow on the ground: easily turned, he resorts to holding on, shirt-tugging and tripping to stop an opponent. As a result, he has lost us points by committing fouls in dangerous positions. Was lucky not to be penalised for wrestling last Sunday.
Assessment: Championship level. Too inconsistent to operate effectively in the PL and a liability when found wanting.
His experience proved invaluable to the team when pushing for promotion and in our first season in the PL. By the end of last year, however, his lack of speed was becoming a problem. Nonetheless, the shortcomings of our other central defenders, then and now, regularly prompt demands for his recall in order to tighten the defence. At least, he can score goals in dead ball situations.
Assessment: possesses the essential skills of a PL centre back but age has caught up with him.
Has been plagued by injuries and this has lessened his impact on the team`s performance. The 'model` player in MM`s eyes, he puts in the requisite shift and, as a result of his enthusiasm, determination and his hard running, has achieved a measure of success beyond his intrinsic ability.
Assessment: some progress but still below a consistent PL standard.
On his day, Jarvis is unplayable and can terrorize any full back in the PL ... even Ashley Cole. However, he is far too inconsistent, probably because he lacks the essential cockiness required of the best wingers. So, instead of attempting to round his man and crossing the ball from the corner, he often comes inside and makes a cop-out short pass (though, at times, a good ploy). Even when he reaches the byline he tends to overhit his crosses. His play seems rather flat this season but that`s not surprising in a demoralised team.
Assessment: initial improvement now going into reverse.
Shredded every Championship full back in sight but has not been given a chance to reproduce his best form in the PL on account of his injuries. Even though he is reputedly back to full fitness, his lack of experience of playing at this level has made it a difficult come-back for him. He needs time on the pitch and I hope that he gets it at Watford. Even so, one wonders whether the injuries have taken their toll and have permanently blunted his speed and skill.
Assessment: impossible to make an accurate judgement because of time out with injury. On limited evidence, has gone backwards.
Twice winner of the Golden Boot award in the Championship, his inability to reproduce that form in our first season in the PL was an indication of the vast gulf that divides the two leagues. He has definitely made progress over the course of the past two seasons but has found himself below Fletcher and Doyle in the striker pecking order. Injuries to the latter player gave him the opportunity to impress but he has not really done enough to force himself into the team. Like Solskjaer at Manchester United, seems destined to act as an impact sub, a role which he fulfils quite well, if without the Norwegian`s superior qualities. Always instils an air of urgency when he comes on.
Assessment: some improvement but, as yet, has not reached the required grade.
Only two players have definitely made a successful transition to the PL, while only four others have made any progress at all. The performance of three further players has declined and that of three more remains at a Championship level. In a second report I will assess the performance of MM`s signings since summer 2009.