Have the Wolves Turned the Corner?
As a WW supporter, the week before last was the ultimate roller-coaster ride. It started with a satisfying trip to WHL, then plunged steeply down as a result of the fiasco of a FAC defeat to Birmingham, before ending with a bump against AV. It defined our season: good play against quality opposition, occasionally with some success; a failure to win games against teams we should beat; an inability to hold on to leads or even to keep clean sheets; and a tendency to self-destruct through stupid errors.
The AV game showcased our 'Jekyll and Hyde` character. After going behind through a basic error, we turned the game round and went in to the break 2-1 up. We were playing so well it could have been 5-1. Then came the collapse, partly due to the bottling up of Kightly but mainly due to the injury to Frimpong. It was not Petrov`s fault, but his boot ensured his side`s victory. Oh! Keane`s and Henry`s boots helped a little, too, one way or another.
I was so upset by the defeat that the only reason I could read the news about WW was to see if Frimpong would recover in time for the Liverpool match. In my opinion he holds the key to our survival, as we fell apart after his departure. It now looks likely that he will play next Tuesday and that is extremely good news.
In the meantime, bloggers on our site (and on others), aware that we have dropped into the bottom three, have argued furiously over the causes of this failure. MM clearly lies at the centre of the debate, with factions calling variously for his immediate dismissal; a stay of execution until the end of the season; the replacement of TC by someone better able to assist him; retaining him on sufferance; or giving him the job for life. Even so, I have noticed a recent trend in the argument, one that shifts the focus away from the manager to members of the board, notably on to JM (a long-standing hate-figure) and, more surprisingly, on to Mr. Morgan, the owner and chairman.
In this scenario, Mick is the patsy, taking the flak for policies over which he has little or no control because they are not fully - or even primarily- focused on events on the pitch. Thus (the argument goes) MM has been starved of money to buy players he has identified as new recruits because it is earmarked for other projects. In this respect, maintaining our position in the PL is a bonus but one which should be indulged in at minimum cost. In a carefully calibrated calculation the board has decided that in MM they have a manager who can keep the club in the PL if with a struggle but without making a fuss.
Judging the situation solely from the point of view of a long-standing supporter of the club, there appears to be some truth in this notion. If the board genuinely wanted the best for the team, some of their decisions are bizarre. Why, for instance, if we need to strengthen the squad, spend millions of pounds on developing the site when the present one isn`t that old and is big enough to accommodate all those wishing to attend games anyway? And why risk relegation from the PL and the associated loss of revenue, when a judicious injection of cash on one or two marquee signings would make the difference, (though I am aware of the wage structure argument)? In Frimpong we have an illustration of what an impact such a player can have.
Nonetheless, at the moment I cannot completely absolve MM of responsibility for our poor performance this season because that would mean tearing up many of the comments I have made in numerous earlier posts. And in my opinion they were true at the time. Some of MM`s team selections and tactics were bizarre and he did favour certain players over others. If he is working under severe restraints, he has yet to prove to me that he can get the best out of the players he has at his disposal. On the other hand, I recognize that he does have the knack of eventually hitting on the right formula (whether 4-5-1 in 2009-2010 and whatever system we are operating now, with Henry and Frimpong in front of the back four ... and one in the pocket) and that he will run with it.
The irony of the situation, with only Wigan below us, is that we have been playing well recently, as displayed in the draws against Arsenal and Spurs, as well as for an half-hour period before the break in the AV game. I have argued in posts to earlier threads that we should not be carried away by a couple of good results because we`ve been here before and the runs have soon petered out. However, there is currently greater optimism among supporters, even among pessimists like me, that this time it might be different. Enough games remain for our newly discovered set-up to turn around our season.
Tuesday`s match is therefore a crucial one, which should provide a good indicator of whether we have indeed turned the corner. We have to win to avoid the danger of being cut adrift along with one or two other teams at the foot of the table, teams, moreover, which are capable of winning games. It`s a tough 'ask` against a side which has just reached the final of the Carling Cup at the expense of MC. But, Liverpool are inconsistent and if we play as we did against AV for 30 minutes, we can get a result.
That`s why I am travelling up to Molineux on Tuesday, having been given permission to drive the car 'sensibly`, though I am not certain whether that means a round trip of 310 miles. It would be nice to celebrate my return after so long. So, A4D and anyone else who would like to share a beer or two, please let me know in a response to this blog if you can make it. In this way I will know who is coming and avoid being kidnapped by Baggies' fams masquerading as WW supporters. Then we can agree a time and a place via my email: SB60@hotmail.co.uk.