Vital Football

Where has the form gone...

Where has the form gone...

…and can/will it return? Can we see it returning? Have we shown enough signs that it will?

It is time for a rant I think, basically I do not even know if I am going to have a point to this, it is basically I think just going to be a rant but it will have 'points' to it, it may well leave me with even more questions than answers - but maybe some of you can help try and give some of these answers?

Ok, in terms of what the results were telling us prior to the Everton defeat things were pretty good but we cannot lie to ourselves or anyone else, we have been poor for the vast majority of the past 3-4 months, the odd moments aside.

We were poor again at Goodison yesterday and did get what we deserved. We have been grinding results out, which is often the sign of a good side but in all honesty the teams that we have been doing this against were Championship and lower top flight teams - Chelsea aside, which I will get onto shortly - but the defeat to Everton has left me worried, against the better sides we will be punished for our shortcomings, and we have plenty of these 'better sides' to face in the next couple of months… we either need to find some form, and find it quickly or our season is going to fizzle out and we will drop like a lead balloon…

I am just becoming more and more frustrated with our lacklustre performances. Apart from the game with Chelsea when we were absolutely fantastic I am finding it hard to remember a game when we played well? Villa at Villa Park in early December 2007 is the only instance I can think off, and being brutally honest even then, we were good, but we ground shakingly brilliant then…

We have so many really good footballers, footballers that could easily get into just about ¾ of the teams in this division, 1 or 2 could even command a place in this final ¼, but for whatever reason we just are not cutting it… some say we have a team of individuals that are not playing as a team, others a team but are lacking those individuals to grab a game by the scruff off the neck? My thinking is it is a bit of both.

Harry Redknapp has come in for some major criticism recently, some of which is fair, but some of which I think is totally unfounded and based on opinions - which is fair enough, we are all entitled to these - which some have, and will refuse to change. Yep, he selects the team, and tells them how to play but the players also have to take some blame too, but in fairness probably he more so at this point in time. The players that have gone that should not have is being used as a stick to beat him with over and over again, to a degree I do agree but in the main they went for a reason… I also fully believe that he wanted to keep most, but his hands were tied…

I do get fed up with the contradictory rubbish that Redknapp can spout, and do wish he would be more honest and open - we have been poor in so many games recently and most certainly did not deserve anything from Everton at the weekend, so just be honest and admit this, but my biggest gripe with him this season on the main has been his reluctance to change things, before, after and during a game.

To many players are not cutting it, but instead of them being taken out they stay in the team over and over again, whereas others come in do a job for a while but when the original pick it back again he is straight back in, and stays regardless. You have to give players a run in a system, or alongside others to get used to them but if they keep failing over and over again surely it tells you something?

I do not really like to single out players, but I think we all know which ones - and that is the vast majority in all fairness - are being given an easy ride, some feathers need to be ruffled and some ruthless decisions made, if these can be made to see players sold, why can they not be made when selecting a side, or making changes during a game…

Why has Sol Campbell gone so badly off the boil so quickly, and why is he unable to find form again - he is lucky that we really do not have a replacement or he could be out of the team…

How long can Papa Bouba Diop keep being selected for his 'big presence' alone in the middle of the park?

How many more poor, poor games can Sulley Muntari have, constantly giving the ball away, trying the extravagant when the simple will suffice.

John Utaka had been anonymous for months, yet he carried on playing, now he is available again why is he not being used more when we are crying out for some width?

How long can Kanu continue to be used for the full 90 minutes when he is ineffective - granted he can have that bit of magic and we saw that against Sunderland - but that was from the bench - and for a period against Everton.

Ok, people might think that he cannot cut it but why is Dave Nugent being loaned out and not being given a decent crack of the whip? He 'might' have some off he field issues and 'might' not be helping himself, but he is someone who will at least put in the graft, effort and commitment - which are traits we love aren't they? So why is he not being given more of a chance if others are not delivering, would he be any worse…

Milan Baros has shown glimpses of what he can do, but to be at his best he needs games, and when fully up to pace he could be a fantastic footballer for us - my own thinking is either Baros or Nugent could be fantastic alongside Jermain Defoe

He might be injured at present but Pedro Mendes is a presence we are missing in the midfield, but he should have been used more when we could surely?

Again not a favourite with everyone but Sean Davis was probably one of our most influential players earlier in the season, but now he cannot get a look in, we are clearly missing his input, although he does not have the 'power' issue that is being liked.

Niko Kranjcar being used in a basically free role is his most effective but we then need to balance out the midfield, something we seem to be struggling with.

And with all the other ineffective performances in the midfield the man that is suffering the most is Lassana Diarra. Even when we were not at our best with him playing well we were grinding out results, with us at our best and he at his best we were at our very best against Chelsea, with others around him off the pace and not using him enough he does not have a prayer…

By not making changes those influential players are becoming ineffective, those that could be effective are just kicking their heels waiting for a chance which is 'awaiting them if others stop performing' but this promise is not being delivered on. Continuity is a key thing to bring consistency, something, which we have - unfortunately we have been consistently crap!

The thing that makes me laugh the most is Redknapp, when often saying about the 'lack of talent coming through in this country' says you do not see 'footballers playing the game, expressing themselves anymore like Joe Cole and Frank Lampard', yet in all fairness are we doing this ourselves here to a degree not using players that can play, just having the 'big presence', for these past few months we have rarely done this and not wanting to single him out Bouba Diop is not too likely to do this, whereas Muntari is capable of doing this but is not, but the simple things are costing him as much as the extravagant things going astray are.

It is always easier to be 'the boss' from the stands, but clearly some things are not working, something needs to change, changing the boss is not the answer though - I fully believe this despite what some people think - changing some personnel is!

You have a squad of players so you can change things, so lets start doing this, if people do not like being left out then do we really want them here? If they do a 'Russel Hoult' if dropped then they should go the same way as he did regardless as to who they are - that way being through the exit doors… guarantees should not be given to places, if you are not doing the job that is asked, or your presence is diminishing the presence of others around you then something has to give…

This might seem like an attack on Harry Redknapp, and although a lot of issues maybe do stem from decisions he is or is not making I am not anti him at all, completely the opposite, but as I often say you have to take the rough with the smooth, so no one is beyond criticism, and nor should they.

As said we need to find some form, and find it fast or we will not even match last seasons achievements, which were my minimum aims for this season and if we do not do this then a lot of hard work will have been undone…

My biggest worry is I cannot see this form changing as we have had few signs that this could happen, I feel almost convinced that if we maintain the current formations/use of the same personnel regardless as to how they play we have no chance of this, and we will lose to the likes of Villa, Spurs, City, Blackburn and so on - the better sides in the league - that will not be beaten playing like we are, they will punish us.

Basically this has just been a collection of thoughts, I have tried to structure them the best I could. These thoughts have been growing in recent months, but I was waiting until we came up against a better side, as we did Everton yesterday - and a side that people should have realistic expectations of us not losing to. We have mainly been scraping by, but it showed we will not be able to scrape by against the better clubs…


Join the Vital Pompey Debate

Date:Monday March 3 2008
Time: 12:10PM


Like most things winning football matches is all about self belief and reading the mass outpourings of devoted pompey fans after the Everton match then that self belief (if any of the players and management had been foolish enough to read them) would have nosedived still further. So I guess what I am saying is their belief will come back when HR and co give them back the confidence they had in the first few months of the season and rantings by the likes of us no matter how justified and how knowlegable most of them are do not help the cause. We have to trust the management almost in a blind faith way unless any of the so called experts want to take over!!
03/03/2008 12:30:00
Nice article Rug. I'm not sure I agree Pompeyfrance - if its not right we have to say so, even if it is right we have to look at how we can do better. Its not good enough at the moment, and we really need some 'sock pulling up' before the season is completely lost.
03/03/2008 12:58:00
i think probably my biggest shot coming in what i have written over the months is i 'sit on the fence to much', maybe even 'masking the truth', i have gradually started to change this - above probably being the biggest, most heart felt honest truth - in my opnion... what i will say is that unless you read the whole thing then you will not get a full picture... as fans we have every right to say what we feel, and the stone cold truth is we have been poor for at last 3 months on the whole, our own shortcomings have been covered but the better teams - like everton - will not fall foul to this, others like villa, citeh, spurs and blackburn will do the same to us as everton did, unless we find some form...
03/03/2008 13:07:00
pompeyfrance, as i said above unless you read the full article - and maybe you did - the full picture isnt seen... i say its easy for me and otrhers to 'manage' from where we are, but you cannot cover the truth, and the truth is we havent been good enough for a long time - the chelski games home and away were easily our best performances of the season - many others have been totally unacceptable, so why claim them as 'acceptable' if they arent, same applies to perfromers, if they arent performing why say they are - 'arry must make changes its that simple, the odd games here and there you accept but a run of poor perfromances isnt good enough and the more these players remain in the side without having to earn it the more if will impact on others, reducing their presence...
03/03/2008 13:12:00
Nice one Rug - strangely I think that Pompey have struggled since trying to bed Diarra and now Defoe into the side. They are good players and have played well but it has upset the balalnce of the side and HR has failed to find the right blend. Totally agree with the comments about Diop and Muntari - Sulley just lazily gave the ball away after 3 seconds of the game and we were 1-0 down. We have good no very good players but if their form is off then they must be dropped and replaced by others. Not managing from the stands but commonsense.
03/03/2008 13:50:00
The problem is quite simple, in the past we had adverage players, playing well, a fans dream situation. Now we have good players playing badly, a nightmare, which has finally been accepted with the outcome of the Everton game. So good players not performing has to be a management problem. Lack of motivation and commitment, unrest behind the scenes, bad tactics and whatever, could be the reason. But it is for MANAGEMENT TO RESOLVE.
03/03/2008 14:03:00
whats the saying 'if it aint broke dont fix it'... well something is clearly broke, and needs changing... my own thinking is this is merely only personnel changes - if nothing else to make people realise they are not cemented into the team come what may, some are given an easy ride and need to be shaken up... im hoping that this result will act as a real wakeup call.
03/03/2008 14:38:00
Problem is we need davis and mendes back instead of muntari and diop also we need campbell and kanu to go.muntari is starting to be lazy while diop is showing no strength and he has not even won a header yet !campbell is showing his age and kanu i didn't even see him touch the ball in the final 20 minutes.least with mendes and davis they show pride!!!!
stfc ballboy
03/03/2008 16:16:00
It has been aconcern of mineor a while, how we managed to be right up there & not play that great. We have been quite poor since mid December. Yes we gave good accounts against Arsenal & Chelsea. Have beaten poor sides in Derby, Reading & Sunderland. Rode our luck in all 3 cup games & were very fortunate against Bolton. The team isn't gelling as well as it should be & the games coming up will be very tough. Hanging onto 9th might be an achievement if things don't improve. However, before we get too carried away with our moans, remember there are teams who a few years ago, established teams, weren't happy about where their clubs were & wanted more; Leeds, Sheff Wed, Notts Forest, Charlton, Fulham & the scummers. Who would you swap with?
03/03/2008 19:17:00
I feel that Harry has got to drop one of the current midfield to get the shape back in the team. Pap Diop is not a right sided midfield player, so the only width on the right is when Glen gets out there. Decision time , either stick with Utaka, going through his bad patch, Lauren, who just does a job, or put Nico over there and play Muntari or Aubey out on the left. We have lost our shape and good teams will take advantage of that, just like Everton kept doing, so go on Harry prove you can be ruthless when it matters and save the season. Diarra and Muntari should be alright with Sean in the centre of midfield.
03/03/2008 19:20:00
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