Blackpool‘s poor run of form continued as AFC Wimbledon defeated the Seasiders 1-0 at Loftus Road. We ended the evening on 9 men for a large portion of the game as Ethan Robson was sent for an early bath in the first half, before a bizarre Daniel Ballard left us with an almost impossible task of finding an equaliser. The best spell actually came when the side went down to nine men and the team will feel aggrieved not to have taken something out of the game.
Neil Critchley is someone who brought vast optimism amongst the support, including myself, and we were looking forward to seeing our pre-season form continue into the start of the campaign but it simply hasn’t happened. I am someone who believes in giving a manager time when they are implementing a new philosophy but when we are going into game after game seeing absolutely no vivid improvement and the same things happening on the park, why wait around for things to get worse at Christmas when you can just make the change now? There is an argument quickly building against Critchley now than we may need to consider immediate action if our form does not turn in our next two games against fellow strugglers Burton Albion on Saturday, or next Tuesday against Wigan.
I like Neil Critchley, I like his ideas and he comes across a lovely guy in the press. Having said that, he is a young, unproven manager and a lot of his decisions are coming across as a little naive, something that I feel has blighted him is not bringing in an assistant that knows the league. We are crying out for someone who knows that sometimes you have to sacrifice elements of your play in order to get a result and most importantly I don’t see that aggression and fight in this young Blackpool side. And when you don’t have the fight and desire to win that midfield tackle or to press that extra yard, you need to have it forced into you from the touchline. Will that ever come from Critchley?
Moreover from that, we have a complete inability to recover from adversity. Yet again we make an error in our play and it costs us with an opposition goal, and from then on it took us an hour to actually re-impose ourselves on the game. The time basically sauntered by as we went through the motions in a lethargic, slow manner because, as has happened week after week, we start well then concede and then the pace drops and everything we do is flat.
Who actually turned up?
This is the level we’re at with that performance, simply figuring out who decided to show up in a Tangerine jersey.
Dan Kemp is the first name who springs to mind. I called for him to be in the starting lineup for this game and for me he delivered, he looked lively with and without possession, he mixed up his attacking play driving out wide and cutting inside on various occasions allowing us to stretch the game more easily. Unfortunately, we were still one dimensional even without CJ Hamilton in the side after seeing that Kemp was the wide outlet for us in this game, mainly because Sullay Kaikai’s work rate really left a lot to be desired.
As you can see from the graphic above, Kemp completed the most successful dribbles on the park with two. Now I would have commended the fact that, as you can see in the graphic below, he also had an 86% pass success rate. However, he only actually made 14 passes, completing 12 of them. This shows how effective Kemp was when he got on the ball, but looking at the wide areas on the map below, we were incredibly ineffective as a team in getting the ball into dangerous areas. You only have to compare it with the Wimbledon midfield or to how much our defence had the ball to see how disastrous Blackpool’s attacking phases really were.
Dan Ballard is another man who showed up and, despite his controversial sending off with 15 minutes of normal time to go, he still completed the most passes on the pitch and completed the most successful aerial battles out of anyone on the pitch with ten. As always he looked a level above anyone else in a Blackpool shirt, commanding in the air and calm and composed on the ball, he fed confidence in the side that they would be safe at the back, if you pretend Oliver Turton and Demetri Mitchell don’t exist of course.
And the only other player you can really say turned up was Gary Madine. Again he looked to work tirelessly and cut an increasingly frustrated figure as the game went on, particularly because Oliver Sarkic was nowhere to be seen to be able to allow Madine to knock down headers to him. Madine’s pass success rate was a poor 45% but I don’t knock him for that, I knock the lack of Blackpool shirts around him for that, there was a real lack of desire to be in the right areas at the right time to allow us to get further up the pitch and Sarkic’s performance really highlighted that.
The Full Back problem
Yet again Demetri Mitchell and Oliver Turton looked increasingly useless in a defensive sense. Harsh words but really when you keep seeing the same inadequacies in the defensive unit, letting down the centre half pairing week after week, questions have to be asked as to why we made 18 signings in the summer and still have Oliver Turton as a starting right back.
We know Demetri Mitchell can’t defend and we have brought in Luke Garbutt as our main starting left back so, as much as we can continue to criticise Mitchell defensively, it is really wasted breath. Turton on the other hand is our starting right back and at least Mitchell can offer something going forward. His one dimensional approach to simply hoof the ball down the line aimlessly hoping someone will latch on to it showed up even more when Dan Kemp was offering different runs.
Mitchell and Turton going into the next run of fixtures simply cannot happen. As much as I don’t feel James Husband is the greatest full back and definitely isn’t someone we can rely on long term, he is a step above anything Mitchell can offer in that position and he needs to start against Burton on Saturday. However, we are stuck with Oliver Turton because, if Teddy Howe and Jordan Gabriel’s Seaside performances are anything to go by, then they will simply offer the same problems that Turton does. We are stuck. And with the run of upcoming fixtures looking much more difficult than our recent games, we are on course to extend that winless run again and again.
Effort cannot replace quality
There is no doubt that, particularly after the sendings off, the side showed a lot of desire and effort to try and get us back into the game. But as much as people love the intangibles in lower league football, you can have all the effort in the world but if the ability and quality isn’t there then it normally is all for nothing. You can have fight in the midfield areas but if you don’t have the strength, composure and anticipation without the ball then it means nothing and our weakness in the tackle showed again against Wimbledon.
You can have two full backs who will run tirelessly throughout the game but if fundamentally they have no sense of organisational structure or a knowledge of positional sense then again it is pointless having the effort in the first place. And, as I am about to show, it is all about how unbalanced we are in the Effort/Quality stakes leaving us fundamentally unorganised as a side.
Quality cannot replace effort
Likewise you can have quality in different areas of the park but if there is no desire to get on the ball, yes I’m looking at Sullay Kaikai, then it is all a waste of time. Kaikai’s attempt to press the Wimbledon wide man to stop him getting into the box for their first goal was one of the most pathetic things I’ve seen this season. I would have taken him off there and then because as I say, someone in his position, when the team aren’t particularly great at finding the ball in the right areas to play to his strengths, needs that work rate and extra effort to get himself on the ball more and if he isn’t prepared to do that then someone else will.
We look unorganised, with no real structure and the scariest thing is there is no real idea of what it is we are actually trying to do. The philosophy that is supposed to be being implemented does not exist on the field of play. We are slow and laboured in playing the ball out from the back, allowing the opposition to get back into their original positions rather than trying to quickly catch them out on the counter. Our high press has disappeared and it is easy to play around our forward lines of defence. The midfield looks disjointed and tends to have massive gaps appear as the game goes on, and we seem afraid to play riskier passes into half spaces and the midfield to attacking third which begs the question why are we bothering with this.
Why bother to continue to do the same things and expect different results?
You can pull the plug now on this project and bring in a Michael Duff or a Paul Cook who will at least bring structure to the side. My fear is that the players in this side are so lightweight and inexperienced that under the current management they will treat them as they come as if they are a youth side. This is not youth football, this season has major consequences for the club if it goes badly wrong, we don’t have time nor the patience to watch the same things going wrong week after week. If we don’t win one of our next two games then perhaps it is time for a change and if Simon Sadler wants this season to be anything other than a relegation scrap then it needs to be a change in management. We badly need a result on Saturday.
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