Well, here we are. The lofty heights of the top half of the table were perhaps too unfamiliar but we’re right back in territory in which we’ve become all too accustomed to over the last few years. The joys prior to the World Cup have been replaced with a business as usual approach that seems to be infecting every aspect of our game and has had us plummet down the table.
I’m not going fully doom and gloom just yet but panic stations at the ready happened against Hull and evasive manoeuvres have yet to guide us back on course despite what had seemed like not too bad a start against Boro. The slide down the table is frustrating but at the same time we’re still within touching distance of the Play Off spots that many fans, including myself, allowed to creep into the mind as a possibility this season. We’re off the pace now but if we can pull it together again when we face Bristol (I mean even a win against Forest Green in the Cup could give us a morale boost) we can potentially get right back on it leaving this period as a bad memory of not being in form when football resumed. Sadly this isn’t the first time we’ve been in this sort of situation.
I know you shouldn’t use past performances as an indication of future results but following the suspension of football during the covid season Blues failed to win another game that season. We hadn’t been on such a good run prior to the suspension that year but looking at the similarities I am concerned that Blues will struggle for a few games, thankfully we’ve got a lot more games to change our fortunes this time (I mean, there is also a flip side there but I’m not going to entertain that except in my nightmares).
So what has gone wrong?
Blues returned from the World Cup with a draw that should have been a win but for poor officiating followed by victory over Reading although that game was blighted by a shocking second half which nearly saw Blues throw it away. That was then the beginning of the end it appears. The fluidity in the team seems to have disappeared. Prior to the World Cup there seemed to be this intuitive football from the lads but now it’s the bumbling lack of joined up football that does no one any favours. Usually I might say something like, “Teams have figured us out,” but that doesn’t look to be the case. It looks more self inflicted than teams managing to box us off.
When the Maxco deal fell through (If you read Almajir it even seems as though there probably wasn’t a deal for a full take over at any point which probably raises further concerns) I feared this exact situation, almost prophetically. It does give you the feeling that the pair were doing more than just funding the club but boosting morale behind the scenes, perhaps Lopez was imparting knowledge as he wandered around Wast Hills, perhaps Richardson was really bringing that fan/owner view direct to the players, perhaps it was the prospect of security or maybe it’s had nothing to do with it at all and it is just the disruption of the World Cup.
Squad depth has had an impact too I fear. There is plenty of talk about a bug going round the squad and I suspect there’s some truth to it but the bigger issue is a limited squad combined with a couple of injuries, something we already knew would be an issue. I hate seeing Loneglo at the back, I don’t feel it’s his natural position no matter what anyone says. While he can run out from the back his defensive side of things is shaky, as we saw when he came off the bench yesterday, so I’d in all honesty prefer to see him on the wing than at the back.
I feel Blues are really missing Hogan too, Deeney is leading the team but this can be a bit of a distraction for him and it’s worth remembering that he’s not the Deeney that played for Watford but one that’s coming to the end of his career and has joined the club he loves. He gives everything and focuses on what the rest of the team are doing, like a proper leader, but Hogan is there just for the goals and it speaks volumes that we’ve struggled to find the net much since he’s been injured. Chong, Beilik and Bacuna look like different players too since they’ve come back and I hope it’s just a blip because these three plus Hannibal had been superb for Blues before the break.
I am worried, in fact the worry came before the season resumed, but there is a chance to turn things around. The other spanner in the works in the January window. Blues need to recruit, they need to hold onto players such as Sanderson, Hannibal and Beilik but with them being loan players that’s essentially out of our hands. Can I see us investing much in January? Honestly, no but Blues have shown a shrewd business nose in the summer and hopefully this can be partially replicated in this window. I will be letting out a sigh of relief when the window closes if we do nothing else but manage to hold onto the players we have.