Often Partisan


Some reflections on the game against Newcastle United:

1) The Corinthian Spirit doesn’t win matches

I admire the fact that McLeish has tried to impress on the Blues team that they should play the game in a sporting manner; not going down from a challenge unless they have to, not niggling the ref or other players etc. However, judging by our last two games it clearly isn’t the way to go as once again a team came to St Andrews and got under the Blues players skins with niggly challenges, timewasting and whatnot. Furthermore, for the second time in two games, the ref pretty much turned a blind eye to it. It would be okay I guess if we were top of the fair play league, but we’re not – we’re 19th, one place above Newcastle. If the last two games have taught us anything, snidey shoves in the back, rolling around like you’ve been shot and going to ground every time is the way to go.

2) 4-4-2 doesn’t guarantee goals

For the last two games, we’ve played with two strikers, two attacking widemen and generally looked a balanced side – and in that time, we’ve scored one goal. We’ve given our new striker Obafemi Martins game time, and barring some nice touches, he’s not really offered much. Jerome runs hard, but his confidence seems so low I feel for the poor bloke. The last two games Ziggy has been manhandled, pushed, elbowed and whatnot and it’s not surprising that he’s not been able to impose himself on games. Furthermore, the midfield has struggled to get a grip on the games; Bentley seems to want to check back every time he goes to cross and Larsson just couldn’t get to grips with two excellent players in Luis Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez tonight. I actually thought at half time we’d have been better off with a fifth midfielder – maybe Keith Fahey to stifle Tiote and Nolan, or a third striker for a midfielder and gone direct and bypassed them totally.

3) Jiranek

I finally understand the reticence of McLeish to play Martin Jiranek in the Premiership. I read last week that when looking at defenders form the continent, one of AM’s main issues is whether they can handle it in the air – as football tends to be more on the deck on the continent as it does here. Last night, there was a bit of an aerial bombardment at times, and Jiranek did struggle at times to handle it – he didn’t seem as settled or as composed, and it certainly rubbed off on Johnson beside him who didn’t look happy either.

4) The problem with class

Watching Bentley and Martins, both of them obviously have a bit of class about them and as such the confidence to try little moves to help them get away from defenders. For instance, Bentley will run towards a ball coming down the line, not actually touch it but run around the defender in the belief the player will follow him and not the ball which will allow Bentley to get behind him. Unfortunately, the Toon defence last night was solid and they stuck to a maxim I was always taught; follow the ball, not the player – and thus were able to cut out the move from the start. Martins tried something similar with the same result, and it got me thinking. If either had come off, they’d have been in behind the defence, the crowd would be on their feet and they’d be lauded for their skill. As it was, both times it was easily cut out and the crowd got moody thinking that it was poor play. Such is the fine line between success and failure.

5) Fickleness

After a few good games on the bounce, the crowd seemed awfully quick to get onto the player’s backs after we went one nil down. The bloke behind me went on about Zigic being a “donkey”, and I felt forced to point out that if he’d been down the ground the last couple of games, he’d have seen that Zigic had been scoring and that maybe, just maybe he did bring something to the team. It didn’t help the bloke’s argument that every time he shouted that Toon were going to do something, they did the opposite – and every time he went to moan at Blues for doing something wrong, it came off. Clearly he didn’t have a clue. I know it’s disheartening to go one down so quickly but for Gods sake, why can’t some people back the team?

Okay, we lost. In the grand scheme of things we’ve not lost much in the table though; just a couple more goals. We need to pick ourselves back up and take Wednesday out on Saturday. I’d give Jerome a start and say to him – shoot on sight, have fun and the goals will come. Unfortunately, I won’t be there due to financial constraints, but I hope there will be a crowd behind the team to roar them on towards a second Wembley appearance.

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