After Thoughts on: The Battle for the Drop

Alex Livesey

Time has passed since the game against Southampton. But has the passing of time helped improved the look of the result. As teams around us won, pulling away from us or closing the gap. Yet we remain unbeaten against the teams down by the bottom? Does that balance out?

Saturday was supposed to be a day in which the team stepped up to the plate and kick started their season into action. That day has yet to come though, a dire performance and only a pick acquired in our seasonal fight to survive relegation. Yet we need to set down a marker, and so far we have failed to do so.

The game on paper looked like three points we should fly to. No disrespect to Southampton, but at home against the opposition around us, we do well and should pick up all three points to continue that record. In a way we still did with the 2-2 draw. All the teams in the bottom five (QPR, Aston Villa, Reading and Southampton) we have yet to lose to this season, a stat which could be important become the end of the year.

It’s our point stat we aren’t happy with, and we failed to improve it again on Saturday. Do you know why we have a low points tally? Our lack of draw funny enough; we may play great football, but it leaves us open to the two ultimatums, winning or losing the game.

The Southampton game was only our sixth draw of the season, and our second in two weeks. Picking up draws in football is the difference between us and a mid-table team. Take Stoke City, the pinnacle of mid-tableness, so far this season they have won six games, yet drawn 12. Ourselves having won five and drawn only six. From those draws they have six more points and are eight places better than us.

It goes to show how having important having a strong defence is in the Premier League. The signing of Paul Scharner will go a long way to improving our defensive record. The Austrian was by far the best defender on the pitch at the weekend. Roberto Martinez’s decision to move the defender into the right back position arguably cost us the game.

We lost the marker for Rickie Lambert and the man who for the majority of the game, covered our mistakes and won the majority of the defensive headers. We have missed this kind of defender with the sustained absence of Antolin Alcaraz.

So hopefully at the back, we may be able to tighten up so long as we play with our three centre backs. I don’t think it has ever been the systems problem, just the fact the defenders in it have not had particular great seasons all at once, and so many have played in the back three. Maynor Figueroa the only consistent figure so far this season.

In the midfield we may have found the problem of goal maker in Roger Espionza. All though the midfielder had a less than great game against Southampton, he still showed glimpses of what he can do, and the more his match sharpness improves, the better he will be for the side.

His stay in the line-up maybe cut short come this weekend, with the return of striker Arouna Kone. We have badly missed Kone’s direct play, his ability to run at defenders, beat them for pace and get through on goal. Hopefully after a month away, he will come back rested and ready to get on the score sheet.

It’s hard to see who will drop out of the side, if anyone at the weekend. None was good enough to stay in, yet as a collective the side was still okay. Gary Caldwell could be a possible absentee, along with any other players who return from international duty with little niggles. Yet none in the starting line-up can think themselves safe with players pushing for returns from injury in the wings, this team could be on the verge of bouncing back to brilliance.

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