Such has been the fallout from events at the New Den I’m not sure I could find 800+ words to say something new – so you’ll be relieved to hear I’m giving it a swerve. Besides, a week and one day on and it’s still feels a little raw.
But the international break – something I normally berate for being ill-timed and dull – has actually, for once, arrived at a good time for City. I’m not sure the old adage about the next game not coming soon enough in order for a chance to put things right would have been particularly helpful in this instance.
As it transpired the two-week hiatus was a welcome one and enabled those in the corridors of Colney to clear the heads, refocus, bring a lump of a centre-back in (meant in a good way) and assess whether the current template is robust enough to persist with, minus any tweaks.
In fact, the arrival of Grant Hanley gave us all their response to that final point.
It represents another gamble of course. Hanley won’t have come cheap given he was at a Premier League club with a contract to match, and I don’t imagine his agent was encouraging him to take a pay cut to reignite his career in the Norfolk. But if it brings stability where currently there is flakiness it will be money well spent.
And that Hanley arrives with a ringing endorsement from Paul Lambert on his CV can only be a good thing. Lambert, for all that has happened to him since departing the Fine City – and despite the dubious place he holds in the hearts of Blackburn fans – was a shrewd judge of a Championship centre-back and, like most I suspect, I warmed to his use of the word ‘colossus’ when describing the Scottish international. Because if there is one thing we need at the heart of our defence right now…
Yet it’s going to take more than just one new face to bring about the aforementioned solidity. An appreciation of what it takes in the Championship to offer support to the defence and to plug gaps in front of it is also desperately needed.
Prior to the M game I was chatting to a former playing colleague who’s views on the beautiful game I respect. He, in my opinion, knows his stuff. And he’s a glass half full kind of guy.
But he was a little sceptical. He admitted to being enthused over the summer months and was heartened by the freshness and apparent dynamism brought to the club – first by Stuart Webber and and later by Daniel Farke and his team – yet confessed that having watched it all unfold for real from Craven Cottage onwards he was unnerved.
His concern was two-fold: firstly over the new style but then, related to that, over the personnel who have been brought in to deliver it. He had no specific problem with either in isolation – who doesn’t love the prospect of aesthetically pleasing football – but he did have concerns over how reliant it all is on ball retention and how working it through the thirds via clever movement and rotation requires flexibility and fluid movement of the midfield five.
His point was that when it breaks down – and we have developed a nasty habit of giving the ball away a little too cheaply when away from home – there is no solid base there to protect the back three or four. They will invariably be exposed – either out wide where there’ll either be a full-back faced with a one-on-one, or if playing a back three, an overload, or through the middle if Harrison Reed has ‘joined in’ and vacated that area in front of the centre-backs.
And, the second element of his furrowed brow was borne of the personnel currently occupying the positions in said back four. The responsibility and onus on any defender to deliver in such a system is, in his view, heightened by by the fluid style but when those same defenders are new to the Championship it opens up all sorts of potential difficulties.
Sadly his words, spoken on the afternoon prior to you know when, were to be prophetic.
Naturally we’re all hoping that Hanley will soon form part of a solid spine but, equally, regard must be given – and will have been given – to how this attractive style of playing the game can be tweaked to accommodate the brutal, unsophisticated realities of the English second tier.
Amidst all the recriminations, counter-recriminations, requests for patience, howls for heads to roll and good ol’ fashioned in-fighting, there has been some proper nonsense spouted – yep, probably from my keyboard – and it is a little sad how fragile our even keel is. Of course it’s not gone as we’d hoped, yet despite constantly reminding ourselves it would all likely take time the flak has still been flying thick and fast. After five games.
It just feels like we’re all awaiting an excuse for a good row… on both sides, both sides.