So, that’s it. The fun and games are finally over and one week today we’ll have something tangible to discuss. Huge relief eh?
In the absence of a stream, I made the mistake of following events at The Valley on the Pink Un’s live feed. Never again.
While Michael Bailey was his usual excellent self in describing events and responding to the odd sensible question, a few of the comments posted between the Charlton going ahead and when the feed was finally switched off were just a little bit heartbreaking.
I don’t need to copy and paste for you to get the general gist. To paraphrase: ‘We’re doomed … relegation beckons … we’re going backwards … prepare for League One’.
It was a lesson learned on my part.
Luckily for me, Gary Field was MFW’s man on the ground (or in the ground in this case) and will be filing his thoughts on the match later, so I’ll leave the analysis to Gaz but by all accounts, it was a first half that was light in oomph. Or, in the words of the head coach: “We were not there in the first half with our heads and our hearts”.
Ultimately, to lose the final game of pre-season is, in my eyes anyway, no bad thing and, as also alluded to by Farke, things have been ticking along a little too nicely in many ways. A pre-season without adversity or difficulties has really not done the job, and so a whack in the cojones just before the real stuff begins is no disaster.
‘General Melchett’ penned an interesting MFW guest blog in midweek where he questioned the quality of City’s pre-season opposition and his point – that the very last thing any team can afford to do is to go into the first game a little undercooked – is a good one. And I do wonder if yesterday had been another cosy little stroll that could have been the case.
As it transpired, it sounded as if City were forced into putting in a real shift in the second half, a half in which some changes were made and where some of those on the bench put in a serious claim for a place in next Saturday’s starting XI.
Again, I’m not sure if [cliché klaxon] a starting XI that ‘picks itself’ is really what you want at this stage of proceedings.
Amusingly, Farke also chucked into the pot that ‘our new kits are beautiful’ as another element to the feelgood factor that currently pervades (for most anyway, not those few Pink Um miserablists) but his general point was a good one. There needs to be an edge, an element of uncertainty a few nerves, without which a Championship opener at St Andrew’s could quite easily turn ugly.
Whether City are ready or not will only reveal itself at 3pm next Saturday but equally, it’s nailed on that the eleven who start in Birmingham won’t end up being Farke’s go-to eleven as the season progresses. Football evolves, things change but there’s also the fact that eight pre-season games are neither enough to fully harness any changes in playing style, nor find the right combination of individuals.
I was going to do the ‘compare next Saturday’s possible starting XI with the side that started on opening day at Craven Cottage’ thing, but when doing some MFW pre-season housekeeping I stumbled across an even better representation of how the squad has evolved (it’s probably not better, but indulge me).
In last season’s final friendly – a home game against Brighton that ended 1-1 – the club allowed MFW to send a photographer to the game. His brief was simple: to snap away and give us a library of images that would offer the Ed plenty to choose from when setting a featured image at the head of every piece. He did a brilliant job and 90 per cent of the images you see on here every day are from that collection.
But it was when sorting through the player images from that afternoon that it struck home just how drastic the turnover has been (and how I’m going to have to beg, steal and borrow for images for the season ahead).
No longer of this parish:
- Marcel Franke
- Angus Gunn
- Cameron Jerome
- James Maddison
- Josh Murphy
- Steven Naismith
- Alex Pritchard
- Harrison Reed
- Marley Watkins
- Yanic Wildschut
Still of this parish but unlikely to feature:
- Russell Martin
- Nelson Oliveira
- Ben Godfrey
- James Husband
- Alex Tettey
- Mario Vrancic
- Christoph Zimmermann
And they wore the purple kit for second-half! So, if MFW has a slightly retro feel over the coming season you’ll know why 🙂
But, the serious point here is that this time last season the squad was a hybrid of new faces intermingled with old ones, and it’s now very much one in the mould of its creators – Farke and Stuart Webber. Using the MFW barometer, only Godfrey and Tettey – resplendent in purple at the top of the page – remain from the previous regime.
On that basis, those (even those on the Pink Un live feed) who say that this season is the acid test for Team Farke are right. They’ve had a year and a bit to implement their philosophy, a full pre-season to get the players conditioned and they now have a squad fully stocked with players who fit the bill (or at least their bill). All achieved against a background of austerity.
While we had all accepted there was no way James Maddison could be retained, the sale of Josh Murphy enabled the arrival of one or two faces we didn’t expect and so, on paper at least, this squad looks stronger than I had envisaged it would at the end of last season.
I’m ready … you?