Wagner’s honeymoon period is officially over.
While last Saturday’s whooping was assigned to the ‘Premier League bound/better than us’ drawer, away days in Brizzle are supposed, for us, to be standard Championship fare. The games in which we can successfully compete.
Our record against teams in the top six is woeful, so logically it’s against the other 18 that City have to prosper if they are to claim a playoff place.
Not yesterday though, which doesn’t bode well for the run of supposedly winnable games that’s upcoming.
Against a Bristol City side that was unbeaten in eight and bursting full of confidence, all of the old failings – those that Dean Smith was unable to address – were laid bare.
- Individual errors
- Laboured and imprecise passing
- A lack of creativity
- No cutting edge
It was an unedifying watch but an all too familiar one. A squad that’s been tweaked around the edges but which is clearly in need of more than tweaks.
Andrew Omobamidele spoke afterwards of the need for a reset. The most used word in post-match discussions online was refresh. Everyone can see it.
The verve and zip we witnessed at Deepdale and the CBS Arena have disintegrated amid a 180+ minute flurry of mistakes, misplaced passes, and struggle. And all underpinned by this team’s worrying inability to react to going behind.
Courtesy of @ncfcnumbers, this team has fallen behind in 13 of its 30 games so far this season, and from those 13 games has yielded just six points – a damning indictment on its character and lack of cojones.
There is some talent in this squad (although I’ve argued all season it isn’t the one oozing with quality that we initially believed), but the Championship is about far more than skill and flair. In order to allow those two things to flourish, there needs to be an underbelly of steel and grit.
We don’t have that.
There are teams above us in the table who, from a technical perspective, are not as good but who are far better equipped to battle and to mix it. Those teams are unfazed by going a goal down. They don’t get easily rattled and shrink, and instead use it as a trigger to move up another gear.
While David Wagner and his coaching team will continue to drum in their messages around how they want this team to play and its shape structure, and philosophy – the technical stuff – I’m not sure there is too much they can do to instill the never-say-die mindset that this group so badly lacks. That comes from within.
As things stand we’re equidistant between 6th and 18th – pretty much where we were when Stuart Webber first arrived in the spring of 2017. We’ve been on quite the journey in between, admittedly, but there’s no escaping the fact that we are back where we started – mired in the Championship’s mid-table and in need of something quite special if we are to make a late charge for a playoff place.
We look anything but playoff bound but if that miracle did somehow occur, we return to that same old argument. Were this group to emerge victorious from the playoffs, then we know what comes next. And it’s not nice.
The reset/refresh that Omobamidele and the fans spoke of post-match needs to extend way beyond the remit of Wagner, and maybe, just maybe, tomorrow night will be the start of it.
For anyone who’s unaware, an EGM has been called where approval will be sought to allot an additional 194,512 ordinary shares on top of the existing 616,913, taking the total to 811,425 – an increase of nearly 24 per cent.
I attempted to explain it here.
The exact reason for this new share allocation is only known, for now, by those in the inner sanctum, but logic suggests it’s a mechanism by which Mark Attanasio can provide the club with additional funds while increasing his shareholding.
We’ll see – there could be an unexpected twist – but what it does mean is that Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones’ shareholding will be reduced to around 40 percent. In other words, while they will retain the biggest joint-shareholding, they will no longer own the majority of shares.
Quite how much any of this will impact Wagner in the summer window remains to be seen, but yesterday was a stark reminder that for this squad to be moulded around the requirements of its new head coach, some drastic surgery is needed. While the need to be ‘creative’ will likely remain, it would be nice if, for once, we could be in a position to compete with our peers in the transfer window.
For too long, we have lost out when other teams are involved (Kristoffer Ajer for example) and have had to invariably settle for cheap, often-injured options. The squad that Wagner is managing right now is the product of that.
Stuart Webber has had arguably two good transfer windows in 11 – a pretty awful return – but has always been hamstrung by all of the reasons above. Silk purse, sow’s ear etc.
So, despite yesterday being one of those days to which we’ve become all too accustomed, maybe it’s something that’s happening off the pitch tomorrow night that will dictate the future direction of our club.
We can but hope.