Oh dear, things really have fallen off a cliff. On the pitch and off it.
But I will start with on the pitch.
We now have the worst defensive record in the Championship along with QPR, and still our coach does not change the defensive personnel at all.
Contrast this to Daniel Farke’s approach in 2018 when he fielded the youngest back-four in our history at Ipswich … Ipswich of all places! One year earlier he had watched as Marcel Franke and Russell Martin – our centre-back pairing of the day – were ripped apart at Millwall (a). I don’t Franke played for the first team again and it also signalled the end of his City career for Russ.
But David Wagner rigidly sticks with Shane Duffy and Ben Gibson while he has Danny Batth and Jaden Warner both available. Why not give one or both a game? Surely they can’t do any worse.
The big difference was that Farke was brave enough to play youngsters.
Another of Wagner’s failings is his in-game management and, most notably, his use of substitutions, which have generally been woeful. Instead of giving us a boost they usually do the reverse.
We have now conceded, on average, almost two goals per game, which is relegation form. It certainly isn’t all the fault of Duffy and Gibson for our recent defensive crisis but they are culpable.
In front of them, I still think we need a holding midfielder in the mould of Alex Tettey or Oliver Skipp. Middlesborough’s second goal on Tuesday night was a carbon copy of Leeds’ second on Saturday and was crying out for a deep-lying midfielder to close those spaces down.
We continue to give players free shots from the edge of the area for goodness sake, and have conceded a late goal in each of the last four games, which, among other things, also suggests a total lack of concentration.
I admire Wagner’s enthusiasm but we cannot go down the Dean Smith route (I stuck with him for far too long) and hang on for an upsurge of form that never comes, so a decision has to be made now.
He has done the same this season as last – a very good start followed by a dreadful ending to the season is precisely where we are now.
As things stand Saturday will inevitably bring another 2-0 or 3-0 defeat. Losing to Plymouth and Rotherham, who are in a relegation battle, can happen but we are now losing games and confidence in equal measure.
The question we have to ask is are these players good enough? Unlike Farke’s second EPL season, if the answer is purely to stay in the Championship, yes, I really hope so.
What is for sure is that we now better start looking down not up.
Now onto off the pitch, and I don’t really know where to start on this one.
Firstly Stuart Webber hanging around to hold Ben Knapper’s hand – if Ben wants this then fair enough but surely Neil Adams would be a good ‘settling in’ man, which would enable Knapper to keep his authority and feel able to make his own decisions.
Then Delia says she is going to mark Mark Attanasio’s homework like some demented Miss Trunchbull – it beggars belief.
Surely she doesn’t need another three years to judge if our American investor is a good man or not? And all of this talk of who will own the club in 2040 is irrelevant as none of us know what will be the situation with the club by then.
The recruitment since Kieran Scott left for Middlesbrough has been poor, and that is down to Webber’s decisions and Delia’s ability not to compete. While Scott has Teemu, Emi, etc on his CV, Webber has Christos Tzolis, Billy Gilmour etc on his.
(Okay, Gabriel Sara, I will admit, has been an excellent signing.)
When we prepared for our second Championship under Farke we signed six under-21-year-olds. This season we have signed six thirtysomethings. Now I personally think you need a mixture of experience and youth in the EPL but sadly that experience is beyond our budget in that league and, conversely, we need a young side for the Championship with a sprinkling of experience.
Ourselves, Leeds United, Fulham and especially Burnley won the Championship with predominantly young sides.
We seem to have lost our way as a club. The Sporting Director/Head Coach idea, initially as seen by Ed Balls, was based on employing an experienced SD and a young hungry coach, and with a good mix of youngsters and experienced players.
I am reluctant to call for managers and head coaches to go but we are at a huge crossroads and I feel that, like Bruce, Hughes, Pulis, and Smith, David Wagner has found the football of today has sadly passed him by.