I don’t think there is many of us that would try and argue against the fact that since August our league form has been medicore at best with a couple of decent performances generally taking us by surprise.
In fact you could also argue that whilst 16 points from the first 18 in the season was a good return, there were games within that where the performance was not good and arguably (Preston at home, Leeds away spring to mind) we should have been beaten long before we managed to scrape the win.
The fact is since that win in Leeds on the last Saturday of August we have gained 41 points from 34 in the league and look like a side that is heading in the wrong direction far quicker than any of us would like to either admit or accept. When we pulled Middlesbrough apart on our first game back after the lockdown period things were looking up but it turned out that this was one of the decent performances quickly followed by the return to what seems to be the norm and that was the performances against Luton and Millwall.
As was written on these pages after the Luton game, some of the after match comments that we hear after the poor performances resemble something that would not be out of place in Groundhog Day but last night Steve Cooper came out with new comments that suggest he is watching different games to the rest of us.
If we are at our best, we play fast attacking football, on the floor, with good creative play and we’re creating loads of chances. When we’re like that, great, but it’s when we’re not like that, that’s where we need to be a bit more efficient and harder to beat. That’s where we’re focusing.
“I’ve told the players that. They know. They’ll keep going. – Steve Cooper
Now I have to take issue with these comments. If you read them and then think about the games you have watched this season then you won’t remember many games where we play “fast attacking football on the floor with good creative play” well, not unless the very definition of that has changed in the period in which football locked down.
Mr Cooper is right that If (not when) we’re like that then great but the simple fact is we simply aren’t like that and we never will be under the formation and line ups that are picked. Of course we have played fast attacking football, on the floor with good creative play in the past but not under Cooper and certainly there is no signs that this is the case. Is the manager simply saying that because it is what the fans want to see or is he saying it because he genuinely believes that is how we play?
If it is the latter then our problems are deeper than any of us probably thought and if it is the former then we are back to the actions speak louder than words.
I’m failing right now to understand how though a manager can believe that a midfield of Grimes, Byers and Dhanda could even play that fast attacking football on the floor. I firmly believe we have the creativity up front to benefit from that kind of football but we simply don’t play it and there is a reason why the likes of Grimes, Byers and Celina seem to have gone backwards this season and it isn’t down to fatigue, lockdown or any other excuse which we constantly hear. They are going backwards (sometimes in more ways than one) because this is the way our football is heading.
Whatever way though you frame it our manager is definitely watching a different game and team to the one we have watched this season.