Saturday, February 25, 2006

Curbs Lays Down the Law

"You played better when the fans were booing you."

As I suggested on Friday, our League season is rapidly fading into obscurity leaving only a winnable FA Cup quarter-final keeping things alive in a disappointing season.

We now find ourselves in the midst of another mini-slump, winning just one our last seven League games and scoring just six goals in the process. Admittedly after the defensive fun and games in Nov/Dec, a few goalless draws at least preserve our sanity I suppose. If we now begin our usual end-of-season slide, then paradoxically it may be less frustrating than usual as we don't have anything to play for anyway, even if we just limp over the 40-point mark.

If you are one of the optimists who sees Charlton's cup as half-full not half-empty right now, you may be about to throw something at your PC, but I am struggling to find any positives to take out of this season, Darren Bent aside of course. Indeed, in the absence of his monumental 13 goals, I shudder to think where we might lie in the table right now.

For fear of repeating myself, the facts are stark: no away wins since October; 20 points from our past 21 games; and perhaps most worryingly, just 44 points from our past 41 games. Us stattos don't need to remove the aberrational opening four wins of this season, because the stats are pretty dire even if they're included. This season, we have won ten games, and only three have been against sides outside the bottom five (Wigan, West Ham, Liverpool). I suppose given the club's stated priority of Premiership survival, beating the League's worst teams is a pretty good way to ensure it, but I for one have higher expectations.

Which brings me nicely onto the 'hottest' topic on the message boards recently, namely the 'Kishishev debate.' I figured I'd wait a few days before putting my views on the web.

Let me get one thing straight, the so-called fans that booed him earlier in the season should be ashamed of themselves. In my view, players deserve to be booed only if they are perceived to lack total effort - booing for any other reason is wrong, since the manager picks the team and thus perceives them to be good enough to wear the shirt. If the fans disagree, the vitriol should rain down upon the manager, not the relevant player. And in Kishishev's case, you can't accuse him of not giving 100% nor playing as if he doesnt care.

However, that's not really the point in my view. The defensive midfield holding role is one of the most important in the side, if not the most important. Anyone who watches Chelsea's efficient machine will know that Makelele is the fulcrum around which the team moves, allowing the likes of Lampard the freedom to get forward and score goals. Similarly, it is no coincidence that Arsenal are a shadow of their former selves without Viera; likewise Man Utd and Keane.

Whilst I am willing to accept under duress that Kish may be the best player we currently have in that position (though I'm more of a Smertin man myself), I simply don't see how we will progress to the next level, whatever that may be until we can somehow find someone of Scott Parker's class to play there. Ironically Curbs has recently moved Kish to right midfield which seems odd to say the least - part of his masterplan to play constantly players out of position I guess.

As a club, we clearly can't afford Parker-esque players in every position. However in my view, we can 'get by' with mediocre players in less crucial positions. Witness our revolving goalkeepers shirt this season, or the Spector/Powell rotation at left-back. I think we can even get by with an average second striker - let's face it, before Darren Bent, we didn't even have a classy first striker, let alone second yet it didn't really hold us back too far. However games are won and lost in the central midfield battle, and we don't stand a chance with the Kish/Hughes/Holland triumvirate. To be fair to Kish, you can make a case that about two-thirds of the whole squad are potentially 'not good enough', but of those, only he and perhaps Hreidarsson seem automatic selections.

The 'Boro Cup game is of course enormous for the club, just as the Brentford one was before it. The fans deserve a proper 'day out' - we haven't had one since the Play Off Final, and as I never cease to remind my wife, my wedding day was the '2nd most memorable day of my life.' (Fortunately she was with me to share in the most memorable too). In a Premier League which is increasingly bifurcated, these types of games can draw fans out of a tedious malaise.

Footnote: I may be being optimistic, but is there a chance that 'Boro will not play a full-strength side if they overcome Roma in the UEFA Cup, and thus face a quarter-final just a week after the FA Cup tie (with a League game in between)? I may begin to take some interest in the competition.


At 8:48 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

There is a huge gap between Makelele and Kishishev, but the question is who is available whom we can afford? I'm not quite sure who we can take from Ipswich in the summer :-) I would say that one positive from the season is Myhre's authority in goal. Luke Young continues to improve and HH is very reliable.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Frankie Valley said...

The problem I have with Kish is this - for whatever reason, he doesnt contain himself to playing the holding midfield role a la Makelele. He takes too much on. If he just sat in front of the defence and did the "water-carrier" thing, he may be of some use to us.

Where is he supposed to be playing these days? Defence? Midfield? Attack? Central? Wide? Nobody knows. Yesterday he even had three shots on goal (two in the right end), and for the last half-hour could be found hugging the left touchline. Yes its true - Kish was playing on the left wing. For pitys sakes, WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT???

At 3:55 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

In terms of replacements, given the ease with which Bent has taken to the Premiership, I would look first at the best Championship-level players. Examples might include Jagielka or Sidwell. The former in particular would seem to be an ideal defensive midfielder.

Further to Frankie's point, if he's going to be more than a water-carrier in front of the defence, someone is going to have to explain his scoring record (2 goals in 145 starts), and thus how playing him in a more attacking role like right midfield is likely to be beneficial.

I'm surprised no-one suggests El Karkouri as an alternative in central midfield. I think he has played there occasionally already, and seems to have the ideal attributes - strength, passing ability, tackling, and a bit of pace too.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

We tried for Sidwell in the summer, but he was off on his honeymoon in the Seychelles and had his phone switched off for some reason. Now with Reading coming up he will probably stay there which is a shame.

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

I have been championing Jagielka for a long time but like most of Curbs' buys he needs to watch them for a couple of years first before buying them.


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