Next day’s reaction

Bah. Just as the Odense fiasco represented more than just another defeat, so too did last night’s pathetic exit from the FA Cup. Nobody’s pretending it’s easy to go to Everton and get a result – if it was we’d manage to get points there once in a while – but there’s something horribly wrong about these disjointed farces. It’s great when the team’s firing on all cylinders – we look terrific – but there is no middle ground. We’re almost always either useless or terrific. Why?

Martin Jol’s transition is not going to happen any more quickly because we’re fed up with it, but at some point there has to be a recognisable plan in the team. What on earth were they doing last night? Clint Dempsey hardly touched the ball. Bryan Ruiz might as well not have been there. AJ responded to his target man role with predictable ineffectiveness (just how dim is this tactic? Long goal kicks aimed at AJ? Is he merely following orders?). These are our game changers – shouldn’t we have a way to make them effective? Or even get them on the ball?

Increasingly it seems harsh to blame the players. They operate within a framework outlined by the coaching staff, and remain thoroughly unable to find space in dangerous areas. We have players who can see and exploit space when it is there, we just never create it. How many good saves were required of Tim Howard last night? Our goal came from a penalty kick.

At the other end Everton poured forward and at one point secured 87 consecutive corner kicks. They battered us aerially and of course scored that way twice: Landon Donovan whipped in two crosses, the first headed in by Stracqualursi (easily beating the recalled Aaron Hughes), the second (in the second half) by the towering Fellaini, who had cleverly isolated himself on Stephen Kelly well beyond the far post. Both headers dropped into the net not particularly quickly, and for the first at least (I’m not picking on him, honest) Stockdale surely should have been more nimble in getting something on the ball.

But again, it’s the context of the defeat as much as the result that is so frustrating. The big clubs are knocking each other out of the competition and once more it seems likely that some unfancied club will have a good run. It should have been us last year – that home defeat against Bolton! – and could have been again this time around. Everton away was a horrible draw, but we still might have done more.

It isn’t about effort. With a small pitch filled by 22 highly trained atheletes the potential for stalemates in various areas is high. This is what we saw a good deal of, and at times our players did look a little short on pizzazz. Again, though, I don’t know that it has much to do with effort, more a general and dispiriting rudderlessness in which the players are somehow expected to rise above this bizarre fogginess that surrounds so much of what they are trying to do.

Put it this way: we’re playing WBA in the week. What do you expect from Fulham then? A 4-0 win? A 2-1 defeat? Frankly it is impossible to guess.

14 thoughts on “Next day’s reaction

  1. The summary sums it up perfectly. Spending 13 hours on the road to watch this shapeless, gormless performance was painful.

    It’s clear Martin Jol wants to change the way we play but the players don’t know how to play his way. Why play in the formation from the Newcastle first half debacle? Why was Zamorra on the bench? Why brought on with little time remaining after (inevitably) going behind? Why play him on the right wing? So many more whys! The fans can see it but not the people that count.

    1. “It’s clear Martin Jol wants to change the way we play but the players don’t know how to play his way.”

      And, as paid professionals it is the players *job* to adapt and to learn the new system (and implement it effectively). That’s part of what they get paid to do.

      As has been the case in every sport, one thing is consistent across every coach/manager I have ever had/seen:

      “You do it until you get it right.”

      If some of our guys can’t get it right by the end of the year, they probably don’t deserve to be here next year anyway.

      If you’ll allow: Take an example from american football. If a new coach with a new philosophy comes in and a player or players cannot or will not adapt, they are inevitably left behind in some way or another.

      If Bill Belichek comes in and says “we are going to do things [this way]” and a player says “well, I’d really prefer to do it [that way]”, or “but I’m better doing it [that way]” what do think the response is/should be?

      Should we ditch all plans for the future because a few guys are unwilling or unable to adapt?

      I’ll say it again because I think it is worth repeating: You do it until you get it right. If some of the guys are not willing or able to adapt, they probably don’t deserve to be here next year anyway.

      1. Ok, but what about player facility verses player ability? AJ cannot “do it until [he] gets it right” because for him to play an effective target man he’d have to be a few inches taller. Dempsey can’t get it right either if he doesn’t get the ball. Ruiz cannot just gain enough muscle mass to keep from being shoved off the ball every challenge.

        I think what everybody here is concerned about it what appears to be Jol’s (lack of?) understand of his player’s facility — characterized by his strange line-ups, signings, and substitutions. Jol seems to be inflexibly stuck on a system regardless of the realities surrounding a particular match or the players.

        In contrast to Jol’s methods was Hodgson’s… Hodgson once said, ‘a manager’s job is to arrange his team like a concert conductor.’ He is to understand his player’s talents and limitations and put them in the best place to make the use of those attributes. In many ways. Hodgson also had a very strict system, however there was room for limited improvisation within those constrictions. That philosophy lead to many of this club’s most recent successes.

        Given the task before him (replace aging players, keep/lose end-of-contract players, implement new system, stay up, all within a very small budget), I think many fans are rightly critical of this aspect of his project.

        I still think it is endearing, however, that he looks like Shrek.

      2. I’m afraid that it’s Jol’s job to get results and if he adopts the approach that you suggest and takes us down then he’s failed. Quite frankly, if he can’t, or is unwilling to adapt his approach to the players he has to use then he really is not a manager of any quality.

        1. Ditto. The real shame is that his record shows that he has been a quality manager. Everybody has periods of lapse, and perhaps this year is just one of those years for Jol.

  2. While Jol’s plan (such as it is) doesn’t appear to be working, I also get the impression the the players don’t buy it. This is fatal as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Why changue any spot on a squad that scored 5 on 45 minutes?
    Let’s be honest, those 45 min against NCastle were the best on an awful year.

    The shame against Odense came back yesterday.

    What’s the point now? What to expect now, with the season ended in Jan?
    A team made to be on top 10, fighting to stay in the PremLeague?
    Dempsey, Dembele, Aj & BZ leaving?

    It’s not to loose, is the way you do it.

    1. Agreed – the spontaneous outbreak of hysteria is more related to Odense than Everton

      In my opinion the reason we appeared to play so poorly was that Everton hounded us all over the pitch – the Fox first half possession stats had Everton with 60% and they made life very difficult for our full backs

      The goals conceded were sloppy but not surprising given the amount of pressure

      To lose away to Everton in the cup is no shame and pretty much followed the book

      Frustrating maybe but can’t really see what all the fuss is about

  4. At least we didn’t lose to Brighton! Always look on the bright side of life…

    Plus, I think both of Everton’s goals came off Donovan crosses. I’ve been saying it for years: at best he’s the best yank in the game; at worst, he’s nothing to sneeze at (cue the Dempsey vs. Donovan debate in 3, 2, 1…).

  5. I feel like I’ve entered bizarro CCN. It was just one game, an away game at that. How often do we not lose those? Things are still on a generally upward trajectory, if a somewhat slow one, and I feel that is what’s important. Ruiz does seem to be much more useful when he has Dembele to play off so I expect that our my Bwyan will appear much improved in the near future. Nonstop longball to Andy Johnson is pretty damn infuriating though. That gotsta stop.

  6. Furthermore, most of you all should be thankful you didn’t have to watch the match with Eric F. Wynalda going to enormous lengths to demonstrate how much of a first name basis he is on with Landon Donovan.

    1. Had to endure the Fox coverage via the tinterweb – is it a cultural thing or was the commentary just really poor (where did the term ‘go ahead goal’ come from?)

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