Monday, January 17, 2011

Make Me Smile

It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Blues. We had a good result against Blackpool, in which we played fast attacking football, until we took the lead, at which point we took our collective feet off their collective throat, and allowed them back in. Still, we won and we played well. The players demonstrated that they can attack, if given licence to do so.
I thought at the time, this will never catch on, because we were a bit leaky. I surmised that Eck would be more alarmed by the chances that Blackpool created than thrilled by the chances we created. And I might have been right.
We went to Milwall for the cup and bugger me scored 4 goals, something I never thought possible with our current manager. I didn’t see any of this game, but apparently we were not all that good, but, job done, and Derbyshire, who looked impressive against Blackpool scored two, surely a good sign, especially as we seem to be having a bit of trouble getting even mediocre strikers to sign for us.
West Ham next and all was woe. Back to the cautious, ultra defensive style that has served us so poorly all season. Eck even joked about it beforehand. We lost 2-1, which was lucky, because it could have been worse; they created  thousands of chances. We did actually improve at the start of the second half and had them shitting themselves. Same players, but they played further up the pitch, with a bit more urgency. As I have been saying forever, these players can do it, if allowed to do it.
We had the Villa yesterday. It’s a shame we didn’t win, but I seem to be in a bit of a minority in thinking that it was hugely encouraging performance. We started with Hleb and Bentley in midfield. Only one striker, Derbyshire, who I prefer to Jerome, but Bentley and Hleb in midfield. That is 2 skilful, attacking players in our midfield.
Bentley made a difference. He looked like he was enjoying himself for a start and always looked to move it forward. He also seemed to bring out something in Hleb, who looked up for it. The truth is, we still didn’t create much, certainly not in terms of clear cut chances, but Hleb and Bentley were brilliant at relieving pressure. It was great to see Blues players take delivery of the ball calmly and  assess their options calmly; it was great to see Blues players looking comfortable on the ball and passing it to someone wearing the same coloured shirt, rather than just shifting it on, straight to an opponent.  
So long as they stay fit, they should improve. Their own fitness levels should improve and their awareness of each other and the rest of the team should improve. With a fair wind and good coaching, the whole team will develop a rhythm, with Bently as conductor and Ferguson as orchestra leader and Hleb as chief violinist. 
If Eck persists with Derbyshire up front (which I very much doubt) he will improve too. Already he has shown greater awareness and touch than Jerome. He doesn’t have the same muscular presence or speed, but that is irrelevant. For all his pace, power and work ethic, Jerome neither scores many, nor creates many. We have piano players in the team now, as well as piano shifters, Derbyshire is better equipped to apply the coup de grace than Jerome, and it would be a betrayal of the talent of Hleb and Bentley to persist with the willing, but limited Jerome.
There are those who are willing to forgive Jerome his limitations, and will point out that he still young, still learning and the team is not set up to make the best of his assets. They will point out that Derbyshire has missed at least two good chances in recent weeks, but I think they are missing the point. Derbyshire is also young, the same age as Jerome in fact, but hasn’t benefited from an extending run in a settles team in the same way that Jerome has, and I am convinced that he has more awareness and footballing nous than Jerome ever will.
He has missed chances, yes, but all strikers miss chances, and the salient point is that he has been in a position to miss ‘em, and overall, he is a much more comforting presence as a footballer. The goals he has scored have been good goals, the goals of an instinctive scorer,  and he has also been aware enough to provide chances for Jerome to miss. Jerome will chase lost causes down to the corner flag………..all well and good, but, ultimately pointless. Jerome has demonstrated over a long period of time that he can’t quite cut the mustard; Derbyshire has shown in a short period of time that he has something about him, and he deserves an extended run to show what he can do
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