I t could hardly have been a tougher start to the season for the Irons with our fixtures being disfigured by the World Athletics Championship thing.
Everybody knows I wasn’t a fan of the move to the former Olympic Stadium but not playing at home throughout August has been another side effect that hasn’t helped anything at the club at the start of this season. The early defeats are very worrying and, as a former keeper, my heart has gone out to Joe Hart.
It reminds me of the day I bumped into Ray Clemence after he’d joined Spurs and conceded four in his first game. He asked: “Phil, what sort of team have I joined?!” But things got better and they will for Joe although I was never convinced that goalkeeper was a position we needed to fill. We had two decent, if not world-beating stoppers, and other positions were crying out to be filled before that.
Never mind, it’s done now and I’ll reserve judgement on Joe until he’s had time to adjust into a team that now has decent players back from injury. The manager had been under constant pressure from the media and fans on social media before the horrible Newcastle game which, given his two finishing positions, had seemed a touch unfair
However, the Newcastle debacle was something else, and he will have to inspire a dramatic improvement if the worst isn’t going to happen to him. There is a big concern that we seem to rely on counter attack as our one way of playing these days, and I think the manager urgently needs to get some flair in there and take risks now and again.
The formation and approach can become predictable and he needs to adapt it to game conditions. We too often look set-up not to lose rather than to win the game, which is foreign to me as a member of John Lyall’s attack, attack, attack policy.
We had no other way of playing and whilst there needs to be a balance, I do think we have to become more offensive and press teams a lot more. Whilst I don’t think Slav should adopt that approach completely, I do believe we urgently need that fl air. I also believe much of our problem is that we continually set up to allow teams to come on to us.
We should, however, have plenty of goals in the locker with Javier Hernandez and Diafra Sakho, who looks to be coming back to full fitness. He’s a striker who will always be a real handful because of his clever runs.
He and Hernandez could become a pretty dynamic partnership, but without the midfield providing real service – which has been the case – we are heading for some real bother. One thing I did read was that maybe Slav is too close to the players and that he wanted to be their mate.
I don’t know whether that’s the case or not, but it can be a danger as he isn’t as advanced in age as managers like Mourinho and Wenger for example. He is closer to the players’ ages than many other managers and I guess there must be a temptation to get that much closer but he will have to resist.
If that is the case he quickly has to distance himself and start laying the law down in a big way. He has to be their boss – not their mate. That attitude doesn’t work at all.