Who are we exactly? After two crucial points dropped at home against West Brom, I’m left disappointed, crushed, and above all, confused. Glimpses of beauty were evident in bits and pieces, but over the course of the 90 minutes we were unproductive, limp, and poorly structured. This is my first piece since AVB’s sacking, and it’s not a positive one.
Daniel Levy has shot this club in the foot. With no replacements lined-up, and no clear path forward, I’m absolutely shocked to see Tim Sherwood take the reins. It seems to me a rash, baseless, and ego-driven decision. This wasn’t a plotted and planned re-structuring of the club, this was an off-the-cuff sacking; the kind that seems like a good idea, until you realize there isn’t a capable replacement. Had Liverpool beaten us 2-0 I’m not so sure we would be here. Instead they beat us 5-0, and rather than accepting those 3 goals, accepting that Suarez is the best player in the Premier League, and accepting that Chadli and Holtby were our defensive midfielders,Levy took it personally, demolishing all hope for continuity and consistency and installing a man with no real prior managerial experience, no real identity, and perhaps most importantly, no real options. Sherwood has made some positive decisions in his time (Bentaleb, bringing back Ade), and I will of course support him as any supporter should, but given the squad he’s been given surely Daniel Levy must now realize his terrible mistake. This isn’t only a managerial problem; it’s an injury problem. Our side is an injury-plagued side, and right now we’re dealing with perhaps the most depleted squad I’ve seen in awhile. Our best winger on current form has gone down, the necessary base of our midfield (Sandro, Dembele) has gone down, and our central defensive pairing wouldn’t start for, I’d honestly say, half of the Premier League.
Now whether AVB wanted to leave or not is a question that still remains, but looking at Eriksen and his vital influence it’s difficult to say AVB had our best squad in his hands and failed to utilize it well. Sandro-Dembele-Eriksen is still the only balanced way forward for this team, and although playing Eriksen in a deeper role paid off the first time for Sherwood, the lack of incision and overall creativity in the final third against West Brom, I assure you, will not be a one-off if Christian’s continually utilized just in front of the defense. There’s simply too much defensive responsibility for a player that should be focused on pressing and more importantly creating chances. Not to mention this back four, a shaky and fragile one, is actually an improvement on the one AVB had through November and against Liverpool, the portion of the season in which he was adjudicated to have done so poorly. Chiriches sincerely looks awfully similar to David Luiz with a broken leg: keen on fancy footwork and neat little demonstrations of skill but with no ability to defend and no ability to move quick enough to rectify those mistakes. He’s about as slow as Dawson, and when his interests are in building up his ego rather than protecting the goal, we have a problem. As far as I’m concerned, he can be sold in the summer. Because for all of the acclaim he received early in the year, it was AVB’s defensive set-up that allowed for it. Now, with no Sandro and no Capoue saving and protecting him, Chiriches is left alone, and I’m beginning to question whether or not AVB knew he HAD to play defensively in order to get results. Our central defenders are liable at any moment, and with no Eriksen at his disposal, and Lamela stuttering, AVB had no genuine top 4 attacking talent. Sigurdsson, Lennon, and Holtby/Paulinho as the attacking trio behind Soldado looks miles behind City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, United, and Everton. All AVB truly had was a classy, defensive minded midfield. Playing defensively, although regrettable to watch, must’ve been recognized by AVB as the only way to gain points. After all, we were ONLY 5 points behind Man City when he was sacked. Not nearly a bad position for a team with mid-table defensive and attacking options. Now that’s not to say I completely support AVB and all of his decisions. Ade, and BAE, if included and played from the start probably would’ve protected against the pathetic state we are in now. Left back is a shallow position for us, and AVB’s unwillingness to reconcile his differences with these two players certainly would’ve added quality to positions that at times have desperately needed it. Defoe has been his usual trigger-happy self, and as evidenced by his first match back, Ade is an immediate improvement. Not to mention the fact that I will always take a disruptive, and insubordinate BAE over Kyle Naughton at left back.
But now we are left with a rather bleak standing in the League and more questions than answers. Yes, Sherwood’s first win was a pleasure to watch and left me satisfied. Goals are, of course, always welcome. But after an ineffective outing at home I can’t help but wonder if AVB’s sacking hasn’t solved problems, but rather displaced them, exchanging one man’s inability to cope with a depleted squad for another. Maybe, if we snagged a top manager this would be a different discussion. Maybe, AVB should’ve been given the entire season. Maybe, Tim Sherwood will lead us into the top 4. We’ll never know for sure, but in the meantime we must learn from the Chairman and AVB’s mistakes and swallow our pride, realize this team is as ragged as possible, and realize that it can only get better as long as we don’t make any more rash decisions. Consistency is an under-rated attribute, and once we finally come to terms with that, we might just slide into 4th. Hope is really all we have.
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