Worry over nothing?

I don’t talk about the good bits of our side on here, Fox aside naturally, but I guess the clue is in the title that that was never the point. But we’ll break form now that someone’s remembered Zak is out of contract in the summer.

He doesn’t have too much to worry about, he’s going nowhere. Do feel free to bring this up if he does leave, but all signs would suggest he’s here for a while yet. The biggest, neons-included sign is how quick Lambert is to turn to him once he’s nearing fitness. It helps that Zak repays his manager’s faith with outstanding performances, too.

He’s our most all-round centre-back, as comfortable with the ball on the floor as he is with it in the air. He can saunter out from the back, he doesn’t do it as purposefully as Ward but he does it comfortably enough. Likewise, he can and will compete in the air with the best of them.

Every centre-back makes mistakes and unfortunately for defenders they’re second only to goalkeepers for suffering the consequences so it’s unfair to pinpoint rare errors. Zak reads the game well- better than our others- so they don’t happen often, he makes vital blocks as regularly as anyone and isn’t averse to putting his head in where it could get hurt. In the long run he will also be good for Bennett.

With Bennett’s arrival, we seem to have secured ourselves some good centre-backs for the foreseeable future at least. Zak and Ward aren’t anywhere near the brow of the hill and Bennett and Ayala have only recently left base camp. It’s all looking rather rosy.

Also, Barnett appears to be unfancied by Lambert and could well be searching for pastures new, especially with Russell Martin seemingly ahead of him in the queue. With departing it’s unlikely there’ll be more.

Fox can hardly do anymore to warrant a new contract, after having his doubters he’s swung them round into alignment. I still haven’t quite fathomed how you could fail to rate the man, but at least the rest have got there in the end.

There must be question marks over the other out-of-contract-ers though. Wilbraham is doing as much as he can, Drury is well, Drury. Elliott Ward appears to be nestled with Zak in Lambert’s good books (he’s in mine too, if you care) and Declan Rudd has been unfortunate with his injury coming at a time when he was due some exposure. It was just as unfortunate that Steer made his mark felt but I’d expect him to stay for another year at least though.

The one thing that is for sure, I wouldn’t like to be the one making these decisions.


Johnson, Fox and Frustration

There was a fair amount of discontent in the aftermath of the Stoke game, a fair bit aimed at Bradley Johnson. But, it was a given that the 50p-footed-one was going to starting against Stoke, after all, he’s a bit of a unit.

The stat of choice at the beginning of the season that he ran a lot appeared to blinker people of the fact that he’s a fairly limited footballer. He’s done a job, and he’s put the effort in but he can’t have been one of those kids kicking the ball against a wall honing his touch for hours on end. Actually, he may have done but was forever chasing the ball after he miscontrolled one of his wayward passes. Continue reading


Step up, Wilba?

We all love a good bandwagon, the latest is to grumble about Morison’s uninterested demeanour being in absolute contrast to that of Wilbrahamovic. It is be difficult to argue with it.

This Stoke game couldn’t have come at a better time for the ex-MK man either. Without wanting to resort to humping it long up top, letting Holt and Wilba put their weight about competing with Stoke’s aerial presence could create a final 20 minutes primed for Jacko to bring his pace on and run at pounded defenders. It’s as good a chance as any to give him a proper run, and in turn it might be a nudge in the right direction to Morison. Continue reading


Only the Beginning

We’re still not safe. Despite what you’ll be told by most it’s not mathematically a done deal so we shouldn’t be taking owt for granted. But still, Wolves and Wigan are a blueprint we should do our best to avoid.

They’ve been up a few years now, in fact Wolves have been there or thereabouts for much longer. But as I said, they’ve been in around the dogfight all the while without improving their side enough to pull away. Without wanting to be aligned with them Stoke have done, only this season have their safety looked under threat.

The Potters have bought players of Premier League experience and quality. We may not agree with their style but we all know it’s effective. Wolves on the other hand have not. Or at least they haven’t done so consistently enough, Doyle and Fletcher aside.

Getting back to us, you could well argue we’re going about it slightly differently. Lambert has taken it upon himself to nurture players for the club; our future and theirs. They’ve all been investments. Players that other clubs would have picked up later on in their careers once their trade had been honed.

If Lambert decides as we expect and doesn’t go down the route of signing a Stefanovic or Sibierski he’ll need to maintain this impressive hit rate. He hasn’t got one wrong yet, heck he’s even chiseled Wilbraham a little cult-hero niche. So if he and we are to stride away from the trapdoor, we’ll have to continue picking up players with the drive and ability -and ability to fulfill- as consistently as we have.

It’s the difficult second album. But, thankfully Lambert and complacency don’t go. McNally knows that how tough it is going to get after this first year, hence why the plans for the development of the ground are held off for at three years in the top flight.

Safety this year won’t mean we’re out of the woods, but we ain’t half in a good place right now.


Enough’s Enough

I know this isn’t exactly a controversial opinion, nor is it one from left-field, but today’s confirmation from Karthikeyan that the latest HRT still hasn’t passed its crash test means it’s still a relevant one. HRT and Formula One should not mix.

Coupled with today’s admission, they’re also sticking by their two *ahem* golden oldies. If they were giving youngsters a good (well, let’s just leave it at a) starting base you could argue their case. Well, if your life depended on it you could. Possibly. At a push.

This is their third season. It’s also Team Lotus-cum-Caterham’s and Virgin Racing-cum-Murussia’s third. Caterham can boast Petrov, the same who finished last season with glimpses of the form he introduced himself with, and Heikki. Williams are no doubt fretting that if Maldonado frequents the wall as regularly as he did last season they’ll be chasing down the soon-to-be departing-Norfolk lot. Fernandes could finish fourth bottom in two seasons in the same year. A handy coup, if so.

Murussia too kept hold of Glock, he will be racing on his tod in between HRT and the rest of the pack until Pic is up to speed. They’ll need to improve their reliability, it’s been an achilles heel that has even provided them with the final two numbers on their cars

HRT on the other hand have two drivers in Karthikeyan and de la Rosa with a combined age of 75. 75. And, Pedro de la Rosa has been handed a two-year contract. At the youthful age of 40. They still don’t have a legal car. If it does pass its next crash test they will have only one official test in Barcelona to get some miles in the car.

But, at least they’ve given themselves some breathing space this time unlike last year, eh?


Wembley’s too expensive anyway

Yes, we were dire and priority remains being at worst 17th. We’re told we’re safe, and it’s pretty difficult to disagree, but I won’t truly be comfortable until the maths say so. The added bonus of the cup run was exactly that and Bolton and Stoke have extra games now to pick up injuries and what have you, we don’t. Bright side an’all that.

Leicester used the ball better, we couldn’t string five passes together and everyone appeared to be on their own wavelength. Some could barely be bothered to string together five paces. Morison especially so, he even set the tone early on by firing lazily over the bar when even Barnett would have been annoyed not to at least hit the target.

Could the notable cameo(s) from Wilbraham slip Morison down the pecking order? Unlikely, but if Wilbraham had missed the amount of good chances Morsion has this season we’d never hear the end of it. Wilbraham couldn’t have done any more than he did when he came on. He won nearly every ball with good flick-ons or control, chased defenders down and nearly snatched an equaliser.

This isn’t a knee-jerk overreaction resulting from yesterday. Morison’s first touch is never good, and he’s wasteful both in front of goal and holding the ball up. I never fancy him to slot it home when the ball’s on the floor. In front of goal in the air, yes, he’s a threat. You can make up for your shortcomings by visibly putting in the effort, Jackson and Holt do it but the same could never be said of Morison.

Talking of rubbish first touches, Barnett was equally poor. For me he’s behind Martin as our fifth choice centre-back, and no doubt sixth choice when Bennett properly arrives. Granted, he’s good at getting in the way, but a thinking defender he aint. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by the Zak, Ayala and Ward, but Barnett is truly atrocious with the ball anywhere near his feet. He’s our clumsiest defender too, and we all know we’ve had too many of them the past few years.

But despite all this, we’ll have a changed back four and we’re going to get something against Manyoo.


S-whatever

So it’s back across the border to them there in Wales. Hopefully there’ll be no bricks through any coach windows, but Holt appears to have ignited that again. But anyway.

As pointed out over on Holtamania, a Swansea win puts them above us in the league. And that’s annoying. Mainly, because we will then – however temporarily- lose the ability to counter the sickly love-in for Swansea with a “Yeah but just look at the league table.” Continue reading


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