On the surface of it, our results lately have been a tad bleak. Only two points obtained from the last twelve on offer hardly paints a picture of a team on the rise. Just when we thought that the addition of Murray would give us the edge and provide the thrust to what was, by and large, a pretty stable team.
Since then, gaps have appeared (quite literally) in our defending - conceding three in two of our last three fixtures and, by all accounts, these have been down to individual errors.
That said, it is possible to spot a glimmer of hope in our play. The first ray of sunshine comes in the possession statistic - a rather tidy 59% of the ball, however I'll instantly temper that by saying that Brentford were more than happy to let us have the ball in our own half.
Our passing was a reasonable 76% completion rate, better than our opponents by 6%. Even in aerial battles we bested Brentford by a sizeable 18% (41% - 59%).
Forgive me for some artistic license here but as Brentford has historically had a pub on each corner, let's delve into the corner count of our recent matches. For the battle with the Bees, 15 corners for the blue hoops, and only 5 for the red stripes. So, with our aerial advantage and high corner count, why aren't we doing better at set pieces?
Granted, 27% of our goals thus far have come from set pieces (although one could prefer that 67% of our goals come from open play). But still, in the last six fixtures, only Millwall obtained more corners than the Royals, however we did score our last gasp winner from a corner, paradoxically.
Reading v (Opposition)
In recent games, our aerial ability has been one of improvement, possibly due to Hector and Pearce getting to know each other on the field of play. One would also safely assume that the improvement in the aerial battles being won would err on the defensive aspect.
So, why could it be that we have not been more successful at corners, given our aerial superiority? Is it that we rely too much on Obita to take all the corners? Could we have some variety by using Norwood on the right side for an in-swinging corner? Maybe positionally we're not quite there yet.
It would appear that there is blame to be had on both taker and receiver of the cross as this graphic (of failed corners and crosses) would indicate. If you follow the bouncing (and duly cleared) ball, there's 45 attempts there. 45! That's a hell of a lot of possession totally wasted and potentially converting a loss into a win.
Of course, we're not going to score five or more a game from sheer crosses and corners, we all know that the excitement of a corner rarely comes off... but still, the law of averages (someone had to say it) dictates that if we are getting into these positions... well, come ON!!!
Maybe it has always been thus. Maybe we've always been monumentally awful at corners. Maybe we all get a tad misty-eyed at the likes of Senior, Quinn, and Kitson burying the ball firmly in the onion bag from a majestic corner. Or maybe every team just cannot fathom a way to fashion a consistent threat and we're no different at finding diamonds in the mountain of coal.
One would think that this aspect would be practised, trained, evolved and nurtured. Last season, Cardiff achieved around 50% of their goals via set pieces and I'm sure corners would be high up there in these stats. I recall our winner against Millwall was gained from a rather neat flick-on from Taylor to Cox. It shows we can show some invention (or was it a mis-hit fluke)?
Either way, considering we have out cornered (and crossed) our opponents in just over half our games, either our delivery isn't consistent (although Obita to Murray against Fulham negates this thought also) or our training at set pieces isn't quite cutting the figurative spicy condiment.