Back to the future
And so, we begin with a performance and result that seemed ever so familiar to days of yore. A game that was effectively lost in the first 10 minutes before eventually getting a foothold in the second half that ultimately did not reap any reward. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
All the ol’ favourites were present: a wonky system that had players rammed into position because of… YAY! Injuries! They’re back! Then we have the stalwart of the defence and midfield kinda sorting their thing out but in the last third it all felt like flat Coke being poured down the sink: could have been tasty but was wasted, ultimately.
Our poor start could be put down to many things, but most likely it comes down to that pesky left-back position. Not to blame Nesta Guinness-Walker specifically, I don’t feel that he was to blame per se, but, as it was last season, if you have a small squad and lose one player through injury, the dreaded shuffle occurs.
Sam Hutchinson, who had played in all the pre-season games, was out so Tom McIntyre took his spot. Because Tom can kick a ball with his left foot and is a defender, he would have played left back, most likely, so Guinness-Walker was drafted in to take his place. Also, there’s a possibility that if Hutchinson was fit then we could have played with a back three that did not require Yiadom to play there – it’s certainly not his best position.
As a result, it all looked a bit clunky and very reminiscent of last season… again. If we HAD signed a bona fide experienced left back, then most of these moves may not have been necessary but that’s where we’re at. It is what it is.
Hutchinson was not the only one missing that could and should have played. Lucas João, as expected, was out also and will be for a few more weeks. The loss of these two alone could have shaped the result differently. Just as worrying is that Dejan Tetek and Femi Azeez have injuries yet again.
For players that did not have a huge number of minutes in pre-season but are both injured, that is a huge concern. Azeez in particular, out with another hamstring injury, will be missing for the best part of two months. Tetek also has rarely been able to stay fit at all in the last season or so for one reason or another. Scott Dann is another that can’t seem to stay healthy, but at the age of 36 that is much less of a surprise.
Injuries happen, we all know this, but when valuable squad numbers are depleted by the same names it does become a trend that we can do without.
Of the debutants, most will have had better games in honesty. No complaints about Joe Lumley, he looked calm and composed on his debut. However, none of Jeff Hendrick, Tyrese Fornah and Nesta Guinness-Walker will have left the stadium feeling too chipper.
In the first half, Hendrick and Fornah seemed to get in each other’s way and were too desperate to harry Blackpool; we were left shapeless in central midfield as a result. In the second half they improved but neither really dramatically altered proceedings. With the experienced Mamadou Loum now on board, Fornah will likely lose his position very soon.
Guinness-Walker, who had only just signed this week, had varying results at left wing-back. He had a tough time up against Josh Bowler and almost cost us a goal via an untimely slip. That said, he does have a very decent long throw. Given that we will have three players over 6”2’ either returning or being added to the squad soon, that could prove useful. (Is it too early to clutch at straws? Probably).
Tale as old as time
And finally in a reoccurring series from 2021/22, the horrific lack of depth on the bench! Hello again my old friend. Aside from Shane Long, who eventually appeared much to the chagrin of the travelling fans, the rest of the bench barely had more than a handful of appearances to their name. Manager Paul Ince has shown a distinct lack of trust in youth as he feels that many are not ready for this level (and he’s probably right), but his hand has and will be forced for now at least by the lack of depth in the squad.
Until we have the likes of Lucas João, Sam Hutchinson, Mamadou Loum, Naby Sarr, Scott Dann and the “lesser spotted first choice left back” available, the inexperienced youth will be a feature on the bench for some time to come.
Welcome to the 2022/23 season, when time becomes a loop!