Date: 16th October 2011 at 3:42pm
Written by:

It was bad enough watching Wales lose to France in the World Cup yesterday (I’m thinking of rescinding my permission for my daughter to marry her French fiance) but at least the team deserved to win and would have won had their captain not been controversially sent off in the 19th. minute. WW, on the other hand, would not have won, even if they had had 15 men on the pitch against WBA.

Unlike last weekend, I have watched a lot of soccer over the last three days, viewing recordings of the ROI and Scotland matches, as well as today`s game at The Hawthorns. In retrospect it was a mistake viewing the internationals as the performance of our players did not fill me with confidence about today`s game (and with good reason). Doyle missed a sitter- an even easier one than today`s chance- while Berra was responsible for at least one of Spain`s goals. Hunt was lively.

I paid dearly to buy my ticket to watch the match on the computer today and I now wonder whether it was worth it. My wife`s sympathy for me over the Wales result soon evaporated when she realized that I would not be taking her out for a Sunday jaunt.

So, we went out yesterday instead, though my declaration that I couldn`t drive (on account of the amount of beer I had drunk at the pub) did not put her in a good mood. We also spent ages looking at carpets for the bedroom because, allegedly, I`ve damaged our current one by spraying juice on it whenever I peel an orange. This morning, moreover, we toured every garden centre in Surrey looking for climbing hydrangeas. I am now rushing through this report before I start to cook the Sunday roast. At least, I`ll have a bottle of red to ease the task …and the pain of the WW defeat (that’s the second bottle).

And so to the match. In an act of defiance, MM did play Henry, though he also included Milijas and Hammill in the starting eleven. I could hardly complain because I had argued for the selection of NM in a 4-5-1 formation, though I did suggest the substitution of Henry by Guedioura.

As events turned out, we needed Adlene on as a twelfth player from the whistle. Having dominated the first few minutes of the game without scoring (a customary weakness), we gave away a soft goal. Once more, the back four made elementary mistakes, failing to close down the man on the ball or to track attackers off it.

Thus, was the pattern set for the rest of the match. We probably shaded the game territorially but lacked a cutting edge in the final third of the pitch. We had opportunities: Doyle should have scored in the 12th. minute but the ball was blocked on the line. Johnson missed an easier chance when he headed wide in the 66th. minute.

We reverted to a 4-4-2 formation when SEB replaced Milijas in the 54th. minute. He did provide a little extra impetus and was involved in a couple of half chances but he hardly turned the game round … and I was sorry to see NM go. We missed Fletcher, though even he would have had trouble reaching the overhit crosses.

For all their endeavour, our players looked second rate in comparison to their WBA counterparts. If I were Trapattoni, I would certainly prefer Long over Doyle at the moment. Whereas our players dithered and over-elaborated, often making the wrong choice, WBA`s strikers, backed up by their midfielders, swept forward, driving straight at our defence past a non-existing midfield. Our enforcer, Henry, hardly merited the name. At least, Guedioura brought a greater sense of urgency when he came on.

The tendency of our defenders to back off from the advancing player with the ball helped but, if necessary, Long, Tchoyi and (later) Odemwingie simply ran past them. On one occasion, Long outpaced RJ by 10 yards in 30. And we turned him down in the summer! Our defence was dreadful … and that includes Johnson again. If we do not do something to tighten up at the back, we`re doomed.

Perhaps we should play Zubar in central defence: he has height and pace … but who, out of the two current occupants, should stay? Doherty has to start at right back. Only Ward deserves his place in the side. The tackle he made in the box in the 26th. minute was superb, preventing a certain goal. He`s come on a lot this season and I am happy to acknowledge his progress. If only the others could show the same level of determination and skill.

Our record is now worse than last year`s and we are sliding inexorably into the relegation zone. With the present squad, it`s going to be difficult to turn round our fortunes, especially if MM persists in selecting players on criteria other than current form. I would exclaim, ‘Roll on January`, if I didn`t know that`s probably wishful thinking.

We have glaring weaknesses all over the pitch and they should have been addressed in the summer. It`s going to be difficult to persuade quality players to come to Molineux unless the price is right. But, as we know, we spend our money on the frills rather than on the players.

Two seasons ago, we avoided relegation before the last game, whereas last year we scraped through by fewer than three minutes. How much closer can we get? We still have virtually the same side, which continues to ship soft goals at the back, lacks bite in the middle and cannot put away chances upfront. It`s a recipe for disaster but who`s responsible for it?