|[Blog] Are They Really Good Enough?|
Written by SouperJim on Sunday, 21st Aug 2011 14:44
Once the players cross that white line, they are responsible for their own performance. 12 goals conceded in two games begs the question, are they really good enough?
Of course the buck ultimately stops with the manager, but up until this point his performance has spoken for itself. If I'm going to criticise Paul Jewell then it's going to be for his failure to bring in the defensive reinforcements we so desperately need.
For a good three seasons now it has generally been agreed that we lack a decent holding midfield player, a real general to sit in front of the back four when needed and deal with the opposition. Jewell, like his predecessor, has tried to get someone in to fill that gap, but so far he has failed. I'll look at our other options in a minute, but suffice to say that for me, until we bring in a Shaun Derry or a George Boateng, we're going to struggle.
It's no secret that the other problem position for us is centre-half, particularly on the right side. There is some argument that our present lack of numbers in this position is not entirely Jewell's fault and that the lack of decisive action by the chief executive and previous manager got us in this mess.
I can buy that to a certain extent, but the idea that if, when Jewell came through the door and had time to assess his squad, he could not have then insisted we offer McAuley the three-year deal that would have kept him here, is quite simply nonsense.
Jewell saw the opportunity to trim the squad of one or two players which he thought we could improve on, whilst being able to claim innocence if there was a backlash from the fans. It is a gamble which has not paid off. Three right-footed centre halves have left the club for free. One right-footed centre-half has come in in their place. That is not good enough. So let's take a look at what we do have, in terms of the players Jewell has employed so far this term.
David Stockdale A bright place to start. A bit of a gamble given his recall clause, but a bold move by Jewell which so far is paying off. Verdict: He'll do for me.
Carlos Edwards A right winger converted to right-back. Looks decent at times, but his lack of real defensive experience sometimes shows. Good enough in a solid back four, but just one more weak link as things stand. Verdict: Not good enough.
Ivar Ingimarsson It's tough to question Ivar's pedigree or experience at this level. When fit, he is as solid a centre half as you're going to get. But there's the rub, he's not fit. Having played only a handful of times for Reading last season, it's clear why they released him and clear why we were only prepared to offer him a one year deal here. Another gamble which, so far, does not look like it's going to pay off. Verdict: Not good enough.
Tommy Smith and Jack Ainsley I'm lumping these two together because currently they are our two back-up options at right centre half. They're both young, they're both playing out of position (Smith is left-footed, Ainsley is a right-back), they're both doing their best. Verdict: Not good enough.
Damien Delaney At 30 years of age, Delaney has been playing as a centre-back for eight years now. He's so totally one-footed it's not funny, but alongside McAuley we saw that he's capable of being decent at this level. However, look at his performances for us without McAuley 10 yards to his right and you get a very different picture. Delaney is clearly not a number one centre-half and he never will be. He is not a leader, he does little to organise and when the going gets tough, Delaney goes missing. His kamikaze diving in on the halfway line gives me nightmares. Verdict: Not good enough.
Aaron Cresswell This young lad has been a revelation. He's looked nervous once or twice early in games and has struggled occasionally when badly exposed by the man playing in front of him, but overall his performances and work rate have been second to none. Jewell has uncovered a real gem here and if he can maintain his standard of performance and even continue to improve, we might find him tough to hang onto in a few years time. Verdict: He'll do for me.
Josh Carson The player who looked like an exciting young prospect last season has struggled to make an impact so far this season. We're only a few games in and his chances to impress have been limited, however this seems to be down to the fact that he didn't look after himself over the summer break and is not yet fully fit. Must do better. Verdict: Still on the fence.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas Let me start by saying I like JET. He clearly has a lot of ability, I can see why Jewell was prepared to take a risk on him and if he can get his head down and work hard, he'll prove to be an excellent signing. But so far he has blown hot and cold, brilliant one minute, anonymous the next. It would seem that just behind Chopra is his best position, although he was awesome out wide against Northampton and was pretty much playing them on his own second half. He must find some consistency and with the way we're playing at the moment, he needs to find it fast. Verdict: Still on the fence.
Grant Leadbitter I really thought this would be the season we would see the return of the Grant Leadbitter from his first year here. So far that player looks a million miles away. Jewell clearly doesn't think the captain's armband carries as much significance as most fans do, but regardless, Leadbitter is a poor captain. He's not a talker, not an organiser and he rarely leads by example. At the moment he is the definition of mediocrity. Verdict: Not good enough.
Lee Bowyer For a player so controversial for his off-field antics, Lee Bowyer is not a man who has so far stood out on the pitch. Quietly going about his business and breaking-up play, his performance so far has been acceptable, but not spectacular. I'm confident that his quality will show in time, but so far I'm a little underwhelmed. Verdict: Still on the fence.
Mark Kennedy I'll say one thing for Kennedy, he's an obvious leader. If he was going to be on the teamsheet every week, I'd make him captain. He talks, he organises, he dishes out rollockings when needed and he's not afraid to have a pop at the opposition either. The issue with Sparky is that the mind is willing, but these days the body is struggling to keep up. For me he is not the answer at holding midfield and if the side was performing better I'd struggle to find a place for him. Verdict: Not good enough.
Keith Andrews Two goals in two games and as near to a performer in midfield as we've seen. He may be another player knocking on the wrong side of 30, but so far Andrews looks Premier-League quality. Everything crossed that he keeps it up and signs a permanent deal in January. Verdict: He'll do for me.
Lee Martin Where do you start with Lee Martin? As a whole, his time at Ipswich has been a disaster. Keane paid well over the odds for a powder puff prima-donna. However, since he was recalled from his loan spell at Charlton in January, Martin has shown a much improved attitude, workrate and even end product. However, with that said, he has still left Cresswell far too exposed at times in these opening games and his rash challenge at London Road, whilst very harshly punished, showed a naivety which continues to hold him back. Verdict: Still on the fence.
Michael Chopra Remember the day Chopra signed? All our troubles were over, we had our 20-goals-a-season man and everything was going to be OK. The reality has been a little different thus far, but Chopra has undeniable quality. His workrate has been awesome, his attitude and application fantastic and his attempts to grab games by the scruff of the neck, despite being perhaps the worst placed player in the side to do so, worthy of high praise. If only we could give him the service he deserves. Verdict: He'll do for me.
I'm going to skip over the rest as I'm running out of steam. Suffice to say I'm still on the fence about Scotland and Ellington, although I think as a pair they could offer a lot from the bench in a performing side.
Priskin is dead weight. Peters, try as he might, is not good enough. O'Connor clearly is not doing enough to impress. Hyam, Murray, Drury? Rightly squad players. But what about Colin Healy? Could the forgotten man be the answer at holding midfield?
Overall I'm sure this blog makes rather depressing reading. Of the players I've highlighted, only Stockdale, Cresswell, Andrews and Chopra have done enough to convince me thus far.
I understand that our lack of signings at centre-half has not been for want of trying and a sizeable list of names have ended up elsewhere. However, from where I'm standing, if Jewell sticks by his decision to wait for the loan reinforcements that should become available after the Leeds game, it'll be another gamble in a long list of gambles which are currently defining his tenure here.
The amount of damage currently being done to our confidence and our morale should not be underestimated. Four straight league defeats and zero points from a possible 12 would not, in isolation, be enough to kill our season or drag us into a relegation dogfight. However, the fall-out from that kind of run just might.
With players like Ibrahima Sonko still floating around as free agents, Jewell will only have himself to blame if his next gamble does not pay off. I desperately hope that luck does not abandon us for once and it is not us long-suffering fans who are left to pick up the pieces, after yet another false dawn at Portman Road.
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