After yesterday’s pitchy-patchy account of our Premiership failures, I thought a more sobre appraisal was due. We’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, so I’ve got a lot of material to work from! The biggest fallout though is the directors- both Sullivan and Gold- claiming they’re ready to leave Blues due to the abuse they received at the end of the game. From listening to Tom Ross on internet radio yesterday, it seemed like the fans we singing their hearts out as we beat Blackburn 4-1. However judging from reports fans made different feelings known at the games conclusion. Who knows what next season will bring- whether we can keep the squad together, or even the board.
1.Too Many Home Draws
We’ve simply drawn too many home games this season. While our away record is the same as Sunderland’s, and we’ve actually lost less games than them at home, the reason they’re safe is that they capitalised on winning situations and took full points when we came up short. In a 3 point/1 point system winning 1-0 and losing 6-0 is always better than drawing 1-1 twice. We scored more goals at home than any team outside of the top 6 (except Tottenham), and yet we went down. Our goal difference is also better than every team from 14th-20th in the final table. Yet we finished 19th.
Missed opportunities– 2-2 at home to Sunderland, 1-1 at home to Reading, 1-1 at home to Fulham, 1-1 at home to Derby. Four teams we simply should have beaten at home. And 2-2 at home to Liverpool- when we gave away a 2 goal lead.
It’s no secret that McLeish wasn’t happy with the defence going into the January transfer window- Tiny Taylor was transfer listed in anticipation of bringing in a new first-choice centre back. No.1 on the list was Villa’s Gary Cahill, but when he chose Bolton at the last minute Blues were unprepared for the rejection and had no second choice target. Jaidi, Schmitz, Ridgewell and Taylor just weren’t up to the job. And despite strong support for Liam Ridgewell from some quarters, it seemed to me that he made far too many mistakes, not too mention scoring a few own goals– a bit of a Darren Purse. When we stayed up in 2003 our performances were built on a bedrock of a Cunningham-Upson defensive partnership, sadly lacking this time around.
3. Off-Field Shenanigans
All the Carson Yeung malarky led to Steve Bruce leaving, precipitating (one could argue in a deterministic fashion) McLeish’s arrival and Blues decline. I’m not a big McLeish fan yet- he hasn’t really proven anything to me it seems- and while Brucie undoubtedly has his limitations as a manager, he knows what to do in a scrap. Changing manager’s mid-season is never good, and even McLeish’s post-match conference yesterday suggests that his “reign” under Blues is just starting- a peculiarly manager centric perspective that seems to ignore the fact he had a half-season job to do to bring an end to our 2007-08 campaign. If you look at Bruce and McLeish’s records, there really isn’t much in it. But I’d rather have Bruce in a scrap (in both senses!)
4. Bad Luck
When alls said and done, we missed out on survival by one point. That’s one more goal scored in any of 19 of our 38 games that would have changed a defeat to a draw, or a draw to a victory. We certainly had lots of chances, and we had a nucleas of a Premiership team- Muamba, Kapo, Larsson, McFadden, Zarate- these are quality players. If we’d kept Palacios that might have helped too. While we took 6 points off Spurs and 2 off Arsenal, we didn’t get anything in our Villa derbies, and drew all those home games against the bottom teams, which we really should have won.
UPDATE– “Report Card” of Blues Season on the Guardian Website. Perhaps the most memorable moments of the season were Seb Larsson’s wonderful goals!