So, another game and another defeat for the beleaguered Zola, in search of signs the team can start winning regularly.
6 points from an available 33 in the league and only one win in all of Zola’s 13 games makes uncomfortable reading. But every blues fan understands that Zola is a man on a mission to get the Blues playing more attractive football.
As I followed the Preston game I found myself thinking about the “attractive” football Zola has been tasked with creating. I found myself obsessed with the match stats and found them interesting.
Firstly, possession. no-one can argue that under Zola we are seeing a lot more of the ball. Under Rowett we were lucky if we saw 40% possession come final whistle. Against Preston we had 53.2% – lovely. I’ll take that. We even successfully completed 74.8% of our 448 passes versus 71.9% of Preston’s 374. That’s still alright, I would expect a slightly bigger gap in total passes, but that’s decent all the same. However, from here on in the news isn’t as good. In the attacking third, we only completed 64.8% of 142 passes – compared with 66.9% of 136 passes for Preston. So despite our improved possession and 74 more passes overall we only had 6 more passing attempts in the final third than Preston.
That then leads on to having 3 less shots than Preston’s 14, with us only having 2 on target compared to Preston’s 5.
Simply having more possession doesn’t make the football you play more attractive. Blues lack real width at the moment, despite Nsue and Keita surging forward as much as they can. With our fullbacks being all the width we have in the team it leaves us utterly exposed at the back by teams that play with more traditional wide forward players.
Our crossing into the box lacks any real quality, and to be honest, the one man we had in the squad that could put in an excellent cross is currently plying his trade in Bristol for the remainder of the season.
In favour of Zola’s Blues, they are having more attempts at goal than they were under Rowett, but these are not being converted into more goals per game than under the previous manager.
I find it difficult to see where Blues go from here. We need width in midfield, but don’t have balanced wingers. We need two up top, but then lack bodies in midfield to help control games. We need solidity at the back, but use attacking fullbacks. First things first though, Zola needs to spend time getting the team defending. This isn’t just a symptom of our two starting centre backs being injured. Even before they were unavailable the side leaked goals like never before.
Oh, and a comment on Paul Robinson. Yes he’s a crowd pleaser with his desire and attitude, but the man cannot jump and against a mobile forward line doesn’t have the pace to play a high line as part of an attacking line-up. He shouldn’t be part of a starting 11 being selected at centre back. Sorry Paul, but at this level you’re not at the standard we need defensively.
I don’t begrudge TTA their desire to have attractive football being part of the Blue mantra. But their (and Panos’) lack of understanding that we are in a results driven business and that change on the pitch at a football club is more of on an evolution rather than revolution proves that our board are not footballing people. Unfortunately, it is us fans that have to pay the price for the board to learn this lesson.
Whether you find yourself in the ‘Zola Out’, ‘Back the Team’, ‘Back Zola’ or ‘Board Out’ camps, the division among the faithful is becoming ever more apparent. I feel it’s that division throughout the fans that allows the club to muddle into obscurity. Without a common focus, a common cause we can all get behind we won’t every really see any change at the club.
Now whilst I despised the decision to change manager, I do not feel the time is right to sack Zola, he needs time after all to try and impose his will and his method on the squad. Can he do it with the quality he has available? only time will tell. Does he have the skill to turn the teams fortunes? again, only time will tell. Do TTA even care about the results/club prospects? I suspect not if they’re only concerned with the end game of selling the club on. where does this leave the fans? in the hands of people who only care about the bottom line ignoring the people that invest their time, money and emotions in keeping the club alive – US!
What can be done? until we’re all pulling in the same direction, nothing. Until the fans unite and impose it’s will on the club nothing will change.