All so predictable I’m afraid.

CoymayEasy for me to say this now of course, but Cardiff City’s visit to Hull City last night worked out almost exactly as I thought it would. A look at my bank account would tell you that I don’t have some sort of special talent when it comes to predicting the outcome of football games, but, sometimes, all you need is a decent knowledge of the character and record of one of the teams taking part and it all becomes pretty easy – for me, everything pointed to a defeat by a one or two goal margin.

Hull are one of a group, which includes an absolute minimum of two other sides, who are unarguably better than us this season and they also have a formidable home record (ten of the thirteen sides to have visited the KC Stadium this season have left with nothing and only Derby have won there), but a look at our record on the grounds of the best sides in the Championship since we got relegated shows that they could have had a much less daunting record than that and the outcome would still have been the same.

Only at Watford in November 2014 have we defied the notion that we lose on the grounds of the real top sides in this league since we returned to it. When you look at our record this season, the draw in early October against a Brighton team who were flying at the time stands out as our best away result in terms of the league position of our opponents, but  a lot has changed in the past three months or so and the defeat at Derby (one of the group of teams who are obviously better than us I mentioned in the first paragraph) is more indicative of what was always likely to happen last night.

We were beaten 2-0 at Derby in November in a game where we had little to offer apart from a dogged defence which kept the home side out for fifty five minutes, but there was only ever going to be one winner and last night had a similar feel to it, except that the home side’s superiority was even more clear cut.

The way the match was summed up by some of those who had seen it says so much about Cardiff City currently. For example, Steve Bruce described his side’s win as “comfortable”, the BBC called it “routine” in their match report and the Yorkshire Post said it was “stress-free” – only four words in total, but they tell you all you need to know about an evening where we were comfortably second best.

However, defeats at places like Hull and Derby are not the reason why our Play Off bid is floundering. Far more pertinent as to why, with four months of the season still to go, our campaign is in real danger of tailing off into nothingness like it did last year, is the way we let two of the sides who we are, supposedly, in the Play Off chase with (Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday) escape with a point after they were 2-0 down well into the second half and how we lost at places like Rotherham and MK Dons to goals in added time.

The stats from last night damn City when it comes to what they did in an attacking sense – according to the BBC, we had no goal attempts on target and just the one corner, while, quite remarkably, we, apparently, didn’t have one completed pass in the Hull penalty area.

However, the truth is that such feeble figures have become the norm since that match at Brighton I mentioned earlier. We have scored in just two of the eight away games we’ve played since then and sides of a lower quality than Derby and Hull (e.g. Ipswich, Preston, Leeds and Birmingham) have had few problems in recording a clean sheet when they entertained us.

David Marshall goes the right way, but cannot stop Abel Hernandez putting Hull ahead from the penalty spot after an obvious foul by Lee Peltier.*

David Marshall goes the right way, but cannot stop Abel Hernandez putting Hull ahead from the penalty spot after an obvious foul by Lee Peltier.*

So, there is plenty of evidence as to why last night’s outcome (both in terms of the result and the way the match panned out) should not have come as a surprise and yet, when you look outside of what I’ll call the Cardiff bubble, it seems that our team are rated much more highly than they are within it.

For example, Ian Holloway did an article for Sky Sports in which he predicted the outcome of eight of the games played in the Championship over the past two days and he had this to say about Hull v Cardiff;-

“Despite there being 11 points between these teams in the table, I think they’re actually quite closely matched. Cardiff are a striker away from really challenging the teams in the top-six. They create plenty of openings, but struggle in front of goal. It would take the pressure of their defence if they started scoring more regularly. I really rate Hull City – but it shows the respect I’ve got for Cardiff that I’m giving them a draw.”

Now, I can imagine City fans saying that’s just wacky old Ollie playing up to his media persona again, but the fact is that he got five of the eight results right and, if nothing else, he certainly knows plenty about the Championship.

I was puzzled as to why he rated us so highly and can only think that Mr Holloway is placing far too much credence on the 2-2 draw at QPR he watched us play back in August. We did play well that day and had a lot of chances, but, apart from that run of four home matches in November/December (which, increasingly, looks like some kind of mid season blip now), I’ve seen nothing which suggests we are a team that “create plenty of openings”.

I think it’s true to say that there is a view outside of the Cardiff bubble that we are doing okay and Russell Slade is doing a decent job. However, I believe that, even though you can sometimes be too close to something to keep your sense of perspective, this is an occasion where those closest to the action (maybe not the right word to use in relation to us!) do know better and, for the first time I believe, it appears that Mr Slade is in danger of losing his job.

Less than twenty four hours after the ignominious FA Cup defeat by Shrewsbury, this story appeared in the local press. It must be said that there is something of a covering all bases feel to the article with it’s line about Vincent Tan being likely to keep his manager in place until the end of the season, but I would say that the fact that the journalist concerned was prepared to go public with the piece suggests that his source at the club is as senior as he says it is.

Now, to me that strongly suggests that influential people, who possibly have Vincent Tan’s ear, within the  club have decided enough is enough and are lobbying for a change of manager.

Even if the story is hopelessly wrong however, the fact is that it’s out there now and so it was always going to be the case that Russell Slade would have to answer questions about it in his post match press conference.

I found some of the answers Mr Slade gave to be both informative and revealing. For a start, he said “It’s time to roll our sleeves up and get it done”. Presumably, he was talking about making the Play Offs there, but the problem I have with that is the strong implication that he believes that it only needs more effort and hard work for us to make the top six.

Although I thought there were one or two who didn’t bust a gut on Sunday, I’ve always believed that lack of effort was one charge you could not direct at the squad this season – they are putting the hard work in, but it’s not enough, we need a cutting edge both in terms of creating chances and then putting them away.

While I’m aware of that adage which says “the more I pracrice, the better I get”, an approach like that can only take you so far in the areas being talked about here and, as our manager always talks about needing more pace and creativity when asked about his transfer window targets, it seems to me that he feels the same way.

With that story suggesting a lack of confidence, deriving from his hardly inspiring record when it comes to new signings, from some in Mr Slade’s ability to attract players who are capable of providing that cutting edge and our lack of incoming transfers so far, it may be that he won’t be given the chance to add to his squad. If that were the case, there’s nothing in his work at the club so far to suggest he has it in him to transform our season and so, from a logical, rather than emotional, standpoint, getting rid of him now begins to look the better option.

The other answer which took my eye was the one he gave when justifying himself against questions about his suitability as City manager. Mr Slade said;-

“I’ve done 750 games with a win ratio of around 39 per cent so it doesn’t mean I’m a mug. It means I’m capable and I still feel I’m capable of getting this team in the top six.”

I found that fascinating because I believe it says so much about Russell Slade and his thinking as a football manager. Firstly, there’s his use of statistics to try and justify himself – speaking as someone who regularly uses them on here, I’m not going to criticise our manager for relying on statistics as an aid to doing his job, but sometimes you get the feeling that his reliance can turn into over reliance.

Sam Clucas is in glorious isolation as he scores the second goal just after the interval - after that, the only real issue in the game was whether the home side would increase their lead or not.*

Sam Clucas is in glorious isolation as he scores the second goal just after the interval – after that, the only real issue in the game was whether the home side would increase their lead or not.*

Moving on to what he said, Wikipedia has his win percentage record as a bit lower than his “around 39″, but he’s right, those aren’t the figures of a mug, they are the figures of someone who wouldn’t have had to face up to too many relegations in what has been a long career in football management.

There is another side to the coin here though. Let’s be generous to Mr Slade and turn his around 39 per cent winning rate into one of 40 per cent and then analyse where that takes us.

Winning two matches out of every five over a forty six game season gets you 54 points most years with the occasional 57 point campaign thrown in for good measure. Either way, to back up those eighteen or nineteen victories, you would need getting on for the same number of draws most years to make it into the top six.

The fact that our manager doesn’t have promotion seasons, which could possibly lead to his overall figures being distorted somewhat, works as a plus in some ways because it backs up the notion that he is “a safe pair of hands”. However, speaking for myself, I find it pretty amazing that someone who has been able to forge a twenty two year career for himself in Football League management does not have a single promotion on his CV.

When you look at a 40 per cent win ratio for a manager who has never taken a side up, you get Russell Slade’s career down to a tee – you get the occasional unsuccessful Play Off campaign and,as mentioned earlier, you don’t get many relegations.

It’s a record which suggests diligence rather than inspiration, it’s a record which suggests plenty of seasons like the one with a record of won sixteen, drawn fourteen and lost sixteen we had last year. It’s a record of someone who is, to use his own word, “capable”.

However, if those who run the club and tell us that the goal is still promotion, with the target for this season being a top six finish are being truthful, then it’s certainly not, and never was, suggestive of someone who can attain these targets (particularly at a higher level which he had barely any previous experience of).

I’d like to think that even his harshest critics would accept that Russell Slade had a hell of a job on his hands when he took over at Cardiff. Many outside, and a few inside, the “Cardiff bubble” would probably argue that by maintaining our position while cutting the wage bill significantly, he’s done a good job here, but there seems to be a momentum growing which says that he should have done more and, as someone who has always felt he’d be here for some time yet, I’m now thinking for the first time that he may be gone soon.

I don’t think Russell Slade should be sacked  because we lost at Hull – much better sides than us (e.g. Middlesbrough to the tune of 3-0) have done that this season. However, as so often under this manager, the manner of our losing rankles and I’m afraid that selection and “tactical masterclass” against Shrewsbury means  that I can no longer look at his record in terms of wins against losses at Cardiff and say it doesn’t merit him getting the sack – I now think it’s best for all concerned that he goes now if the goal truly is a top six finish this season.

*photos courtesy of http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

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9 Responses to All so predictable I’m afraid.

  1. Iain Stuart says:

    As always Bob, a well thought and balanced assessment, without being too harsh. However, the crux of the matter concerning Slade is the manner and style of how the team has performed this season and in the last. Apart from a run of about 3 home games a few weeks ago, when the team managed a reasonable level of entertainment, the rest of the football served up in front of us by his side has been little short of woeful. True the dreadful pitch hasn’t helped but neither has Slade’s ostritch-like insistence of playing a rigid 4-4-2(lop-sided at times). The man was blowing smoke up his own backside last night in his post-match interview, by insisting that he was the man to take us into the playoffs yet!! Last night’s loss was no big surprise to any City fan with half a brain, but it’s the manner in which we have been losing games with little much of a whimper in terms of causing problems for opposing teams’ defences and goalkeepers.
    It is time to stop the rot before the club loses any more match day supporters in the ground and get rid of Slade before it’s too late for the board and Tan to lose even more face and to save further embarrassment to Slade himself.

  2. TigerJools says:

    If you want anecdotal comment you are the poorest side to visit this season, no passion, no apparent plan.

  3. Colin Phillips says:

    Have to agree about the predictability, after seeing Hull not give us a sniff of a chance when we played them at home, the best that I expected was a grim battle to try to hold out and come away with a 0-0. Wasn’t to be and, as Paul says, 2-0 isn’t that bad a result but the stats, even though we had a fair share of possession, of having only five attempts on goal (none on target) is thoroughly depressing. Pilkington is becoming very wasteful, didn’t see last night’s miss but if it was as clear-cut as reported that makes three golden opportunities he’s failed to convert recently.
    Where do we go from here, another defeat at Wolverhamton on Saturday, very likely, will put Slade under even more pressure and that would make the next home game (Rotheram?) crucial as far as his tenure is concerned.

    Thanks again, Paul.

    Col

  4. Dai Woosnam says:

    Paul,
    Just a line to say that your zeroing-in on his “39%” stat, was exactly the bit thar screamed out at me when I read Russell’s spiel 36 hours ago.
    Meaningless.
    As are most stats.
    Wasn’t it the great Vic Reeves who said something along the lines of ”81.8% of statistics are made up on the spot”…?!!
    (It is the brilliant “point eight” that of course is the masterstroke here.)

    And when Georges Simenon boasted at the end of his life of having had “a thousand lovers” (or was it TEN thousand? I forget now) …he did not add that the vast majority of those affairs with women were cash transactions.

    I am off to Malta this weekend for 6 weeks to try to recover my health on an island I love.

    I will just say this on football….Russell Slade, Louis van Gaal, and a hundred others should be instantly shown the door for allowing the likes of Peltier and Smalling to think they are not footballers but…wrestlers.
    But that is not going to happen.
    And it pains me to say it, as a 100% ABMU * man, but Man U will, as I predicted before a ball was kicked, come 1st this season.
    And Cardiff as I also predicted, will come between 16th and 18th.
    * anyone but man u”
    DW

  5. “The Greeks had a word for it”
    This was a phrase coined by An American lady between the wars. And listening to the game last night I realised it had all the elements of an Ancient Greek tragedy – bar one.
    I am obviously leaving myself open to the charge of airing unnecessary information, but – with some hesitation and embarrassment – I’d like to mention “The Three Unities” of ancient drama.
    1. Unity of Time – events had to take place within a given time scale of twenty-four hours. Cardiff’s time-scale was just over 90 minutes.
    2. Unity of Place – the performance had to be limited to a single site. For Cardiff, that meant the pitch at Hull.
    3. Unity of Action – relevant events would not be seen by the audience but related by a Narrator. This was the role of the wireless commentators.

    Another common element in Ancient Greek drama was the warnings against “hubris” – meaning arrogance or too much self-confidence. There was “hubris” aplenty on show last night:
    “Hubris” from the manager in his “my strategy no-matter-what” and his suggestion afterwards that all the team needed was more effort.
    “Hubris” from the coaching staff who are not producing adequate performances.
    “Hubris” from the players in thinking themselves better than their performances reveal (as statements from some over the past few weeks have revealed)
    And so on.

    So far, the game followed all the Three Unities. But the final act in a Greek drama would be the “deus ex machina” when a machine would lower actors playing the part of gods onto the stage to avert a tragedy and bring about a happy ending.
    This is where Cardiff lost the plot.

    There was no happy ending, but a predictable one. To my shame, a small part of me was almost hoping for a Cardiff defeat – but only because it might precipitate changes in the management and coaches or at least in the attractiveness and success of the football.

    When I saw the team and substitutes, I knew we were in trouble. For example, what would happen if, during the game, one of the centre-backs had been injured. There was no immediate substitute available, though Oshilaja or Tamas might have been worth a place on the bench. This would even have allowed something different to be tried at the moment of greatest despair – such as letting Manga come forward to lead the attack. He certainly has the qualities of strength, speed, skill, and aerial ability to do something in the hour of need, if Revell was deemed unworthy of an appearance.
    Neither could I understand why Joe Mason was even on the pitch. I have genuinely tried to appreciate what he does for the team, but to no avail. He wasn’t mentioned once as being in possession of the ball until a minute or so before half-time – and even then it was a case of mistaken identity by the commentator. The next mention was about a minute later, and I quote verbatim: “Robertson gives the ball away, and Mason’s given it back to Robertson”. Yet, it was a full hour before our esteemed manager saw fit to substitute him.
    Cardiff’’s strategy is like a railway track – no room for manoeuvre, no flexibility in terms of tactics, no chance for initiative (or enjoyment) from the players, no escape from the manager’s “tunnel vision”. And as for the penalty – Peltier has a propensity to wrestle men in the box and, as far as I am concerned, such actions by any player in any team deserve to be penalised.
    It pains me to put it into words, especially with another reference to the Classics, but I feel we now need the “Augean stables” approach to manager, coaching staff, and certain players.

  6. Graham Smith says:

    It is not Slade that is the problem but us fans. I have supported City for 50 plus years and how would I sum them up? At best a mid table second tier side with some highs and lots of lows.

    Is this is a bit tongue in cheek , maybe,maybe not!

  7. Clive Harry says:

    It’s interesting this morning to read Sam Allardyce’s comments on last night’s thoroughly entertaining defeat for our neighbours. He said that although Sunderland were facing 10 men, they were nevertheless 2-1 down at half time and under a lot of pressure. Consequently he decided to change tactics and play a high pressing game which they don’t normally do away from home.
    HE CHANGED TACTICS AT HALF TIME?! – Is this what proper managers do??

  8. MIKE HOPE says:

    A very realistic summary by TOBW of where our club is at the moment.
    Graham Smith makes an interesting point.I suspect that over the past 50 years our average position in the 92 club table is similar to where we are now – probably lower.Have we been spoilt by the successful years since Sam H invested what we thought was his money?
    The attendance at Hull was reported as 15,549. Why so low? Was it the weather?
    If we had been in Hull’s position a gate of only 15K would have had the usual suspects on the message boards presenting it as proof that Tan had ripped the heart out of the club.!
    Holloway’s comments about our ability are fascinating. He was clearly impressed by our performance at QPR but he was also the Sky analyst when we made the wurzels look like Barcelona.
    Is there a possibility that he can see a manager’s job becoming available and is taking steps to ingratiate himself with the club as a man who has already taken two other clubs into the Premier League via the play offs? Indeed has he already been sounded out by the club?
    I am not a great believer in conspiracy theories so I think it more likely that he was just having an off day!
    PS.
    Best wishes to Dai Woosnam as he gets back to full health under the sun in Malta!
    Supporting Cardiff City,getting Shingles and spending the whole winter in Grimsby is expecting too much of any man.Even Hercules would probably have preferred the Augean contract mentioned by AO’B.

  9. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for the replies everyone. I must start off with Tigerjools. Firstly, welcome to this blog and, secondly, I’ve been saying for most of the season that at least we have a team that gives it’s all every week, but quite a few of the City fans who were there on Wednesday have said that they thought the team had stopped playing for the manager. You must have seen some games this season where Hull have played to something like what you feel is their best level potentially – most sides do that, but we don’t, we just have games where we are a bit less boring than normal. Saying that, we did have a few matches just before Christmas that were pretty watchable, but, lately, we seem to have reverted to normal – you are coping with relegation well whereas the Premier League has done us no good whatsoever when you compare our level of performance in the years before we went up with what we have to suffer now.
    Besides that, I’ll just say two or three things. First, I spent most of my piece on the recent defeat at Birmingham lambasting the ref for his diabolical decision in awarding the match winning penalty to the home team. However, the truth is that the useless Mr Coote cocked up at the other end of the pitch as well when he didn’t penalise Lee Peltier for his “assault” on an opponent when defending a corner. I can only say that I agree with every word from those condemning Peltier for what he did on Wednesday – the only possible defence for it that I can think is a feeble “everyone else does it”. However, it seems our manager is happy to see his right back behaving like that because, presumably, he didn’t read the riot act to the player after he got lucky at St. Andrews.
    Dai, I think my piece about Wednesday’s match took up an awful lot of words to come to the same conclusion, based on what you saw of him at Grimsby, that you did when Russell Slade was appointed at Cardiff – solid, steady, but, essentially, incapable of taking us forward.
    Finally, what an indictment it is of the short termism and lack of joined up thinking we’ve seen at Cardiff since our owner became more “hands on” that the eighteen on duty on Wednesday, which a Hull fan says is the poorest outfit to visit his club so far this season contained just one player who played youth football for us and, even then, Joe Ralls was signed from another club at 16 – all that money spent to produce such ineptitude.

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