Thursday, 13 March 2008
Is a Change as Good as a Rest?
Managers are paid to make big decisions, and the choices Brian Little makes over the next couple of weeks are certainly not lacking in gravity; they will decide whether we relinquish our place in the Football League.
Little has correctly identified a need for a more cutting edge to add to the organisation he has instilled in the squad, and with a string of huge games on the horizon against sides at the bottom of the table, he needs to find it soon. A string of wins will give the table an unfamiliar rosy look, but a further series of draws will merely draw us deeper into the mire. I wonder if the events of Tuesday night might have suggested to Little a possible solution to our attacking dilemma?
Admittedly the wind played a big role in the game at Wycombe, but the switch to 4-4-2 made us a lot more threatening.
Furthermore, a switch to 4-4-2, or some variation on that theme, allows Sam Aiston a chance to influence affairs. I'm impressed by Aiston, and Tuesday wasn't the first time he's come on at half time as a winger and helped to turn a game as at Dagenham he made a similar impact.
If we can harness Aiston's ability to beat men down the flank we'll surely have a greater attacking presence, and the same goes for Paul Hall on the right. It's a testimony to Brian Little's judgement that my regular reaction to the players he has brought in is “I like the look of him.” It was no coincidence that Hall already has a goal to his credit even though he has only completed ninety minutes once since his arrival, a strike rate many members of the squad would love to replicate. He looks to have goals in him, and though playing over on the wing won't help him to get into scoring positions, with two strikers plus him on the pitch our goal threat rises.
Of course there is a danger in all of this. Little has done so well to turn us into a solid side which is hard to beat. We've only conceded two goals three times since the turn of the year, and there were extenuating circumstances in all those games: at Morecambe we scored an own goal, Peterborough's goals were both excellent free kicks, and at Wycombe we conceded twice through wind-assisted errors. None of those goals are down to the organisation of the back four, which is the factor Little can control.
But will he want to relinquish that control? Having made us hard to break down, is there a danger that by changing our shape the whole pack of cards will fall in on us? Could altering the balance of the side leave us exposed? They're tough questions, but managers are paid to find the right answers. It's a relief to know that it's someone with as much nous as Little who we're trusting to get them correct.