Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Saunders' Job Security

Football’s a ghoulish affair, isn’t it? We happily discuss a manager’s prospects of hanging onto his job, but wouldn’t be too pleased if our employment was put under such scrutiny, even if it was only by a couple of people at the water cooler. Still, that’s the deal if you pursue a career in the game, and who am I to be coy about it?

The fact is that a crucial issue as the season begins will be how secure Dean Saunders is. The general consensus is that, having been given a year and a half and got onto his fourth rebuilt squad, he now has to start producing. He’s had enough time to weigh up the Conference and develop his approach to the job, and you suspect the board will be more demanding than the Moss-Retout axis which employed him.

The general consensus, and I’m inclined to subscribe to it, is that he needs to have us in amongst the contenders around the start of October. Therein lies a question though. Is it good management to back someone then remove them eight weeks later? Saunders has been given the resources to rebuild the squad, has released a lot of players and brought a lot in. It’s his team; a new boss would surely want to reshape it in his own image.

If Saunders is replaced before the New Year, we will merely be continuing the downward spiral of constantly ripping up a squad to build a new one, and that instability’s a big part of what got us here in the first place.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Is Morrell The New Dirk Kuyt?

I’ve already referred to Dean Saunders’ accumulating of strikers this Summer. The question is, how is he going to fit them all into his team?

I get the nervous feeling that Saunders tends to be an all-or-nothing sort of man. He tried packing his side with Football League experience and that didn’t work, so now it’s full of Conference stalwarts. Likewise, he put his faith in young lads from big clubs’ academies on the assumption they’d develop and be technically too good for the Conference; now he’s looking for experience. I think the current approach might be wiser, but hope we don’t miss out on the benefits of compromising and having a balanced approach.

Likewise, having seen his side look very solid at the back but toil painfully to create, he now seems to have gone in the opposite direction, filling the squad with attacking options. A major concern at the moment is the fact that most of the record-breaking defence from last season has now left, robbing him of a base the new attacking players can build from, but that’s a different matter. The obvious question to ask is how does he accommodate so many attacking options in the side which unbalancing it?

I rather suspect the answer’s a 4-2-3-1, which supports the notion I’ve already suggested that Andy Morrell is not the player he was. I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense; merely that he hasn’t been bought to score thirty-four goals a season, but to harry and hassle defenders in support of Andy Mangan. My assumption when speculation that he might sign began was that he’d be used as a straight partner for Mangan in a 4-4-2. However, the amount of attacking players who have arrived since suggests Saunders might be looking at something different.

You never know how much to read into a dead rubber on the last day of the season, but Saunders fielded a side which looked very comfortable playing 4-3-3 at Hayes, an showed the sort of qualities a tweak to 4-2-3-1 would require. Admittedly five of the starting line-up have now left, although Johnny Hunt did play over an hour off the bench. However, there was a fluidity and flexibility in the side which must have interested Saunders. It suits Kristian O’Leary down to the ground as he is a very solid presence in front of the back four but hardly looks like he’ll suddenly become a player-maker higher up the pitch; his range of passing isn’t broad enough and he lacks the mobility to get back to his defensive station when Wrexham lose the ball.

Playing O’Leary there also allows a couple of progressive-minded full backs to bomb on, and that’s exactly what Saunders has in Curtis Obeng and Neil Ashton. It’s higher up the pitch that alterations would have to be made though, with so many players vying for a place up front. 4-2-3-1 necessitates a lone striker, of course, and surely that would be Andy Mangan.

He’s not just a poacher though; he has impressive movement and showed in that Hayes match that he was happy to switch positions, giving Wes Baynes and Adrian Cieslewicz a turn through the middle. This adaptability could be crucial, as playing this system will ask Morrell to play on the right of the front three. It isn’t a role we’d associate with him, but it’s one he ought to adapt to with ease, given his reserves of energy. Switching with Mangan would cause defences problems as they move across the back four, while David Brown could play the false nine role; it’s a nice, flexible system which might just work!

Saturday, 10 July 2010


This comes from the 2007 Singapore Cup final. The victim is ex-Wrexham defender Dan Bennett; the perpetrator got a twelve month ban, reduced (naturally enough!) to seven on appeal.

Monday, 5 July 2010

More and More Strikers!

Did I say we had seven strikers? Make that eight! Maybe we'll go old school and play 2-3-5?

David Brown's an interesting signing on paper, perhaps more a creator than a player who'll be right up at the sharp end, and very experienced. There'll be players who spend plenty of time waiting their turn next season, I suspect!

Whither Marc Williams?

So what happens to Marc Williams now?

Off the top of my head I can think of seven strikers who start the season as potential contenders for the starting spots up front: Williams. Andy Mangan, Andy Morrell, Gareth Taylor, Kevin Gall, Nat Knight-Percival and Obi Anoruo. I'm sure I'll have missed someone out, but who cares? The point is made.

Isn't it incredible that Williams can go from being our stand-out player to a potential redundancy in a year? The fact that it's a couple of injuries which seem to have led to this decline makes the situation even more remarkable, and possible an indication that Williams is a victim of the global recession: if clubs had a bit more money to indulge hunches, then surely Saunders would direct it towards hanging onto Williams, rather than offer him a six month contract then employ a phalanx of player in his position.

In fact, Williams has had one hell of a roller-coaster ride. Unable to score regularly in the Footballl League, there were plenty of Wrexham fans I know who werre unconvinced by him. Yet he was a sensation in our first season in the Conference; was there a more effective player at our level? Then last season was a nightmare.

I desperately hope Williams is able to earn a further opportunity this season. His energy is admirable and he has shown he can be prolific at this level. I just hope he gets a chance, amidst the increased competition, to show what he can do.

Saunders The Swan?

Ah, being Welsh. A double-edged sword, don't you think?

The whole big fish in a small pond thing is a powerful dynamic, and coming from a small country will merely accentuate that. Dean Saunders could be a beneficiary of this mindset, as his celebrity status is enhanced by his nationality.

By mere fact of our shared nationality with Swansea and Cardiff, two cities which, let's be honest, are a fair distance away, we are tied to them. Indeed, we are tied to anyone born west of Bristol or Chester. This can be a magificent advantage, as ex-internationals are tempted to The Racecourse despite there being no logical reason for signing for a club of our stature under any other circumstance. We used to milk the situation even more when Welsh Cup winners were admitted to Europe .Heck, even being runners-up was usually good enough!

So basically, Dean Saunders, by dint of being Welsh, is considered for managerial posts despite not achieveing much during his tenure at The Racecourse. Paolo Sosa's departure from Swansea City apparently opens up the possibility of Saunders returning to his roots. Why would any logical club consider this? Maybe they're not, but the media are clambering on board already.

I suppose the lesson to learn from this is that if you've got a name, you've always got a chance. It's the theory which meant the dismal Bryan Robson kept getting managerial jobs despite his grimrecord. There's always a chairman who's a fan and will enjoy the ego massage of appointing his hero and then being his boss, until the inevitable messy end. Could Swansea boss Huw Jenkins be one of them?

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