I’ve just gotten home from the game and, having reflected upon the performance whilst I drove back, I think that my nervousness pre-match about what could potentially unfold was probably warranted.
Looking on from the away end on Wednesday I was concerned by how leggy we looked for large periods, and today that lethargy intensified considerably as the game wet on. As good as some of these players are, they aren’t capable of playing a pressing style three times in seven days. It’s just not going to happen, not unless we at least attempt to freshen up the starting eleven here and there.
As far as the positives go - Didier Ndong and Lamine Kone are the two players that have been linked most with moves away this week and I genuinely fear for our chances if either - or both - of them leave before the window closes. At this level their quality stands out like dog’s balls and perhaps the one shining light from today’s performance was that the pair of them looked so good. Shame that I can’t say the same about the others.
Tiredness clearly played its part today and I guess it’s up to you whether you think that it’s a valid excuse after five games. For me, I sympathise with the players in the sense that it’s difficult to play such a high-energy, high-pressing style at a sustainable level when you’ve kept the same starting eleven for three games inside a week. Lee Cattermole was noticeably flagging from the off and our two strikers, Vaughan and Grabban, were gone after about twenty minutes of trying to win long balls against the two Leeds defenders. They are some of our most hard-working players, yet their efforts weren’t enough on this occasion.
Which brings us on to the key issue here - our squad just isn’t deep enough. The plan once we signed Grabban was clearly to try and see out the remaining weeks of the transfer window with what we’ve got before attempting to boost our ranks with some new signings in the closing days. Then, once the international break is over we should see the return of players like Oviedo, Watmore and Rodwell - with Paddy McNair not too far behind them.
It’s somewhat naive to pin all of our hopes on that group returning with an impact, whilst simultaneously hoping we can get some quality on board in the remaining days of the window, but it’s obviously a gamble that Grayson is being forced to take. Simply put, he’s got a complete lack of financial resources to work with and is hoping for the best.
All in all my message to people would be to just take a step back, think of the bigger picture and reflect upon our start to the season as a whole. We’ve done better than I certainly expected and I believe enough in this manager and this group of players to expect that they’ll rebound suitably next weekend when we play Barnsley in the league.
Defeat hurts, of course, but they’ll come and it’s about how you dust yourself down and recover that is most important.