Big balls strikes again

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In a week where a much misunderstood interview led to suspicions that Kristofer Haestad was after a pay rise before he’d kicked a ball for Latics, you’d think that his more experienced colleagues would be wary of what they said to the press.  Not so Denny Landzaat and readers of today’s Daily Mail will be greeted with the news that he has launched a “scathing attack” on the way Latics play, scrape the surface and yet again there’s a slightly different tale.

The Daily Mail article appears to have been taken from a Dutch interview with Landzaat, in the remainder of the interview he acknowledges that Latics are in a chase for survival and although he isn’t used to the style of football that is bringing out, he is enjoying the challenge.  He does not regret his move here and it is “simply a new challenge”.  Denny is also enjoying the English football experience as a whole: “It is a beautiful, strong competition. It is the tale that every ex-patriot can tell – if the football disappoints, the environment is excellent in the UK. The supporters live the game intensely and the salary is princely.”

One thing to remember here is that they do things differently in Holland.  The notion of a player speaking out against his team mates or manager might be alien to the English way of life but it’s almost essential if you’re Dutch.  So when Landzaat says that Latics play “lottery football” and that “no thought goes into [their] play” he’s probably just trying to give everyone involved a gee up, challenging them to do better.  The thing is the British press would never paint it that way.

It will be interesting to see what the reaction to this “outburst” will be.  With the signing of Haestad, Jewell may have just enough options to drop Landzaat, but that would be stretching the squad a little too far.  Rather like with Henri Camara last season, Jewell’s reaction may be to lash out, but when the dust settles he will probably have to pick him.  If the manager takes another second to think about it, he will probably realise that the midfielder has a point.

Interestingly this is not the first time this week that Jewell’s tactics have been called into question.  Interviewed before the Portsmouth game ex-Latic David Thompson claimed that one of the main reason he didn’t sign in the summer was that his diminutive stature and cultured upbringing weren’t suited to Latics’ reliance on picking up pieces from long balls. 

It seems strange that a team that was celebrated as a breath of fresh air for the Premier League, with their pressing game and direct counter attacking style are now being singled out for criticism of playing aimless long balls, but the comments will come as no surprise to Latics fans.  Often in the past Jewell’s teams have been criticised for going too long, too soon.  When things get tough the big boot comes out.  This been more obvious than ever this season. 

It’s hard to imagine that Jewell sends his players out to flop around and fail to pick up bits and pieces from second balls, and nothing else.  He talks about getting the ball down and playing and you have to assume that’s what he wants from his team, but there’s a fine line between direct play and hoofing it up and Latics have fallen on the wrong side of it too often.  Landzaat’s claims that the team have been more successful with “proper football” will not fall on deaf ears in the stands.

With Jewell reacting badly to criticism from the fans, it remains to see whether he will accept these comments as the honest appraisal that they are.  It would be nice to think that he would acknowledge the facts in what Denny has said, tell us that he’s already had this discussion with the player and reiterate his desire to play as we did for the first part of the last season.  In the current environment you can’t be too certain that will happen. 

Hopefully the manager will not be too upset by what could easily be seen as a player talking out of turn, but Jewell has frozen players out for seemingly less, with Landzaat looking like he is finally settling in, and showing glimpses of the international footballer that Latics signed we can only hope that doesn’t happen again.

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