It would be unfair to single out an individual as the root cause of our recent form, it would also be untrue, but it’s inescapable that the major difference between this season and last is the number of goals we have conceded and we perform worse in that respect when certain players are in the side.
Backtrack a few years and a young Mr Perm spent the best part of a season trawling the results page of the program in an attempt to prove that Brian Hamilton was a fool to be picking ‘Steady’ Nigel Adkins in front of Phil Hughes. It was all there; Adkins had played with the better defensive line up and yet had conceded more goals. Hughes had obviously run over the manager’s cat or something.
These days I don’t have it in of to be so anal (or maybe there just isn’t the need to be). Without reference to results or the excessive amount of statistics available to the common supporter in the age of Sky Football, I can say with confidence that Latics defend worse with Fitz Hall in the side, even more so when he’s played in the centre.
More than anything that is down to his tendency to make stupid mistakes. Some of them are as high profile as the penalty he gave away at The Valley, others a little more subtle. When it comes down to it you can debate Hall’s ability or potential as much as you want but if doesn’t have the concentration levels to do the job we’ve needed this season. As a centre half he’s ideally suited to Newcastle, you wouldn’t want him anywhere near a relegation fight.
Then again, you can’t really blame him for his faults. He doesn’t pick the team. To some extent Paul Jewell’s hand has been forced with the injury to Boyce, but Hall isn’t the only other option if has at his disposal. Faced with a choice of taking a risk on one of Scandinavia’s got young talents or a player you know has struggled all season, I know which way I’d go.
Even if that risk is too much there are other options. Unsworth and Jackson may not be the paciest partnership around, but the same can be said for playing Matt and Ary together. Failing that, there’s always Paul Scharner, he might not be the best centre half for those of you with bad hearts, but at least he has some pace and energy, and the ability to stay awake for more than 80 minutes.
In any case Jewell’s hand is likely to be forced over the next few games. De Zeeuw’s fitness is debatable and both Unsworth and Hall limped out of the Villa game with injuries. With the manager’s insistence that Scharner is key to a successful midfield we could see him take a risk on the young Swede after all.
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