Pompey Crimes

When I say that’s not supposed to happen – I mean that’s not supposed to happen…

So, another defeat. And another game without even much of a shot on target. STTA was there to witness the latest shitstorm of a weekend.

I remember writing about a relegation candidate towards the end of last season, might have been Swindon – I wrote ‘a team needs an identity and they don’t have one’.

Well those words returned to me as I sat in the rain watching us limp to another defeat against Pompey yesterday afternoon, that team without an identity is us.

We’re supposed to be Wimbledon, we lump it to a big man, we score the majority of our goals from set pieces, we don’t take shit from anyone.

But we’ve abandoned the long ball game, or at least the version of it that includes a striker capable of winning a header. We don’t look remotely like scoring from a set piece and we get bullied to the point of spilling blood without a hint of retribution.

And it’s our lack of bottle that Wimbledon fans find most unpalatable. After the assaults that took place on Robbo and Callum I expected us to come out with bared teeth and elbows primed, I expected challenges flying in to even things up a bit.

Not a bit of it. And maybe this gives us a clue as to what’s wrong, what’s missing.

The team came out and played how Neal Ardley would have played in that situation (don’t get involved, focus on your game etc), rather than how someone like Vinny Jones or Wally Downes (let’s fucking break the bastards) might have dealt with it.

I’m not longing for a return to days gone by, the game has changed, but as Pompey proved you can still mix it without ending games a man down. My worry is that if we have a team shaped in the character of the manager do we lose some of those important traits that make us Wimbledon.

Teams should hate coming to Kingsmeadow, they should know that a tough afternoon is in store and the only guarantee is that bruises will outnumber points they take away.

But yesterday’s visitors barely suffered a scratch. The Pompey defence won’t have an easier afternoon all season.

So rightly or wrongly we are less Wimbledon-like under Ardley. But the big risk he’s taken this season is to also abandon the traditional Wimbledon style of football, the problem 6 games in is nobody is sure what he’s replaced it with.

We now have 3 of the same striker in Taylor, MacDonald and Appiah. We have 2 left wingers and more midfielders than you could shake a stick at.

Without a lump we can’t hit it long and on the odd occasion we get a decent cross over there’s nobody to get on the end of it. The only creativity we have in the middle of the pitch is Parrett and he only gets game-time when Neal has no other choice.

So how are we going to score a goal? From what I’ve seen so far our plan is to wait for the shit or knackered teams to come along so that we can play through the middle of them.

Which brings me to my first positive point – I don’t think we’ll go down. I think there are 4 clubs worse than us and we have sufficient quality in the squad to finish above them.

In fact if we can get the first XI fit and find an effective system to play them in we could put a decent run together. We do have quality, in my opinion the strongest squad we’ve ever had as AFCW (if not the most balanced).

Before the season got underway I thought injuries would be crucial in how we performed, always the case with a small squad but more so when many of your key personnel have serious injuries on their CV.

That injury crisis arrived before we even got underway. Charles and Meades are 2 of the first names on the teamsheet, but more importantly 2 of our stronger characters, we can’t get them back soon enough.

Neal has proved in the past that given time he can find an effective way for us to play. He lost a couple of key players in the Summer but recruited high calibre replacements. I think he has earned the time to find a system that gets the best out of them.

My only advice would be to remember that we are Wimbledon football club, not Brazil. We have been successful for many decades playing a direct style of football with appropriate personnel. By all means evolve but let’s not completely forget who we are.

So in the longer term I think we’ll be okay but for now it’s going to be painful. There will be gnashing of teeth after the inevitable 0-0 draw against Gills on Tuesday and I suspect the discontent will become vociferous after we get hammered at Ewood Park.

The only real concern I have for Neal is the game on the 22nd, if we are as clueless and gutless as we were yesterday against the arch enemy the gaffer is in for one seriously difficult time.

Plus points: None

Minus points: No character, no heart, no bottle. No chances, no excitement, no atmosphere.

The referee’s a…: convenient excuse. Correctly awarded the penalty against us, just because you get away with those little shoves most of the time it doesn’t make it any less of a foul. Probably could have got his red card out for one of the elbows but we should be reciprocating rather than ball aching about that.

Them: bang average, eventually I expect to finish above them. What they did have was a plan and the personnel to execute it.

Point to ponder: do we have a bit of a problem with motivation?

I remember after that Stevenage game the players needed reminding what the fans had done to get the club back to where it was and if they put half that effort in we’d be okay with whatever result came along.

We hear of the players getting together to sort things out or we have to bring in the shrink. So why can’t our team of recent years motivate themselves?

I’ve heard a lot about players respecting Neal’s career and buying into his vision for how he wants to play but I’ve not heard one say how they go out and give everything they’ve got on that pitch for him. Not in the way that players put themselves on the line in the days of Harry or Bobby Gould.

And he needs them performing for him now more than ever because if he’s heading down an unfamiliar road with our style of play he can’t afford players who are not motivated to make it work.

Was it worth it? nope

In a nutshell: tough times ahead

Tough times indeed. And worse of all, it’s a slow motion car crash that right now we can’t seem to pull away from.

The mood has definitely changed now, or at the very least the patience is starting to run thin. I can’t recall NA himself being subjected to as much criticism for a good while, as he has been since 5pm yesterday.

Not just from the usual moaners, but plenty of others who I wouldn’t have expected.

Things didn’t come to a head yesterday, at least in the way they did after Torquay in the embers of TB’s career with us. Nor have they quite reached THAT St. Evenage stage. But if the warning signs weren’t there by Friday, they certainly are now.

The question is, how do we get out of this slump? I note STTA said in his piece that we need Meades and Darius back ASAP. The latter, I definitely agree that we’ve missed his leadership and his personality.

His return may make a bit of a difference. He won’t be the silver bullet, as our issues are deeper than that, but he will help. But Meades? He seems to be sponsored by BUPA, and I don’t think we can rely on him because of his injury record.

Yes, we could – and definitely should – employ a more effective game plan. But isn’t that like praising a criminal for doing something that helps him avoid prison? As Chris Rock put it, you’re not supposed to go to jail to begin with.

There are two good things right now (yes, really). The first is that it’s still early September. If major changes have to be made, then providing they’re not left to fester then they can be remedied even before the January window opens.

The second, and not unrelated to the first, is that at least our issues are now plain to see for everyone. Questions are getting asked now, and they have to be answered in one way, shape or form.

Apparently, we’re now the joint bottom scorers in the entire Football League. I haven’t checked that stat out myself, but I can well believe it. And considering that all you need to do in L1 is to score goals from time to time, it’s no longer the elephant in the room.

And yes, it is going to put pressure on both squad and management, as well it should. After all, it’s their mess that they have to sort out, and sooner rather than later.

NA has in the past managed to get out of holes, some of them pretty deep ones, although if you keep doing that then eventually your Timberlands stop gripping the soil. For that reason alone I don’t expect a club statement if we lose to Gillingham/Franchise.

But he’s under a big burden now, and he knows it. At the very least, his approach of trying to win games late on just doesn’t work any more, and he has to remedy that – and quick.

A few picked up on body language yesterday, not in a good way, and again – that has to be faced down head on. Fans aren’t stupid, they can sense when something is badly wrong…

I said just now that things haven’t come to a head yet. I don’t think they will for Tuesday either (though that’s practically a six-pointer already), and already we’ve more or less written off the trip to Ewood Park.

But the Franchise game on the 22nd is when things might genuinely turn.

Your editor remembers the reaction when we shit the bed at the Wankiedome last season, and that was during a so-so run of form. With that in mind, it’s no exaggeration to state that this is a game you simply do not play badly in.

A loss? OK, it will hurt like fuck, but you can get over it if you know you played well and just didn’t get the breaks. But another awful performance in front of our own fans? You can draw your own conclusions to that one…

I’m glad we’ve got Gills in Tuesday, even if I’m not really looking forward to the game right now. At least we will know where we stand – whether we’ve reacted like we should (in which case it will buy some time), or it simply pushes that point of reckoning ever closer.

Remember that Gillingham are in an even worse mental state than we are right now, by all accounts. Though if they get the first goal…

32 thoughts to “Pompey Crimes”

  1. Ideal starting 11. George in goal, Meades leftback, Darius & Deji in the centre, Will (Pokdark) Nightingale on the right. Barch, Jimmy, Deano & Rangers reject in middle. Lyle & Kwesi (if we can’t get Tom back) up front..

    Might work, might not. Either way, won’t happen ..

  2. Tuesday is massive because simply put, if we lose, we will go below Gillingham in the table and most folk seem to think that they are ripe for relegation this season anyway.
    We have an awful record against teams on bad runs/near the wrong end of the table, so time to put that particular monkey on someone else’s back on Tuesday.

  3. Hi,

    This is a difficult test for the club now. I am not sure what is the most appropriate decision for the club to make. Make the decision to let go NA. It seems to be the direct decision. However, who can the club opt as the replacement. My suggested option: AC or SA who are very unlikely to join the fan-owned club like us. I seriously doubt so even I advocate that the club should attempt to do so despite the overwhelming odds stacked against us in the event if the decision is to sack NA.

    As the editor has mentioned that there will be at least four clubs which fare worser than us, it might be so. However, I feel that we should not leave things to chance. We can do something about it given that it is approaching mid-Sept.

    We need to bear in mind that the decision to let go of TB was sometimes in Sept 2012. NA was appointed sometimes in Oct 2012. We managed to escape relegation from League Two by the skin of our teeth in May 2013. If we take that as a gauge, it is not tol early if the club management makes the decision now.

    On hindset, if the club management opt for the status quo. Would it be a wise decision to do so? As the editor has mentioned that NA has the knack of getting out of the difficult situatiob like this, is it worthwhile for the club management to do so? Seriously, I have no clue on whether this is the right approach. However, NA had once chosen to stay with us given the said approach of Gillingham for his services a few years back.


  4. What an absolute shower.

    Oh! Mr Ardley
    What shall we do?
    You want to play like Arsenal
    But you’re taking us down League 2

  5. The more I think about yesterday, a bit like Ben I get more confused with what we do. Is it the style of play that the players just cannot adapt to?
    If so well NA you tried and within our budget constraints you aint got enough of the roght personnel. So be your conservative self ratger than stubborn self and revert to something they understand. Also play players where they seem most comfortable/ effective. Or go the whole hog and play Will N up front as a makeshift big no 9.

    P.S. Thanks Repd for not commissioning me to right thus report this week …. probably been about 20 words at most

  6. I’m confident NA will adapt to the current situation.

    I also think it would take an absolute stinker of a season for us to consider sacking him. Of course that stinker of a season could well happen.

    A win against Gills will help settle a few nerves, a loss will really hurt

  7. Way too early to talk about sackings. We have had two or three poor games and it looks a bit desperate but NA has had these spells before and has turned them around each time. I would say, though, Gills is a big match and a big opportunity to get out of this lull. We have this spell of 3 home games out of 4 and if we lose all 3 it will not be a very positive outlook.

  8. I feel our poor form this season is a follow on from the end of last season. We struggle to score goals and there is so little creativity from midfield we do not even create chances. Lets be honest if you are unable to muster a shot on target during a home game you are going to get what you deserve. Nothing.

    Something needs to change and quickly.

  9. “The strongest squad we’ve ever had as AFCW” is beginning to sound like “too good to go down” to me.

  10. In my personal take, no team is too good to go down. Aston Villa and Newcastle United are classic example.

    The problem is that the team don’t even know how to score goals. This is a clear sign that something must be done to arrest this ongoing problem. I do not know whether this is the appropriate time for the club management to make a decision

    I have this lingering feeling that we will lose everytime we take to the field for each league game. The winning mentality is simply inexistent. I know that Na is trying very hard to cultivate the passing game style like Arsenal. The 4-3-3 formation is simply not suitable for the team. The simple 4-4-2 formation is the direct remedy for the team. In football, the wins matters and there is no point in playing fluent football and end up losing the game.

    Keep it Simple and we will return to winning way.


  11. To clarify the point (for the good doctor) I made about not forgetting who we are….

    I appreciate we can’t play long ball without a target man but we can adopt a more direct style by playing with 2 wingers (Barcham and Forrester) in a 4-4-2. When we win possession get the ball out wide quickly and allow the wingers to attack their full-backs and deliver the ball to our front 2. We finally have 2 decent wingers at the club so let’s get them on the pitch.

    At the moment we are playing in front of the oppo defence attempting 15 pretty triangular passes between our front 3 before it inevitably breaks down. Multiple intricate passes will produce 1 or 2 fantastic goals a season but not the goals we need to stay up. We need to be getting quality ball in to our forwards with far more frequency.

    What’s not in doubt is we can make KM a far more uncomfortable place to visit regardless of personnel. I’ve never watched a Wimbledon team bullied as easily as we were yesterday and that needs changing regardless of what style we play.

    1. Hi Slow Train,

      That’s a direct style and I believe that the team will fare better that the current tactics adopted by the gaffer. I am not sure whether the gaffer is aware of such approach.

      I hope that the gaffer comes to this website and this will benefit him and the team to great extent. If the gaffer does not come to this website, would someone be able to make it known to him?


      1. Ben,

        Ards and team will not be coming on here looking for advice and neither should they be. If they did then they should not be managing a league 1 football team.

        Like others have said I am sure he knows what the issue is and is trying with what he has to work with to get it right and I’m confident he will get an improvement in performance…. I just hope it gains enough points to survive.

    2. Yes Stan. We’ve been saying for a while now -4/3/3 simply doesn’t suit the players we’ve recruited. But we do have the personal for 4/4/2.

      We know he’s a stubborn bastard, perhaps Bass and Cox need to make it clear. It ain’t working Neal and the players are losing interest. They look shackled.

    3. Slow train,

      Don’t disagree at all with having Barchy and Forrester both on and I think that time will come sooner rather than later.

      Now I am able to watch the games I can see that this season we seem stuck between two styles. We still have elements of the pressing (Klopp’s ‘geggenpressen’) counter attacking game that Ards loves and a slicker passing game he wants us to move towards. I think we need to choose one style rather than have elements of both.

      Problem with mixing both styles that is we have the attacking units of the team pressing when not in possession and after a good first 20 minutes or so when we can do both we then look totally gassed and we drop parts of the pressing game and lose some of the movement needed to open teams up and create chances.

      So we end up with defence, midfield and attack playing their own versions of those styles which is disjointed. We need to settle on a style as quickly as possible as well as a formation.

      I’d love to see Ards play a 3-4-2-1 with Will/Deji and Darius either side of Robbo with Callum and Francomb as wingbacks, Abdou and Trotter in the middle and Barchy/Forrester/Lyle with ability to roam behind either Appiah/MacDonald.

      The above would leave no place for Barry but I think he has had a hand in every goal conceded either directly or by not being where he should be so maybe this is the year he is eased out. I’d say the same for Robbo but with Darius and will or Deji around him that should give is enough pace to protect him.

      1. Interestingly I think the back of that was what we started with – seemed to me we had Will Robbo and Barry at the back with Calum pushed almost into the wing back role. But frequently we seemed to lose that shape and idea though Calum seemed keen to join in attacks where he could. However the middle of the park is still the issue with the only person left now at the club with the wherewithal to create some thing being Parett who was stuck on the right side. Did wonder if GF and him should have swapped as he does have a driving force within him and I like his go forward and keep going forward mantra. Problem is those he might pass to are often getting ready to drop back if the attach peters out (which it does as they are not in the forward position to get the ball….)
        O hum!

  12. Slow – fair enough. It’s a bit of an issue though if we have no strikers capable of challenging for headers when the wingers deliver crosses. Yes they can play balls along the ground etc etc but generally when you think of wingers you think of crosses and headed goals. It’s also madness to sign players like McDonald who play best alongside a big lad, and then not have a big lad.

    1. Doc – no argument with that but we are where we are, I see little point in complaining about not having a target man from now until January or next Summer. They might be shorties but we have lots of quality in that forward line, if we create more chances for them they’ll score goals.

      I notice Cody is getting flack on various social media channels, personally I thought he was the one still battling and trying to the last minute on Saturday. I think he’s desperate to do well for us, it’s not his fault we’re creating so little to work with. I’ve got a pound says he’ll be our top scorer this season.

  13. We lacked so much yesterday. What was most frustrating was seeing lack of drive, passion and intensity from key players. We have no options up front. McDonald just looked like he couldn’t be fucked (or perhaps he just isn’t able). Trotter looks awkward when he got the ball. LTB is in wrong position.

    Barch still makes a difference when he can. Thought Hartigan was good when he came on.

    1. I’d be fucked off if I hadn’t received more than about 2 decent balls to me all season….

      You have no options if the midfield/back four cannot deliver a reasonable ball,,,

      Credit to Hartigan … he fucked up but kept going and trying. Good on the kid!

      Maybe even if they make mistakes we need to try a bit more young fresh blood to get things going.

      As the ad says: “A change is as good as a rest!”

  14. NA said ( in the programme, I think ), that everybody knows he tried to get a target man in, but they were either not good enough or didn’t want to come. Now, that strikes me as odd, considering his promotion of a new style of play. We are confused, and as said, lack an identity. There is always a few teams that come to km, and I think they are weak and have nothing about them. It pains me to say that that is was opposition fans will be saying about us. We are seriously lacking some bollocks. We are wet at the moment, and that should not be so.
    On Sat, I don’t think we won a single header in their half. We had some first half possession but their keeper didn’t have a single shot to save. When they scored, not much of a reaction.
    We are definitely not too good to go down, and if we don’t cure the cannot score any fucking goals disease, we will.

    1. Hi Ron Don,

      As mentioned before, no one is too good to go down. This also applies to AFC W. The team is currently in serious crisis. NA will need to sort this crisis quickly. The longer it drags, the lower the players’s confidence. We will have difficulty in getting out from this mess.

      Let’s hope that the manager will have solutions on this crisis.

  15. We may have recruited well although I see no sign of it yet (other than Long) but what he has not done is recruited high calibre replacements for Elliott and Reeves. We have nothing approaching a player similar to Elliott and there seems to be no sign to the vision and rhythm that Reeves brought to midfield.

    I suspect there may be four worse teams in League 1 but what a depressing way to get through the season.

    (Note for Rob, why does it delete your comment if you get the dumb Catcha wrong)

    1. Callum Kennedy appears to be unavailable for Gillingham game. Will this be an opportunity for Toby Sibbick to break into the first team line-up?


    2. “(Note for Rob, why does it delete your comment if you get the dumb Catcha wrong)”

      I don’t know, but it’s something I need to look into – after all, if we’re going to be losing more and more games this season, this place will get ten times more traffic…

      1. I had that problem a while back Rob but it was e en when I got tge cide right … something about token. No problems recently but I am vey careful entering the code

  16. Need to beat Gillingham if only to restore some confidence.Credit to NA for trying a different style and both Mcdonald and Appiah can score goals but they do need service to do so.It would be nice to see goals from elsewhere in the team as well.I agree the big thing the team need is a bit of fight and the rest should follow.It is too soon to seek another manager in my view but I agree this should not mean if things do not improve quickly NA is guaranteed a job for the rest of the season.

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