Derby County 1: Reading 1 – 12th January 2016

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I could barely be bothered to write this. I feel massively disengaged about Tuesday night’s woeful performance, rather than angry (like most fans & our head coach). The shenanigans regarding our benevolent benefactor’s visit to the dressing room after full time & the shameless hiking of the ticket prices for the Man United game haven’t helped my mood either.

Anyway. We all know how the game went. Reading were excellent, played some lovely football & played us off the park. How can that happen with all the millions Mel has splurged on this squad? We’ve just bought their best player, for God’s sake. We were awful, as Clement commendably accepted straight away. No one would have complained if Reading had gone on to win that game in the second half. I think I would have stood up & applauded, to be honest.

A few musings then..

Formation

I was a tad surprised by the 4-2-3-1 formation when I saw it on The Twitter before the game but I have to admit I didn’t have too many problems with it. It seemed a positive, attacking formation. Two holding midfielders & four attacking players in front of them seemed to hold out the hope of some fluid passing movements between Martin et al. We all knew 4-3-3 doesn’t really work without the fulcrum that is George Thorne in front of the defence.

Well, this didn’t work out either did it? Butterfield & Johnson were unsuited to their roles, Reading overran us in midfield, the defence was exposed & we only demonstrated an occasional attacking threat. As a few astute people have said on The Twitter, perhaps we’re too wedded to 4-3-3 to adapt to any other formation quickly. Certainly, the team has looked lost at times when we’re not playing it. I expect a reversion to The McClaren Memorial Formation on Saturday.

Team selection

Again, I didn’t really have an issue with the team selection. Probably would have liked to have seen Blackman alongside Martin (or Bent) & Camara on the left but you could understand why Clement picked the players he did. The majority had been rested for the Cup game & Clement could have reasonably expected fresh,  energetic performances & a high tempo from the start. It wasn’t to be. I believe the stats show that our workrate left a lot to be desired. Why?

Johnson

Let’s face it, he’s a shadow of the player he was when he first joined us. He’s not suited to a deep, holding role but he hasn’t really played well recently in an advanced position either. He looks languid & indolent in possession, didn’t create anything & was another player who didn’t appear to have benefited from a rest during FA Cup weekend. Perhaps he should try taking a break this weekend too? He was the first player to be subbed by Clement after 65 minutes & could have quite easily have gone off at half time.

Martin

Well, what can you say about him that hasn’t already been said? A few good touches, a few bad touches. The trademark lack of mobility, petulance & ground hugging. And he’s only scored a penalty in the last dozen or so games. How long can we wait for him to find some form? Time to try Bent or Blackman up front I think.

Mel

I don’t care how much he’s put into the club or how many token free gifts we get, you’re on a slippery slope once your owner starts going into the dressing rooms & giving players “feedback”. It’s all a bit Vincent Tan as far as I’m concerned.

Clement

He’d talked before the game about his team selection for this game being his most important of the season. He was probably right in that but his selection didn’t work & he took too long in trying to correct it. Commendably, he was honest in his post match assessment of what happened & took responsibility. As others have remarked, this was a world away from our previous head coach.

What next?

There needs to be a reaction on Saturday. We need to know that the players are capable of heeding Clement’s instructions again. And we need to get back into those automatic spots.

Onwards & upwards.

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