The day before I was asked ‘what do you think the score will be then?’, my response was 0-0 with a poor performance and a 1-0 win in the replay. How wrong I was. A 2-1 loss to a Championship side who made several changes of their own is a shocking result. I have no positives from this game, none at all.
The reds achieved 79% possession and amassed 20 shots, all of which I must have been asleep for, because I saw nothing of the sort. Not once did I see a meaningful shot or pass that caused Wolves to worry from our forward line. Not once did I see a challenge that looked like they wanted to fight and win this game. Not once did I see passion, flair, creativity, style, tactical awareness, or a glimpse of anything to make me feel like we will come back from 2-0 down. Even the goal from Origi was disappointing, on the replay I honestly thought ‘he’s going to miss it’ before seeing him score.
Ahead of the game I was optimistic, even though Randall was an odd choice, the stability seemed to be there. I saw a balance of youth and first team players (I say ‘first teamers’ as some have no real experience to offer) and this is better for the development of the youngsters. The first teamers should help keep the shape, while showing how the manager wants to play and the youngsters should follow suit and show they can contribute to become starters. I saw nothing of the sort.
I am unbelievably disappointed in the first teamers, at how poor they performed, none of them played well enough to be classed as squad players, never mind backups to the first 11. They not only let themselves down and showed they cannot be trusted when called upon, but also hampered their youthful colleagues.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not just the first teamers that are to blame. These young players are supposed to be the next big thing for us, and they showed nothing. Firstly, I want to expel the issue with Ejaria and say he is not an attacking midfielder, nor can he ever replace the creativity of Coutinho or Lallana. He plays more like a laid back Wijnaldum; he can play short balls and keep the play moving, but he cannot create something out of nothing, an area in which we lacked.
This lack of forward-looking play, therefore, hampered our attackers and our other prospect Woodburn. He received nothing of note, minimising his ability to create a chance on the wing, but then again he lacked pushing onto the shoulder of the Wolves defence, although maybe that was because nobody looked like playing him in when being so forward.
Elsewhere, I personally take more disappointment from Joe Gomez’s poor performance. Having recently signed a new 5 year deal, I thought he would have produced a far better performance against a weaker side. Yet his lack of contribution made him stand out more, disappointingly so, as I believe he has the abilities to become our leading centre back in the ‘near’ future.
I don’t know where Ojo has gone? When he played he looked more likely to have an impact on the game than any of the youngsters in this tie. Which brings me to an issue I have with our youth development. I understand if we give someone a real chance and they don’t fulfil their potential, we can then phase them out and create a platform for them to move on. However I don’t understand when players are given their opportunity for 1 game and we never see them again until 2 months later where they will get another game. If they deserve their chance then they deserve it, not for one game but until they consistently settle or they consistently flounder. If they don’t deserve it, then don’t give them the chance in the first place. I want our youth team to be given opportunities but only if they are capable of playing for us.
The overriding factor from this defeat is quality. Quality in our backups and the quality in the youth pushing through. We were not good enough, full stop. They were not good enough to play together and this is where Jurgen and I disagree. Yes, he played Randall out of the blue, which affected his performance as well as ours and I also believe he plays Ejaria out of position, but no, the performance was not his fault. If he believes these players are good enough to play for us, then they should have performed. If he doesn’t believe they can, then all the blame can go on him, and him alone.
Our football club needs strengthening and bit by bit we are. We outplayed our weaknesses for the first half of the season, and we are never going to spend stupid amounts on players in January and we shouldn’t. Especially when we’re not in the title race and quite frankly never were. On my final note and against my better judgement of how our club is declining into a business; stop asking for Jurgen’s or FSG’s head. The game is changing and it’s a ridiculous notion that they should go. This is the best partnership we have had and he is one of the best managers, with the most potential of creating something magical, that we have had in a very long time.