With Turley, Creighton, Midson, Hargreaves and Green on the bench, this wasn’t a team that had strength in depth more than one that was bursting at the seams. Has there ever been an Oxford manager with such a (pound-for-pound) embarrassment of riches at his disposal?
The challenge is how to fit them all in. Yesterday’s draw with Kidderminster was a case in point. Constable was knocking the ball down to Deering, who would, in turn, try to pick out Constable only to find the striker 15 yards behind the play recovering from his original knock down.
Or Deering would be found naturally drifting out to the wing where Potter was detailed. Or Cook would be both providing balance on the other wing and trying to pull the strings Murray-like in the middle. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with what any of them did, but it was a mess of ideas.
The introduction of Hargreaves and Green simplified things greatly with two holding midfielders, wingers providing balls for the two strikers to latch on to. By that time, however, the game was concentrated into half-an-hour and the breakthrough never came. Constable’s two game ban may not be such a disaster, at least it eases the decisions that need taking up front.
To sacrifice structure and discipline for a galacticos policy of flooding the opposition with talent seems a bit back to front at this level. If you’re chasing the game then throw the kitchen sink at them, but surely you start by suffocating their threat and enthusiasm.
Chris Wilder is rightly irritated by suggestions that things aren’t going well, we’re top of the league with two games in hand, for heaven’s sake. However, comments like “people want us to play with wingers and we’ve done that…” suggest he’s bowing to the pressure of criticism. It’s his team, and he should be free to put together an eleven that will grind out results. His strength has always been to see things clearly and make simple decisions - more than keeping players and fans happy, this is the quality we need more than ever at this stage.