There was one discussion lighting up the Grenoble Road following yesterday’s masterclass in abjectness. Chris Wilder is losing the plot with a glut of loan signings few can see we need.
It’s totally unfair to damn Wilder on the basis of this defeat given what he’s achieved in the last year or so. And the knee-jerk reaction from many is hopelessly irrational. However, there is an uncomfortable truth that Wilder plays a high-risk game.
Look back to the end of last season. Having steered the team to the brink of a miraculous promotion, he disbands the team almost in its entirety and rebuilds again. Then at Christmas he breaks up a back four that conceded but a handful of goals. Then he has four or five proven forwards, but insists on signing Franny Green and John Grant.
Chris Wilder is a tinker, how many times have we seen players jogging across to the touchline to be given another minute tactical tweak. Are we to believe that the likes of Hayes & Yeading are so tactically sophisticated that constant adjustments are needed to slay them?
Nope, I think that Wilder’s tinkering is his nervous tick. He just can’t leave things alone. Claudio Ranieri was the same; he couldn’t leave his team alone. Mostly Ranieri was a successful manager, but he famously overcooked his twiddling at a Champions League Semi-Final against Monaco in 2004 that eventually cost him his job.
Like Ranieri, Wilder’s tinkering got the better of him last night. His constant re-dealing of the pack will inevitably produce a duff hand eventually. Yesterday was a case in point; a combination of tinkering with the loan system, injuries and suspensions produced an insipid performance. But worst still, when it was going wrong, there was no proven plan to fall back on – the playbook is too full.
Had there been more stability he could have called a plan B that the players could have confidence in. Instead they ended up playing yet another system with players who’ve barely met before. It’s difficult to know how you can dominate a game when you’re still working out who the bloke to your left is. This might not have been the single cause of last night’s debacle, but it was a big influence on our ability to rectify the position we found ourselves in.
But, let’s look at the positives. Yes, we have a squad with almost too much choice, inviting Wilder to fiddle endlessly with. But it is one with the quality to take the title. The margins have narrowed, but the title is still in our hands. Stevenage are on a hell of a run, but they have a lot of games and a similar history of choking. Don’t tell me that they won’t feel the pressure. And, above all, for all his fiddling, Chris Wilder gets it right far more often than he gets it wrong. This isn’t over.