Injuries, suspension and a game that nobody really wants, interrupting as it does the Xmas preparations. I hope the players that are able to go out on Saturday afternoon have a better attitude than me. I want to meet up with friends, have some drinks and food, exchange Christmas cards with robins on the front, have a drink after the game, and then get back home to continue the celebrations. Oh, and a victory and three points against naff opposition if you please. Don’t care about the performance.
The fact that it’s so obviously a banana skin waiting to happen should in theory help us to avoid one. We will be putting out a patched-up side against what we regard as lesser opposition. They will still be seething about our victory on their turf and will probably be highly motivated (at least their fans will be – check out the nonsense posted on their websites about Charlton’s ‘disgraceful antics’), even though Hull already appear primed for mid-table mediocrity for this season at least. The fact that we as supporters might not be fully up for it is no excuse for the players. They’re paid to play football. So whatever side takes the field the first priority is that they’re up for a contest.
Let’s recap on the injury list. To the ones already known – Thatcher, Gibbs, Basey, Todorov – it seems we have to add Reid (for 6-8 weeks according to the club site), Zhi and Ambrose, with Varney and Iwelumo doubtful and Fortune still suspended. That’s 10 outfield players. On the plus side we will have Mills and Sam back available. And in light of the injury list just about everyone else comes into contention: Yassin, McCarthy, Semedo, Racon, McLeod, possibly Thomas, even Wright.
What do we know? The defence just about picks itself: Weaver in goal, Mills at right-back, Powell on the left, with Sodje and Bougherra in the centre. In midfield you can pencil in Holland but all else depends on the formation and whether Iwelumo and/or Varney are available. It’s hard to see us playing 4-4-2 unless they both are fit – and if both are out McLeod could find himself the lone forward in a 4-5-1. If it’s one forward then Thomas and Sam would have to start on the flanks, with Racon and Semedo possibly starting. We don’t have anyone obvious to play in the hole (Reid, Zhi, Ambrose). An alternative would involve Yassin playing wide right, especially if there are any doubts about Sam returning to the fight against Hull. If we start with two forwards the midfield four would seem to be Holland, Semedo/Racon, Thomas, Sam/Yassin.
In a previous post I did question the perceived wisdom that without Reid we would struggle. But this did assume we would have Zhi and Ambrose available, with the addition of Racon capable of making us play at a higher tempo and with greater drive. There is obviously a danger that on Saturday at least we will be short of creativity. A good deal then rests on the wide players to provide the spark, especially if McLeod finds himself thrust into the spotlight.
There’s not a great deal of point in outlining a possible team for Saturday given the injury doubts, especially the forwards (and as at the time of writing the club website has withdrawn the report on injuries). Maybe its just best to list the probable 16 to be involved: Weaver, Mills, Powell, Sodje, Bougherra, Holland, Thomas, Sam, McLeod, Semedo, Racon, Yassin, Randolph, McCarthy. OK, that’s 14. If Iwelumo and Varney are both out I’m taking my boots along just in case.
From other blogs it would seem that we will try to get Song back on loan from Arsenal. That looked like a good move before Reid’s injury, although I still hope Racon gets (and takes) his chance. It would also seem sensible to try to extend Mills’ loan to the end of the season as the reports suggest. That does, however, raise the question of whether we would try to buy him if Man City say ‘no’. With Yassin and Sankofa available at right-back it’s down to resources. The priority is another striker (especially if Dickson swans off for the Africa Cup) and if to get him we have to pass on Mills I think that would make sense. Hopefully it won’t come to that.