Well, it has been a busy 10 days, and, on the back of two victories, came two defeats, together with Mike Newell’s Leicestergate!
News broke over last weekend that Leicester City had Mike at the top of their wish list, as manager. However, he was obviously not their first choice as they had already been rebuffed by Gudjon Thordarsson and Steve Cotterill. I’m sure that may have had a bearing on Newell’s ultimate decision to stay with Luton Town – or did it? Perhaps the whole saga of Leicester’s interest was utilised by Mike to concentrate the mind of Chairman Bill Tomlins over a new contract at Luton. In our latest poll on this site, at the time of writing 55 % of voters believe that it was!
Mike and Bill announced, after the decision to stay, that they had already been talking about a new three-and-a-half year contract extension for the last two months, long before Leicester’s interest. Did Mike grab the opportunity to put the matter a little more to the forefront of the Chairman’s priorities? I would say that was very likely, but why shouldn’t he? He’s done a good job and needs security.
Still a rookie
As I have said before on these pages, Mike may have done well in his limited time as a manager, but the key word there is limited. He is an out-and-out rookie as a manager. He is still learning his craft. He makes some great decisions, he knows a good player, but won’t be ripped off by the selling clubs. He has a value on his players below which he will not consider selling them.
Let him learn to walk before he can run. He might be turning into a great manager but he has a way to go yet.
I am thrilled that he has chosen to stay with Luton, but that does not mean I don’t have some constructive criticism of his methods.
All out attack cost points
Mike admitted himself that his commitment to all out attack, which, when it comes off is fantastic to watch and the fans love it, but when it doesn’t, causes the wheels come off, has cost us points. He said ahead of the victory against QPR, that we need to win a few ugly. It is pleasing to see that he is rethinking his policies, because I feel he is still somewhat tactically naďve, as, once the shape of the team goes, the flowing football goes with it.
Unfortunately, in the last two games he forgot about the ugly idea and went back to all out attack and lost both games. On Saturday, at Preston, we were up against a team brimming with confidence and undefeated in 23 games in all competitions. Once again, defensive frailties surfaced and being caught on the break led to goals against.
Players out of position
I am a firm believer in playing players in their best positions. All players are capable of playing in different positions to their favourite ones, and Mike has made an art form of bringing in utility players who can be flexible. However, the biggest mistake I believe we can make is to play right-sided players on the left and vice versa.
I know that we have had to do that in the past, as we only had one left footed player in the squad, and poor old Brkovic had to play out of position on the left, and, when he was struggling the fans quickly got on his back, and his confidence went through the floor. Last year, he went back to the right and scored a hatful of goals and was one of our best players in the promotion season. The same can be said of Peter Holmes.
To accommodate new arrival Carlos Edwards as right midfield, Brkovic has been pushed over to the left again. If Edwards is first choice right midfield over Brkovic, so be it; put Berko on the bench and bring him on in central or right side of midfield later in the game to freshen things up.
So, we lost Sol Davis through injury, at left back. Unders is a left wing back/left midfielder, though Mike Newell likes him as left midfield. He would be the obvious player to drop to left back. Why play Keith Keane as left back when he is a predominantly right footed, right back/right midfielder? Many of our recent problems have stemmed from right wingers taking Keane apart down the wing, and that is not a criticism of the player. He is not a left back! Again we have a player who gets the crowd on his back, and is in danger of losing confidence.
Leaky left side
We have Dean Morgan, another predominantly left sided player, although he can play on the right side too. He has been getting splinters in his ‘arris on the bench, while others play out of position, in his position. Why play Brkovic out of position when Morgan is fit and capable? Why play Enoch as left midfield just because he has a left foot? He is not a creative player, he is a strong player who can win the ball and put defences under pressure, (when he is not running into blind alleys and losing the ball!). He is a forward player, not a midfielder, although he did have one good game in the position. However, when Morgan came on as sub against Hull he changed the game, and he was on fire for the reserves in midweek.
On Saturday at Preston, Sol Davis could not be brought back for the full 90 minutes so Keane (out of position) played left back. Unders didn’t make it, so Brkovic (out of position) played left midfield. Two players out of position down the left flank, so where might we leak goals? Bingo!
I am also surprised that Feeney has not been used in conjunction with Howard and Vine, when chasing games, rather than replace Vine with Feeney. It seems obvious to me that Vine’s best position is ‘in the hole’ surging through when Howard lays off the ball. Also from that position he draws defenders out of position and allows the midfield to run through and score. Luton are therefore effectively playing Vine as an attacking midfielder in what is best described as a 4-4-1-1 rather than a true 4-4-2. When chasing games, why not bring Feeney on alongside Howard, as Feeney’s best position is goal poacher, feeding off the second ball in the penalty area. This still gives the correct shape but is more of a 4-3-1-2, with the midfield four in a triangle spearheaded by Vine.
Whatever, but let us play people in their correct positions when they are available.
Further rumours emerged in the wake of Mike Newell’s decision to stay with the Hatters, the chairman let slip that new investors in the club, who are ‘proper football people’ (I hope that means minted, prepared to throw money at the club and not to expect it back!), are about to come in. He also said that there was big news coming, prior to the announcement of Mike’s staying. We were left wondering whether the big news was Mike’s staying, or whether there was more news to come. Five days later we are still wondering!
There is an opportunity to get back to winning ways when Cardiff visit on Tuesday evening, I expect the Town to win that one comfortably, but the way things have gone recently, I think a draw on Saturday against Reading would be a good result for them.
Have a Good One!