How’s Mickey doing?

Against Wimbledon he was the new messiah, but against Bristol Rovers he was a very naughty boy. So just how is Mickey Lewis doing?

There have only ever been two pieces of football punditry which have stayed with me. That’s partly because because most football pundits provide meaningless analysis and a lot down to the fact I’m forgetful and massively disinterested in the science of football tactics.

The first was from Gary Neville, who revealed that Manchester United’s fabled ability to score last minute goals comes from a focus on creating a single high quality chance rather than relentlessly pumping the ball into the box. The second was from Graham Taylor who said that anyone can organise a team, only a few can get it to score goals.

He said this after one of his stints coaching a team of celebrities in Sky’s The Match. The Match had a great concept – a team of young, fit celebrities are professionally coached to play a team of overweight ex-professionals. What the celebrities lost in skill, they gained in fitness. What should have resulted was an even game.

But, in three years, the celebrities scored one goal, a fluke. They could be organised and pass a ball around in a semi-competent way, but Taylor couldn’t train them to score when up against real footballers, albeit fat ones.

Which, in essence, is the challenge that faces Mickey Lewis. As a coach, he has proved more than competent organising a team, but can he up his game to win enough games to get us up?

After Wimbledon, the post-match phone-in for the mentally unsettled speculated that Lewis was worthy of immediate appointment. In fact, you could easily have deduced the Wimbledon result had secured us all of our 49 points on its own.

That win was generally heralded as a new dawn; positive, happy, more attacking and entertaining. There’s no evidence to suggest that’s true. Against Wimbledon we mustered 2 shots and enjoyed 48%  possession; compared to the 5 home games before that, our possession had only been worse once (against Plymouth) and our shots better only twice (Scunthorpe and Dagenham).

The difference, against Wimbledon, was that we were more efficient with the little we created. We probably shouldn’t rely on Tom Newey’s ghosted runs for goals in the future but David Connolly, a parting gift from Chris Wilder, could be the difference we need.

There have been studies done on the relationship between a working environment and productivity. It was proved that if you put plants into an office, productivity increases. However, it was also proved that if you take plants away, productivity increases. The conclusion is that it is not the plant that improves productivity, it is the change of environment. That it was the change we were benefitting from against Wimbledon, not Lewis’ tactical ability.

The subsequent trips to Bury and Bristol Rovers gave us two important points, but we didn’t quite have the extra guile to eek out a win in either game. It’s easy to be greedy, we’ve been so good away from home you might reasonably expect at least 4 points.

Between Lewis and Melville and a squad of players with their heads screwed on, it should be possible to hold things together long enough to reach the play-offs and perhaps better. But, it will be a close run thing.

Longer term, however, I don’t see Lewis having the ability to adapt the team’s composition and tactics to take us much beyond where we are. Aside from his tactical abilities, he’s always benefitted from being ‘good old Mickey’, loved by everyone, if he is going to be manager and he is going to be successful, then he needs to be happy being disliked because one day he’ll have to make unpopular decisions.

So, Mickey’s doing alright and, for the foreseeable future, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him continue to do alright, but as for the long term; I think we’ve got to look elsewhere.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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