We now live in a post-Johnson world. With the Lundstram, Maguire and Sercombe deals preceding it, it seems an age since the only thing we had to talk about was football. Games happened between signings and speculation rather than the other way around. Take Saturday’s game against MK Dons, last year there was hyperbole around the size of following we took, this year there was barely a mention. The distraction is all with good reason; Experimental 361 blog says that there are only 5 clubs in the top five divisions with more churn in their squad.
Now we can hopefully begin to settle, not just until the next transfer window, but until the end of the season. The draw with MK Dons suggested that Johnson’s departure has been a good thing. In the games I’ve seen this year, there’s been plenty of talent on show, but little cohesion. A plan B without a plan A.
How might Johnson’s situation have impacted that? Obviously there’s the simple factor that all the while he was at the club but unavailable, there was potentially a Johnson sized hole in any plan, but also when a player gets a reputation as a multi-million pound man, he takes on a different guise. Up until the point he has a price tag, he’s just another player. Then he’s a £3million pound player; his ability has a quantity. Are players then a little more inclined to look to him for a solution? Do they miss him when he’s not there, cursing their bad luck on the fact that their star man is absent and therefore the cause of any problems or struggle?
Quite possibly. Certainly for once we looked better as a collective, greater than the sum of our parts. That’s because good teams are built not so much on talent, but on options. When one option eclipses all others, then it becomes much easier for your opponents to counter your threat.
Pep Clotet needs to develop a better understanding of the buttons he has to push to win games. His hand was forced to some extent by the relatively early loss of Tiendelli, although Aaron Martin looked solid when the defence was reshuffled. But, Clotet should have reacted more quickly to Dons’ growing threat as the second half wore on. But who to turn to? And when? And that is, currently, the challenge.
Certainly van Kessel and Obika need to learn to play together; there’s a partnership in there somewhere with Obika’s power and van Kessel’s pace, but is there the temperament to make it work? Ultimately Clotet has plenty to play with, with more still to come. The opening chaotic phase of reshaping his squad is now over, now is the time to find a groove, if it can be done before the clocks go back, then the season will start to look very promising.