Wolves 1 Blues 0 .. Ron's Report

Last updated : 13 December 2010 By Richard Barker

This was a bad day for Blues.  Very bad, in fact.  Their performance was as bad as I can remember from an Alex McLeish Blues side.  At least Blues hit the target in that 5-1 game a few years back.

To be honest, it's not really worth me mentioning the formation or the selection.  Whatever and whoever was selected, it shouldn't have been this bad.  With performances like this from the players that were picked, it really made little difference.  It could have been any formation, Blues would have still come away with nothing.  This is one where the players need to take a long hard look at themselves.

Ben Foster was excellent.  He made a lot of saves, most of which were regulation saves really, but generally his handling was absolutely superb.  If it wasn't for him, Wolves could have scored four or five.  In front of him though, well, where do you start?

Roger Johnson and Scott Dann were awful.  Dann in particular had an absolute nightmare from start to finish.  Johnson also set the tone in about the first minute when he made a ridiculous challenge with both feet off the ground.  Had it been after 70 minutes, he could have been sent off.  He was only booked, but as a centre half, that's not ideal in the first 60 seconds.

Barry Ferguson was poor.  The unfortunate thing for Ferguson is that when those around him are poor, he's left with nothing really.  If he has people around him with no movement, expending little energy and offering him little, then what's left for him?  It means he has to try and force the issue more and he can't do it all on his own.  Consequently he looked awful.

Lee Bowyer, who has been much better of late, was desperately poor, whilst Keith Fahey was anonymous and Seb Larsson's display was pretty much an embarrassment.  Up front, Nikola Zigic and Cameron Jerome, both of whom were so excellent last week, were not good at all.  True, they had very limited service, but even so, you'd expect a lot more from both.

My first line was a little tongue in cheek.  Murphy came in for Liam Ridgewell (apparently injured) and you have to remember he hasn't played a Premier League game at left back for quite sometime - probably two and a half years.  He's come on in a few league games lately, but always in midfield where his inability to defend is less prominent and his fairly decent ability on the ball is better utilised.

He was forced into a shift at left back though, but fair play to him, he did ok.  Seriously, he was no more than "ok", but Foster aside, that was sufficient for him to be Blues' best performer.  He got up and down the flank fairly well, defended ok and, late on, all Blues' "threat" (if threat is the right word) came from him and Beausejour on the left.

Beausejour himself produced his best league display for Blues.  Again, he wasn't stunning, but he'd set fairly low standards himself lately and he wasn't dreadful, like the rest.  He was ok.  Green Skittles aren't great, but they'll still stand out in a steaming pile of excrement.  Beausejour's delivery was, for the main part, decent and he offered Blues something.

Honestly though, this is me trying to make something out of nothing really, because don't let the fact that two back-up players weren't crap mask an absolutely shocking display.

Before I rant a bit more though, let's not make all this about Blues; Wolves played well.  They played with passion, pace, power, desire and dynamism.  Their performance consisted of all of the things that you'd want when you lack skill, as Wolves do, and as Blues do and as plenty of other teams do.  You have to make up for it in other ways.  They did and they thoroughly deserved their win.  Fair play to them.  Oh for Blues to have had a performer like Stephen Hunt.  Love him or hate him, he's a Savage-esque character and all battling teams need someone like him.

Back to Blues though and the performance was pretty much inexplicable.  I know people will read this and, as is so often the case, think that I am over-reacting.  I'm not.  This performance was abysmal.  I'm not saying that Blues will now go down or that they're in crisis or anything, I'm just saying that at Wolves, in this game, they were shocking.  They were.  It was embarrassing.

I don't think Wolves had kept a clean sheet for something like nine months.  Blues failed to have a shot on target.  That's not good enough. It is that simple.  There was nothing from Blues.  The distribution from the back (Johnson and Dann) was shocking.  There was no creativity whatsoever in midfield.  The front players were completely incapable of creating anything themselves.

That's an issue, in my mind.  Yes, the front players need service, but the top forwards can make things happen themselves.  Now, not for one second am I suggesting that Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is the answer, but he was excellent today and on occasions he would receive the ball with his back to goal and he'd get himself into position to test Foster or to open up the Blues defence.  There was nothing of the sort from Jerome or Zigic.  Blues are desperate for a proper centre forward (or two).

I thought that McLeish would go 4-4-1-1 before the game.  As I say, I don't think that it would have made any difference, but I do think that you need Craig Gardner in the Blues side.  I thought he could have played off Jerome, as he did at the start of the second half against Spurs.  I am not suggesting it would have made any difference, but Gardner does offer some of the attributes I've referred to above and Blues miss them when he is out.

I don't think that Lee Bowyer deserved to be dropped (although after this, he may well do), but Gardner could have played behind Jerome or even wide right again - Larsson's hardly setting the world alight right now.  I just feel that when you've got a player like Gardner and you're a club like Blues, you need him in the side.

Another thing that I don't understand is McLeish's first substitution.  He changed two players, taking Zigic and Fahey off and bringing Beausejour and Gardner on, going 4-4-1-1.  It seems bizarre though that when you bring an out and out winger on (Beausejour) and you're 1-0 down, you remove one of the two centre forwards?  Why?  I'm not saying Zigic shouldn't have come off, but he could have been replaced by Kevin Phillips (who came on for Bowyer ten minutes later anyway).  It seems totally bizarre.  Basically Blues then spent ten minutes in the second half, chasing the game, with a winger on but one less centre forward on.  Why?  It seems so strange.

In the end though, it didn't really matter, as despite everything I've said, Gardner wasn't up to much when he came on anyway and Phillips looked rustier than something incredibly rusty.  

It's not the end of the world and it doesn't plunge Blues into crisis, but by the same token there's no point in burying our heads in the sand and pretending that this didn't happen.  It did, and it has to be something of a concern.  For Blues to be so inept against a team that were joint bottom of the league and have conceded a ridiculous amount of goals, well, it's not good.  

I thought Blues would lose this game anyway, and there's no disgrace in losing away at Wolves - they're another team at our level.  There is disgrace in turning up and performing like this though and it needs to be sorted out.  It was horrendous.