Let’s dive straight into this bad boy.
1 - Expectations
I remember before the season began reading someone online poll that Marc Iles ran, where a good proportion of supporters believed that we would be mid-table or higher. I wondered back then whether they were on huge amounts of crack, to speak plainly, and it seems like they probably were.
Seriously though, what did people expect? A side that struggled / was unable to strengthen could only ever head one way. Finishing in 21st would have represented a fantastic season of success, and it’s sad to think that I might have been delusional myself to think we could achieve even that.
I must say though, that although I did anticipate struggle, not in a thousand nightmares did I expect it would be this bad.
There are a thousand mitigating factors as to why we are struggling and they have been discussed over and over and over, but the conclusion has to be reached that relegation is now almost inevitable and that is because the circumstances in which we found ourselves at the end of the transfer window have crippled us.
Those to blame for us being in that situation should never darken the doors of the Reebok ever again.
2 - The Defence
From our strongest asset to perhaps our weakest element, the defence has gone to places that we never thought possible. I’m going to give Mark Little and Antonee Robinson a pass on this one because they’re new, but the downturn in form of Mark Beevers and David Wheater has been catastrophic in its trajectory.
Beevers was a rock last season. Barely put a foot wrong and looked a class above - this year however thus far he’s looked like a rabbit in the headlights. I put part of the blame for this on the weak midfield offering zero protection to the defenders, but that’s just me looking for excuses not to be overly mean to a man who served us well last season.
As for Wheater, it comes as no surprise that he is struggling to handle the step-up in class. He was incredibly poor last time we were in this division, so to see him floundering against pacy and skillful opponents has an air of sad inevitability about it.
What can Parkinson do about it? Reece Burke, on loan from West Ham, was meant to come in and provide some youthful enthusiasm but so far has yet to put in a performance to match those expectations. Is he a true defender? Is he a midfielder playing out of position? I can’t tell.
3 - The Midfield
I hate to be overly mean here, but this midfield is a million times worse than the one that we had under Neil Lennon during the 2015/16 relegation season. That side finished the season with Neil Danns, Darren Pratley, Mark Davies and Derik Osede - of which just Pratley and Derik remain.
Comparing them to Josh Cullen, Filip Morais and Jem Karacan is ultimately pointless as they are not direct replacements - far from it. Coincidentally, Bolton Wanderers are ultimately pointless too. Bottom of the league pointless.
Cullen, as with Burke, might well have a good career playing at a decent level, but right now he seems like some sort of practical joke being played on us by Bradford City. I know he’s a young lad and so he does get some understanding on that basis, but yesterday was very poor.
Karacan has been disappointing ever since he signed permanently. I would like to ask you a question - had he not scored that goal against Peterborough would you have wanted him to sign up? I’m not sure. He is neither attacking nor defensive, and apart from flailing his arms around and appealing for everything, even opposition throw-ins, I fail to see what he offers.
I feel sorry for Morais, forced to operate in a central role when he is clearly a wide player. Yesterday it was almost as if he was brought into the side to take on set-pieces and nothing else. Play him in the position he is meant to play in, or don’t bother at all.
Josh Vela and Sammy Ameobi aren’t going to fix this, either.
4 - Gary Madine
Another all-action performance from Madine, one of the few who shouldn’t hang his head afterwards.
That said, barring one scuffed shot in the first half which came back off the post, he offered very little in terms of being a goal threat, again. This isn’t necessarily his fault because you can’t be in two places at once. He had two of our three shots on target, however, so this leaves me deeply confused.
He needs support and he needs support in critical areas. Play Adam Armstrong (for some reason) if you must, but play him alongside Madine. Alternatively, drop Madine and play ALF alongside Armstrong, and see how we get on playing two hobbits up top given our somewhat agricultural tactics.
I did read one funny line yesterday that someone posted on a forum that Madine will get a big move in January. Not sure his performances have been quite that good, but even now in the depths of our despair we are still relying on him almost exclusively and that is similarly worrying.
5 - Where Do We Go From Here?
I’m not in the ‘Parky Out’ camp - purely because I can’t fathom who might come in and do any better. I’d be more inclined to keep him and fudge through. We knew beforehand that the manager had very little Championship experience and that this could go either way.
That said, his tactics are beginning to baffle. We saw, last season, this tactical flexibility was part of his repertoire, but that seems to have vanished over the summer and that his Bolton Wanderers are beginning to sink without a trace.
So the question is where do we go from here?
In the short term, we know that chairman Ken Anderson has his club-branded wallet superglued shut and so I cannot believe for a second that he will sack the manager any time soon - not unless he can somehow claim the money back as some kind of expense scam. So we can, at best, expect this shite to carry on in the short term.
Whether that would be the case if we get pumped by six against Bristol City again and the online shouting / tapping gets even louder then well, all bets are off.