What next after yet another poor Posh performance?
Our performances have dipped compared to earlier in the season but this could be attributed to a combination of tiredness and missing vital players out through injury.
The injury front seems to be clearing up with McCann and Rowe returning last Saturday and both Boyd and Frecklington hopeful of being available for Posh`s next match against Portsmouth.
For much of the start of the season, McCann, Boyd, Frecklington and Rowe were the main midfielders employed in the diamond formation by Fergie. With all of them heading back to full fitness, we should see an improvement in our possession of the ball and hopefully more chances will be created.
Posh have done well while missing at least one of the main four midfielders but we need to stabilise and move up the table again. Having all four back, fit and healthy will be vital in this goal.
Danny Kearns has shown great potential but having just completed a 35 game schedule in the Irish League prior to joining Posh, Fergie needs to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn`t get too tired which could result in him picking up injuries.
Joe Newell has also shown great potential when featuring recently and at only 18 years old, should have a long successful career.
If these six players can all stay fit, Posh should easily be able to cope with the likes of Brighton.
It could be said that having had to rely on youngsters Wootton and Tunnicliffe for quite a few games has taken its toll on them which could`ve resulted in their poor performance in the Brighton match. Put them alongside Rowe, who was returning from injury, and the argumentative Tomlin who only looked interested in having heated discussions with the referee instead of putting his anger into hurting the opposition by creating and scoring goals, the Posh midfield was definitely lacklustre.
Question mark remains over forward options
Fergie has often defended Emile Sinclair and heralded what he brings to the game, but the attributes he doesn`t possess far outweigh the attributes he does bring to the game! He does need to adapt and improve his game which I`m sure he is well aware of, having stepped up from League Two this season, but can Posh afford to give him time to do this every week?
With the likes of David Ball and Nicky Ajose now back in the fold, it would be good to drop Sinclair to the bench and try out the returning duo.
By bringing on Sinclair for the latter part of games he could cause major problems for the tiring opposition if he uses his pace effectively. His performance against Brighton started off brightly as he chased down balls, but this got less and less very quickly and was deservedly substituted. He needs to try to read the game better and anticipate where the ball may end up rather than reacting to where the ball has gone.
Ball and Ajose didn`t find the back of the net too often (not at all in Ajose`s case!) while on loan at Rochdale and Scunthorpe respectively but they have both proved in the past they know where the back of the net is. A clean slate is needed before we analyse whether they are suited to our style of play as you can`t judge Ajose on his two brief appearances for Posh and although Ball has played more times for Posh, he again didn`t set the world alight with his all-round play.
You could also add Tomlin to the forward line and if he can keep his temper in check and play football rather than arguing all the time, he would be a danger to the opposition especially if he can find his form.
At the minute, Paul Taylor should be the only forward guaranteed a starting spot. He has shown he has a lot of potential, is quick, has good feet and a good football brain. The main thing he needs to improve on is when to pass as he often tries to do too much and take shots on instead of passing to players who are in better positions. This may be partly down to frustration with the recent poor midfield performances.
Backline Looking Thin
With the recent departures of Tom Kennedy, Josh Thompson and Scott Wootton, it leaves the Posh backline with no senior defensive cover; time will tell whether Fergie decides to bolster his squad to resolve this issue.
Add to that the uncertainty surrounding Tunnicliffe and how long he may be at Posh, the squad could easily be looking at the remaining Youth team players to make up the subs bench again if re-enforcements aren`t forthcoming.
With just four recognised first team defenders left in the squad, everyone has their fingers crossed that no one picks up an injury.
Craig Alcock has been a revelation this season following his capture from League One Yeovil in the summer. He has performed consistently while playing at both left back and right back. While he can operate in both positions, it was while he was playing at right back that Posh looked their strongest defensively. He doesn`t offer as much as Mark Little going forward but you have to realise that his main duty is to defend, which he is good at.
Prior to Little`s injury, he was playing well as he seemed to finally realise that he needs to defend as well as go on his marauding runs. Unfortunately, since returning from injury, he`s forgotten that he should be defending at times! Brighton`s second goal came from an attack down Posh`s right when Little was caught up field!
Josh Thompson and Scott Wootton must`ve been gutted during their time at London Road as the form of Ryan Bennett and Gaby Zakuani has been getting better and better meaning they have only had fleeting appearances at centre back. My only concern is Gaby`s ability on the ball and the amount of possession he is given during the game. CMS tried to exploit this during the Brighton game as he knew what Gaby was like. However, Gaby has improved tremendously this season but it is still a worry when he has the ball at his feet and the opposition charging at him.
Formation - Is there a Plan B?
Since Fergie`s return, we have played with a diamond formation in midfield. There are pro`s and con`s for this formation as with every formation but it does seem to suit us down to the ground.
However, there have been numerous occasions where we should`ve changed the formation when it wasn`t effective. Fergie has, very rarely, reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation but changing formation from the diamond isn`t something Fergie likes doing!
Many fans feel George Boyd`s best position is on the left of midfield but when used in the diamond, he`s often at the top meaning we lose his creativity and threat down the left. Only recently when we did revert to 4-4-2 following a number of injuries, Boyd did briefly revert to the left wing and his understanding with Rowe, who was left back, was outstanding and Boyd did cause problems for the opposition. This is something we have missed.
In order for the team to move to the next level, one of the things we must learn to do is change the formation when things aren`t working. This is something Fergie himself must learn to do.
Are re-enforcements needed?
We`ve seen youngsters Jaanai Gordon-Hutton and Dan Lawler appear on the subs bench in recent games and with three loanee players returning to their clubs, the squad seems to be getting smaller by the day.
The Posh backline is now down to just four players so it is imperative we bring someone in as cover.
The midfield looks to be getting back to full strength so we may not need to bring anyone else in. A question mark surrounds the amount of time Ryan Tunnicliffe will be at Posh as he is only here until February at the minute but this could be extended if everyone is in agreement. However, he could go the same way as Wootton if his appearances are restricted by the returning players. With the likes of Joe Newell and Danny Kearns, I believe we have enough in our locker to see out the rest of the season with what we`ve got in this area.
The forward line has also been bolstered by the returning David Ball and Nicky Ajose from their loan deals. Fergie has plenty of forwards to select from as you can add Taylor, Sinclair and Tomlin to the forward line up and potentially play Boyd up front if need be as well. However, despite having plenty of numbers, are they up to the task of Championship football?
Looking at the overall squad, Posh are just lacking defensively, in numbers, and this is the only area that Fergie may look to bolster.
He will look to give chances to all the forwards in the squad and will be happy with the midfielders - as long as they remain injury free!
If we can add an extra defender or two and remain injury free for the remainder of the season and the forward line starts putting away the chances that are created we should comfortably retain our Championship status.
UP THE POSH!
Follow me on Twitter: @mwl1967
Photo courtesy of www.theposhpics.com
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