Like many of you I look forward to the West Brom game tomorrow (morning for us American types). The International break was a much needed one for the Whites and while there isn't necessarily anymore answers for us going into the match, it allows guys like Kieran Richardson and Dimitar Berbatov to get on the same page with their new mates. It also allows for guys like Bryan Ruiz to get healthy, who despite his national team call-ups didn't play--as he could return to the starting XI this weekend and hopefully regain his early stellar form from the first two games of the season.
While these things are all good and will help restore, what looked like an incomplete attack two weeks ago against the Hammers. Nothing is going to be as critical for the success of the Cottagers than the developments in the middle of the field. Both Mahamadou Diarra and Damien Duff had good performances against West Ham but despite that the team found all sorts of problems trying to get move the ball around the middle of the field.
This is partly due to the poor performance by Steve Sidwell. This was the third game in a string of sub par performances from the one-time Chelsea midfielder. Sidwell who had a couple different injuries this past summer in preparation for the season has yet to see a game where he really looked comfortable. Despite signing a 3-year extension of his own in April '11, Sidwell had lost his place in the first team line-up after Jol moved Dembele into the mid-field and was relegated to being a capable sub off the bench.
Now with Moussa gone wayward to the Spurs, It appears that Jol will now be forced to include Sidwell once more into the starting line-up. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as Sidwell has some technical skill. But he's seemed to lose that hunger that we heard so much about last year and he hasn't shown the ability to work with Diarra in the middle.
The hole that was left behind has been filled this past week by the free transfer of Giorgios Karagounis. Bringing about even more questions to be answered by Martin Jol about his midfield tactics and how the team will look going forward.
There is a lot to like about Karagounis as his Euro 2012 performance versus Russia was nothing uncanny. But the fact remains that he's still 35 and whatever he has left is very potentially going to come-up short of relieving Sidwell from the need of becoming a more significant piece within the club. It's obvious that this is a by product of Jol not expecting anyone to pay out for Dembele-not to mention his faith that he would not be leaving the club.
The play by Tottenham has shorthanded the club and forced us to make do with what we have. That's just the way things are going to shake out. But I must insist on however things are going to work out with our boys that Jol minimize Sidwells minutes until he recovers his form.
Sidwell's problems in the midfield could lead to an interesting even should Martin Jol decide to change-up his tactics. The Whites are hardly short on wingers, and while it's not necessarily ideal, presenting the thought that could lead to us seeing more of Bryan Ruiz in a more centre forward role.His play making skills are top notch and being able to work with someone like Berbatov is going to be a lot of fun to watch and make for some pretty goals.
This is where I step off the deep end, keeping Ruiz in the middle of the pitch could potentially allow Jol the option to elminate the second midfielder in his scheme and go with an "unconventional" line-up such as 4-3-1-2 keeping Mladen Petrić out on the pitch rather than Sidwell and using guys like Richardson and Ashkan Dejagah as mids that can help support the defence.
Really, I'm not against seeing Sidwell out on the pitch. I think he's useful player. But he seems to be a tad redundant at times with Diarra and he seems to be more acceptable in shorter roles. His play early in the season hasn't been that of a regular and until he makes the adjustments I personally think that there are some alternative options on this club.
I'm kind of stepping out on a limb here and that's fine. Maybe I'm reacting to the fact that the whole unit looked flat against West Ham. Maybe I'm overreacting to a guy who's just needing some time to regain his form. I'm not sure. But what I do know is that the team can't continue to go forward with performances like he has displayed at ManU, West Ham and even in the closing minutes against the Canaries.