As Yeovil Town slipped in to the National League relegation zone following Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Dorking Wanderers, manager Chris Hargreaves admitted he understood supporters’ frustration and indeed shared them.
Some fans took to social media to call for the manager to be given his marching orders after just 12 matches, but here supporter Jake Gallagher sets out why he believes the boss should be given more time by the Glovers fans…..
Well this piece got tougher and tougher to write as I drilled down into the analysis but the title remains and so does the sentiment, it’s my belief that Chris Hargreaves should be given time at Huish Park, to at least the end of October.
Look I get it, ten points from 12 games is not good enough. Nor is 13 points from 12 games which is where the algorithms and statistics – I’m talking about the dreaded xG [expected goals – how many goals a team should have scored based on the quality of the chances created]– suggest Yeovil Town should be based on performances. Looking at the squad, I’d suggest something closer to 16 or 17 points would be where we want to be – sat plumb in mid-table. I don’t think anyone would complain about that.
But 10 points and 21st place is a fact that is difficult to hide from.
With a new manager and fresh promise I naively bounced into the season regularly chanting about winning the f****** Conference in 2003 and hating those b******** in claret and blue. The ‘We want Priestnall out’ songs were loud and clear too, as the overarching message from us all that the owner is not welcome at Huish Park was coupled with getting behind the team.
That bounce I mentioned has waned into a mild bob in recent weeks as good performances have resulted in fewer points than we deserve. The xG, expected goals, suggests that Yeovil should have three more points than we currently do – and that would put us 16th.
Expected goals (xG) calculates how many goals a team should have scored based on the quality of the chances created.
Now 16th is clearly not where we want to be either but it’s not in the drop zone. So where did those extra three points wriggle away from us? In two specific games actually, both in August. The first was the loss to Barnet at home which saw them go top of the league. Our 1.78 xG compared to their 0.88 was the epitome of a smash and grab away performance and rubber stamped our lack of ruthlessness which has plagued the season. Against Barnet we should’ve had at least a point.
And the second was away at Wealdstone, who were top when we played them, and we couldn’t turn our man advantage, 15 shots and xG of 1.91(!) into the solitary goal needed for the full three points rather than one.
I’m aware these are all ifs, buts and maybes and xG doesn’t win football matches, but these statistics do have weight when analysing performances.
But it’s not just those games and missed points, it’s the timing of them. If we did manage to back up the home win against Dagenham and Redbridge with a win at a Wealdstone who were top of the league when we kicked off against them on August Bank Holiday Monday that would have been a huge step in the right direction.
Confidence would’ve been high and we’d have kicked into a very winnable home game against York City. Instead we put in our worst performance of the season and these are the fine margins that have big consequences.
Yeovil were given rough fixtures at the start of the season seeing us travel to Scunthorpe, a relegated side wanting to put last season behind them in front of their own fans, followed by hosting the overwhelming favourites for the league title in Wrexham. That tough start has continued and now 12 games into the season you’ll find that Yeovil have faced eight teams currently positioned in the top half and four in the bottom half. To hammer home this point, two of those teams in the bottom half are 13th and 14th. We’ve played a higher standard of team in the league than the average, is what I’m saying. And not only have we played teams in the top half currently, but we played them when they were flying at their highest.
Now, due to sheer fact that all teams have to play each other twice over the course of the season – not exactly breaking news I know – means we’ll be facing some sides in the bottom half and have fixtures versus Oldham (16th), Aldershot (22nd) and Maidstone (15th) in October to look forward to.
Improvements must be made though – I know that. I’m not sat here typing this on my lunch break telling you that it will all be fine once we’ve played the poorer teams in the division. The signs are clear that we’re underperforming. Yeovil Town have dropped ten points from winning positions this season, no team has dropped more in the National League. There’s a clear mental block in the squad when we go a goal up that I cannot put my finger on, and I can’t dig out a statistic to explain it. We seem stuck between pushing for the second and sitting deep into a low block to protect the lead. In reality, we do neither.
The Glovers have had the second fewest amount of penalty box touches (144) in the league and our top goal scorer is our left-wing back. It’s time to make some tactical changes.
So how do we get out of this situation? What are some actions we could take? Well, a change in formation must be the most obvious. In pre-season, Chris Hargreaves said repeatedly that we will change formation between games and within games based on the opposition but we’re yet to see that despite a run of bad results.
Changing to a back four is one call from the fans I can get behind. The issue though is Josh Staunton. Not because he’s not a good player, he’s arguably our best, but because I think Hargreaves is terrified to take such a reliable player out of the defence. If you push Staunton into midfield you lose Staunton in defence and the option of playing him in a back four isn’t feasible. Josh is perfect for that Conor Coady-esque role in the centre of a back three but Hargreaves must now push him into midfield, shielding the defence, as opposed to leading it.
So that’s settled, a back four is needed. But what about in front of it?
As we can’t hold on to a lead and seem to fade in games, a central midfield three making us less reliable on the ball playing abilities of Lawson D’Ath would be suggested. This would also mean our ‘five-figure’ signing Will Dawes, a winger, and Charlie Wakefield, a winger, could play in their actual positions. But not just Dawes and Wakefield, Gime Toure is very suited to the wide-forward role running at defenders with the ball at his feet.
The persistence in playing the 3-4-3 or 3-4-1-2 has meant we’re not putting our best attacking players in their best positions. Playing Wakefield at wing back, as you’ve mentioned on the podcast many times, is the squarest of pegs in the roundest of holes. Just play him in a wide-forward role, preferably on the right, give him the ball and tell him to run with it. Job done. Don’t overcomplicate things.
Confidence is everything in sport – one good result changes everything and with some very winnable fixtures coming in October I’d suggest patience with Hargreaves and his team. One thing you have to say is the players are leaving it all out on the pitch for the club – there’s no issues in motivation or playing for the badge or the manager or whatever cliché you want to trot out.
Just changing the formation though won’t be a magic pill that results in three points against Solihull on Saturday – but showing willingness to try something new is what’s needed on the terraces. If I see three at the back on Saturday at 3:00pm, it might be the last straw that makes me join the #HargreavesOut brigade.
We welcome everyone’s opinion here in the Gloverscast – goodness knows, you hear enough of ours – so if you fancy putting your point across about an issue relating to Yeovil Town, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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