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End of Term Report Part 6 27/05/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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15 (#2 – addendum) – Albert Riera

OK, so I forgot Albert Riera.  You can read into that what you will…

Riera was an unexpected recruit at the end of March. Having been released by Galatasaray in the January the Spaniard was signed up by Udinese with a view to joining them on July 1st and in the meantime came to Vicarage Road accompanied by the vague suggestion that this might be a precursor to another loan next season.  He immediately took up residence in the left wing-back position, and whilst there was no doubting his sumptuous ability, witness 16 caps for Spain and showcased by that remarkable goal against Ipswich, there was certainly doubt regarding how effectively we were able to use him.  The left wing-back position wasn’t alien to him, certainly… he’d apparently been playing in the same position in Turkey (before having his contract terminated by mutual consent) – but he looked singularly uncomfortable with the defensive aspects of the role to the extent that you’d probably have wanted a stout full back behind him when fielded as an out-and-out winger, let alone as a wing-back.  Too often he was caught on the wrong side of the player he was supposed to be covering, giving away silly free-kicks and earning sulky yellow cards by tackling from an impossible position or mouthing off in frustration afterwards, a phenomenon that climaxed with a red card at the Valley.  Also worth mentioning in passing that he looked like a bloke who’d be far happier dressed in scruffy denim slouched on a pavement chair outside a café smoking roll-ups and drinking strong coffee than doing anything energetic like playing football.  No doubting his louche, effortless ability…  plenty of doubt over whether and where we could productively employ it.

Next Season:  Lloyd Dyer’s arrival would seem to preclude his return;  Granada doesn’t sound like a bad bet.

20 (#2) – Park Chu Young

Signed on loan in January to provide the “quick bloke” option that we’d been crying out for up front all season, Park managed 62 minutes of football for the Hornets, 61 of them in an utterly miserable day at Bolton.  I witnessed neither that one nor his cameo at home to Brighton and as such there’s precious little to comment on… except to note, a footnote, that this was yet another of this season’s signings that for whatever reason – fitness, injury, luck, attitude? – didn’t work out.  Perversely, arguably the least successful Hornet of the season will be heading to Brazil for the World Cup and naturally it’s difficult to feel anything other than indifferent.  Except to comment that it’s a shame that that Specials-inspired song never really had a chance…

Next Season: At the end of his Arsenal contract it would seem unlikely that Park’s future lies in this country.

21- Ikechi Anya

As previously discussed on BHaPPY, my perception was that Ikechi perhaps suffered under Beppe’s more disciplined system, less of a free reign to cause havoc in attacking positions, the need for defensive discipline restricting his effectiveness.  The stats don’t bear that impression out though…  one assist and one goal under Gianfranco (in the same game, the romp at Oakwell) versus four goals and ten assists under Beppe tell their own story.  Towards the end of the season Anya spent a fair amount of time in more central attacking role supporting Troy, an experiment that if it didn’t convert Ikechi into a goal machine wasn’t a complete disaster… it gave our attack some zip that it was desperate for, gave defences something else to think about and restricted opponents’ ability to push up a high line on us.  The problem for Ikechi this season was of course our complete reliance on him for that burst of speed, a responsibility that meant that he was both fielded necessarily in perhaps unnatural positions and that he was the focus of more attention from opponents than he might have been.

Next Season: The recruitment of Lloyd Dyer should help Anya no end.  Either way heremains a joy and one of the most valuable and likeable members of the team.

22- Almen Abdi

I work in scientific research.  That’s my day job.  I’m a statistician; a big part of it is ensuring that the conclusions that are drawn are accurate, appropriate.  Often these conclusions are based on comparison… comparing how well this approach works to how well THAT approach works, perhaps.  To make that “fair”, you need to make sure that things that you’re comparing are as similar as possible in every practical respect.  If you’re comparing two medicines, for example, it’s hardly sensible to give one medicine to relatively healthy patients and another to severely ill patients and compare based on recovery rates.  Some complicating factors you can control, some you can’t control but you can measure.  Some things are just thereAdjusting for them, planning for them, weighing things up, quantifying. All necessary for an accurate judgement.

Sometimes, however, you don’t need a statistician.  Sometimes the existence of an effect, a genuine impact, just screams at you from the spreadsheet.  Page.  Pitch.  What had been remarkable last year was quite how consistently magnificent Almen Abdi was.  You don’t normally get that sort of consistency from that sort of player, not in the second tier at any rate. This year what was remarkable was the impact that Abdi immediately had on our performances.  Like a sprinkle of magic dust that suddenly knitted everything together, gave it a focus and an engine and a brilliance that made it so much more effective.  Of the sixteen games he was involved in inbetween injuries and false starts, often half-fit or cautious, we lost four… two unfortunate defeats at Blackpool and QPR, the cup game at Man City and Forest away when he came on at 2-2 and was off injured within a minute of us going behind.  The rest were characterised by that verve. Solid gold.

Next Season:  The consensus is that we weren’t that good this season, that we didn’t deserve to make the play-offs, were never going to make it.  I don’t buy all of that.  Certainly we weren’t that good, but being in the play-offs merely requires you getting more points than all but five of the others.  Brighton weren’t that good either.  With a fit Almen all season it’s inconceivable that we wouldn’t have made it.  Cross everything for a clear passage next season.

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