Thursday, 26 February 2015

Huge Test For Michael Appleton

After an extremely topsy turvy season I genuinely think Saturday's impressive 3-0 demolition of Mansfield might have been the moment Appleton realised that a direct style and 4-4-2 formation is the way to go, however I think a return to his former club Pompey will test if he is really cut out for management.

After back to back victories, it looks like a resurgence for Portsmouth could be on the cards. The signing of Wimbledon's top scorer Matt Tubbs playing a huge part in that no doubt. Oxford's trip to Fratton Park on Saturday will obviously be a very tough game, however we are on the back of a cracking 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Mansfield. I've lost count of how many times I have heard the phrase "this could be a turning point" this season, however the manor of the win gives me hope this finally could be it. 

As well as this, Michael Appleton's willingness to change tactics in recent matches has given me a bit of hope. He is starting to realise that you can't play tiki-taka, tippy-tappy football on these pitches and with teams like Stevenage kicking lumps out of you. We are not exactly playing route one football but we seemed to have picked up that nous or knowing when to play a short pass or when to play a long ball. In comparison to earlier in the season when at times we were just passing it around the back. 

Another thing I have found a big issue this season is the formation, I don't think we have the players to play his favoured 4-2-3-1. However at last he stuck Hylton up top and plays one of his best game in ages and Hoban didn't look as isolated as he did at Burton and could use his strengths more effectively. Hoban was able to hold the ball up really well and lay it off to Hylton or MacDonald who would be making gut busting runs into the box. 

Despite this, I am still a bit worried that Appleton will go back to his old ways and we will start to see his bad habits that we constantly saw at the start of the season. I am also apprehensive that he will keep chopping and changing the team, the only change we should make for Saturday is if Joe Skarz is back. That is it. A settled squad and a settled starting eleven is how you succeed. For example, Oxford United have used a total of 41 players this season in comparison to Burton Albion's 24. Burton are top and we're 17th. 

This is why I think it's a huge test for Michael Appleton and we will find out a lot about our manager on Saturday. If he reverts back to bad habits, changes a few players and we start with a 4-2-3-1 we might as well sack him because it would become clear he just isn't learning and the tactical knowledge he appears to have picked up is just a false dawn.

Most of the people who listen to my views will know I have heavily criticised Michael Appleton this year, but I haven't got a vendetta against him. If we starting winning and playing well I would very quickly change my mind about him, no problem. In recent weeks and months, in fairness, he has made some great decisions. The signings of Joe Skarz, Patrick Hoban and especially Alex MacDonald look like wonderful additions to the playing staff.  I just think the praises I have given to the team in this blog become more consistent and not just once in a blue moon, because inconsistency will get us absolutely no where in this division.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Burton Reaction- Worrying Times

Oxford United are now just 4 points above the relegation zone after a poor defeat at the hands of high flying Burton Albion.

Another week, another bad result. Extremely worrying times at Oxford United at the moment, just 4 points above the relegation zone and Oxford not improving. Have we seen this all before back in 2006?
In today's game, I thought there was a lack of ideas and creativity from all over the pitch. Patrick Hoban was starved of any service and barely touched the ball all game, you had to feel sorry for him.
Another very frustrating aspect of the game was that whenever Callum O'Dowda got the ball he made something happen, either he would take on the full back and get a cross in or make a pass in the right direction to get the play going. However, Oxford did not get the ball to him often enough and he couldn't take on the full backs and make something happen as often as he would have liked. I thought the team looked very nervous in the early stages on the game, I think this stems from Michael Appleton telling the players the day before that if Burton score first the game is over. What kind of message is that to send to the players? No wonder it looked like they gave up after Adam McGurk nodded Burton ahead after 13 minutes.  
This time last season Bristol Rovers were on 34 points and ended up getting relegated. Guess how many points Oxford United are on right now? Yes, we are on 34 points. Anybody that thinks that we are not in a relegation battle really needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The problem comes down to the management without a doubt, Michael Appleton has had more money at his disposal than Chris Wilder had put together in his final two or three seasons at the Football Club. Chris Wilder would never have been able to put a £500,000 bid on a player, like Appleton did with Tyrone Barnett. Another thing I find annoying is him blaming the players every week because the majority are players he has signed and brought into the club, he has to take some responsibility. He also can't blame the strikers for not scoring because they are not getting any service. 
Bristol Rovers got relegated last season on 52 points, where are the 18 points going to come from to keep Oxford United in the Football League? I really don't know and that worries me.
At home to Mansfield on Saturday could well be the biggest and most important game since we returned to the Football League in 2010. If we lose we would be put right in the relegation mire, and with tough games to Morecambe, Bury and Plymouth on the horizon after that we would be in deep trouble. So everyone make sure you are there on Saturday to get behind the boys!