Off the rails

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[SIZE=2]Before I start, this is not a personal assassination of Kenny Jackett. He was been a very good manager for this club. He provided stability when we desperately needed it and provided us with a team that for the best part of four years we could not only be proud of but associate with. It wasn’t filled with superstars, it was all about the team. Give them a challenge and they seemed to grow even stronger. The games against the likes of Leeds, Charlton, Norwich, Huddersfield, QPR were wonderful and showed what an unheralded group of players could do when they worked together.
And it is precisely this recent history that makes Jackett’s performance this season all the more absurd.

Everything in his managerial history tells you that he is a manager that relies on organisation and getting the best of limited resources. His team at Swansea was a mirror of ours, functional, hardworking but still good enough to win promotion. But like he has with us, he stalled when he was asked to take the team to the next level. And it seems to be down to the fact that he doesn’t trust his own instincts.

There was no need to change our entire style of play over the summer. It had been successful the previous season, and with some tweaks of personnel it would have been good enough for a respectable finish again this season. A solid 4-4-2 occasionally morphing into a 4-4-1-1, with the onus on getting in the oppositions faces and playing at a high tempo. We did need to learn to keep the ball better once we had it, and a more sophisticated formation of 4-2-3-1 could have been considered to give us more bodies in midfield to allow us to do that. But the fundamentals of playing as a collective and not letting the opposition play their game should still have remained.

Jackett however decided to throw all that out the window. Out went the solid structure and pressing of the opposition and in came a more open passing style. It looked great for a short spell but it quickly became apparent that we did not have the skill levels to make it work. We were suddenly more open and vulnerable at the back. To compensate he adjusted again and whilst the passing style remained our attacking options suddenly disappeared. I think the players lost faith in him as he struggled to make his new ideas work and he subsequently lost faith in a lot of them. This has manifested itself in far too many piss poor performances where the players appear not to be interested.

The Swansea defeat at the back end of last season had a profound effect on him and he saw their way of playing as the way forward. What he failed to recognise was that as well as Swansea played we had one of our games where we didn’t turn up and do the basics right. I can understand bringing a bit more flair into the side and to having a bit more flexibility in the system, but it should not have been at the expense of the attributes that got us back in the championship in the first place.

The other knock on effect of this change in tactics is that it makes player recruitment a damn site harder. In the old system it was probably a lot easier to find players to fit in to that type of style and formation. They didn’t need to be particularly skilful and if we are doing our shopping in the lower leagues they would undoubtedly be used to playing that brand of football. Instead we seem to be looking for multi-dimensional footballers – a defensive midfielder who can also control the tempo of a game; a centre forward who can hold the ball up, run the channels, make goals and score goals; a full back that is rock solid in defence but like Roberto Carlos going forward. These players obviously exist but they are highly sought after and, more often than not, out of our price range. Consequently we sign compromise players that aren’t up to the task and we’ve ended up with a totally unbalanced squad.

People have looked to blame injuries, referees, the fans, the players and the board for our struggles this season, but I’m afraid the buck stops with one man. Jackett is the reason we are in the position we are in, it is his decision making that has lead us to become the side we are.

As the Bish posted yesterday, all Millwall fans want is a committed team that gives the opposition nothing, and to paraphrase him, “[FONT=Tahoma]with wingers getting stuck in and opposition players flying”. Jackett recognised this when he first got here, it is what endeared him to us. For whatever reason he has now moved away from that and we are now left with a team with no character that rolls over far too often. There is no obvious system, no obvious leadership and the team selection is incomprehensible at times. And this is reflected in the performances on the pitch. The least we expect is for the opposition to have to come to the Den and fight tooth and nail to get the points. But Burnley, Bristol City, palace, Watford, Bolton and now Middlesboro have turned up and barely had to break sweat to beat us.[/FONT]

[FONT=Tahoma]The “tactical revolution” he has overseen has been a shambles. Even if we stay up I think his recent interviews show that he has served his time with us as he can still not see the problems that are staring us all in the face. He deserves to go out on a high so I hope we can put a little run together towards the end of the season, but come the summer I think we should be looking elsewhere. We need our team spirit back. We need our old Millwall back.[/FONT]
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