The headline should be sung to the tune of “lions, tigers and bears” from the Wizard of Oz
After a quick January which had very few fixtures, February 2013 was the opposite with plenty of them.
But as the headline suggests, it was a month blighted by injury, suspensions and fatigue.
Champions League (Last 16, Leg 1)
Playing at home against Arsenal I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was regarded as slight favourites. While I had most of my squad available to me, I was without Beram Kayal who is out for 8-9 months with damaged cruciate ligaments – ouch
This was significant as he is my normal defensive midfielder in the 451 Counter I setup to play against Arsenals 4231.
In addition to the modified midfield 3, Lustig had to play at right back instead of the injured Matthews while Forrest was at right wing instead of the injured Stokes.
We started the game very much second best and a swift change to 451 Control brought our first goal. I’ve often changed to this formation as it stops inviting the opposition onto us quite so much.
Anyway the real turning point was Wanyama’s red card. We went from gaining control of the match to being right on the back foot again.
I started the second half without changes, which left a gap between defence and midfield (where Wanyama played). It was unfortunate that I noticed this just moments before Arsenal scored and my substitution, taking right winger Forrest off for defensive midfielder Ambrose, was too late. That said, some dodgy marking from Izaguirre was the root cause of the goal.
In the end, I felt unfortunate to have drawn, after playing the whole 2nd half with 10 men. We should have capitalized on Arsenals own injury and suspension worries to win this match.
As you can see from the results, we sailed through to the 6th Round (Quarter Final) of the Scottish Cup by beating Ross County and I was able to rest some players and still get a result against Inverness.
But it’s after the Arsenal game that things went pear-shaped.
The Dundee United game (injury list: Matthews, Kayal, Stokes) bore witness to some shocking defending from Lustig, and also resulted in injuries to Forrest and Commons.
Then going into the Dundee game, I had to play without an established right back (would you play Lustig after that horror show?) nor right winger (Stokes and Forrest injured).
As if matters could not get worse, Miku and Nouioui got injured during the Dundee game!
And then they got much, much worse. Fraser Forster got injured, spraining his ankle and leaving him out for 3-4 weeks.
The shaky form from a squad decimated by injuries continued but at least we managed a win against 2nd place Motherwell to leave us top of the SPL, 13 points clear of 2nd.
In the Champions League, I’ve nothing but praise for my players.
And overall we look great too.
Injury, suspension and fatigue
But here’s where we don’t look so good.
- Kayal, first choice DMC, is out of 7-8 months.
- Forster, first choice GK, is out for 3-4 weeks.
- Miki, first choice FC, is out for 2-3 weeks.
- Kris Commons is out for 5-10 days.
- Izaguirre, first choice DL, is showing the strain of playing so many games.
- Generally speaking, the team is struggling to keep up with the hectic schedule.
And if you add the suspension of Wanyama for the Arsenal game, I’m missing the core of my team (Kayal, Wanyama, Forster, Miku) for the return Arsenal game. I’d say Commons is unlikely to play too.
It’s not looking good!
I did, however get a new contract agreed with Hooper.
He’s on £21k p/w (up from £12k p/w) ‘til 2017. I hope that he earns this next season, when Miku returns to Getafe.
The reserves are still top of their league, though since they are on equal points to Hibernian with worse goal difference, I can only assume that’s because they’ve been better over the two games between them.
The U19s are in the semi-final of the U19s Scottish Cup. Tony Watt, Lewis Kidd, Bahrudin Atajic, Paddy McNally and Stuart Findley are still the top performers.
Another month, another loss, this time of £1.6m. Wages, Tax and Match Day Expenses are the biggest expenses with Gate Receipts the biggest income.
As always, projected profit is down again. This time from £22.64m to £19.26m which is quite a large drop.
And it should be noted that while I have £8.16m transfer budget left, I am now slightly over-spent on wages, due to Hooper’s wage rise.
March will be a huge month for us but it’s looking ropey due to the amount of injuries, a suspension and fatigue throughout the team. Other than reducing the training intensity and increasing the rest and rotation of the squad, I don’t think there’s much I can do.