West Brom 2 Manchester City 1
Sunday December 21, 2008, 1.30pm
The Hawthorns - Att: 25, 010
Unsurprisingly, the message boards have been on fire following today's defeat and Mark Hughes has now been installed as the favourite (odds on to boot) to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job. Hughes however has stated that he expects to stay and has been given the green light as regards squad additions in January, which would suggest he will see the season out at least.
The difficulty now though is that with Paul Ince fired, the media speculation will all be about Hughes and it is inconceivable that this is not going to affect the team - particularly if reports regarding the splits within the squad are to be believed.
The 4-4-2 line-up that Hughes opted for today was perhaps him returning more to his trusted principles, and it did give us a more compact and tidy look yet we still lacked a really cutting edge and with a defensive central midfield of Gelson and Kompany, our creativity and spark always came from out wide and this was nullified by a lack of presence in the box.
Whilst Vassell and Benjani turned in performances that were amongst their better ones, it was more industry than anything else and the introduction of Caicedo at least saw a forward with some purpose and direction.
Hughes bemoaned individual errors once again, and Richards and Dunne's lack of consistency is a real issue now. Either a central defender of real quality needs to be added, or at least the hope is Diarra's arrival will allow Kompany to move into defence.
After getting a late equaliser, to lose so in that manner was so disappointing. Neither side probably did enough to deserve to win the game but given the lack of confidence and form that West Brom had coming into the game, to drop all three points against them does not auger well ahead of a potentially tricky pair of games to round out the year.
Most of the talk will now of course be regarding Hughes's future and there is no doubt he is under pressure, but lest we forget it hasn't just been this season that we have performed miserably - 2008 as a whole has been our annus horribulus.
The difficulty in sacking Hughes is that once again we will back to square one, hunting for a new manager, who will want his own staff, players and style - all of which will take time. This does not however mean he stay in the job solely for those reasons. The adage of being too good to go down is often used, but the way the league is shaping up this season means we can easily climb the table (a win today would have seen us move up to twelfth).
The danger we do have though is if our recent form is as a result of the cracks in the foundations of the Hughes regime, these could get bigger and bigger until the season is well and truly in a great deal of trouble.
Hughes is still the right man, but the questions are growing by the game.
Some quick thoughts
- With talk of factions within the squad, and an abject display in Santander, has Elano played his last game at the club (under Hughes at least)?
- How miraculous was Benjani's recoveryfor the game given he was expected to miss the remainder of this year?
- The Observer suggests that Gigi Buffon will arrive in January, on a weekly wage of £225,000 per week.
- Hughes's BBC interview does suggest he will be bringing 'immediate impact' players.