It feels like rock bottom this morning and, as far as Europe is concerned, it probably is. The ties against Legia were our worst performances in Europe. Neuchâtel has a horrible 90 minutes, Artmedia was a 20 minute collapse, and we beat Utrecht comfortably at home, but this was abject over two games.
There are unfathomables, for example, it’s hard to know why a defence which was so solid last season is suddenly inert, but it will surprise no one we didn’t make Champions League football this season. The day Neil Lennon left I suggested it would be a huge ask and it’s proven to be.
We are less than two years since the high point of recent seasons, finishing ahead of Benfica and Spartak Moscow in the Champions League, but the decline can be traced slightly further back than that.
We had an 18 month purple patch of player recruitment, starting when Fraser Forster, Gary Hooper and Emilio Izaguirre arrived in summer 2010, continuing with the arrival of Wilson and Wanyama, and ending with Mikael Lustig’s signing in January 2012. We were bringing players in for a few million who were Champions League calibre.
Since Lustig, the strategy hasn’t changed, but despite signing a raft of players, for much the same money, only van Dijk has improved the team. Most are, at best, misfits or squad fillers. Things started to go wrong with the bizarre signings of Miku and Lassad in late August 2012 and ramped up last summer with the arrival of Boerrigter, Pukki, Balde and Biton. There are more, of course. Some, like Griffiths and Johansen are hitting the modest levels expected of them, but we’ve been missing the target at an alarming rate.
Ronny Deila has so far brought in a six month loaner. He’s working pretty much with the squad Neil Lennon scraped into the Champions League with last season. He’ll now know what you and I knew about the squad months ago. Most importantly, he needs backing from the club as well as the support.
He has to refresh the squad, try to clear out the deadwood, and perhaps accept that one or two of our reliable performers in recent seasons are beyond their peak. It’s critically important that whatever has been going wrong since Lustig’s arrival is put right. Stop haemorrhaging millions of players who cannot command a starting place and start finding value.[calameo code=000390171ae033f39a0c4 lang=en page=120 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]