Is there life for Posh after the Holy Trinity?
By John Fernandez
The expected departure of ‘The White Pelé,’ George Boyd and last season’s top scorer Paul Taylor, leaves Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United squad looking threadbare and barely capable of mounting any kind or fightback in the Championship.
The question posed is, will there be life after the Holy Trinity of Aaron Mclean, Craig Mackail-Smith and George Boyd.
We may only be three games into the season but, with zero points on the board and some lacklustre displays against Leeds, Milwall and Leicester fresh in fans minds, alarm bells are ringing at London Road.
Peterborough Chairman Darragh MacAnthony though, has invested well over the past year, forking out over £1m for Crawley Town’s Tyrone Barnett, purchasing Shaun Brisley, Bobby Olejnik, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Michael Bostwick, not to mention picking up Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Jonson Clarke-Harris and Danny Swanson on free transfers.
Fans obviously expected, that with all these arrivals, performances were meant to improve after a thoroughly lacklustre final months of the 2011-12 season.
Goals have been hard to find in the league however, and defensive errors have cost Posh in each game played so far. The worry is that with performances so poor, with Boyd and Taylor in the squad, how can an improvement be expected once they leave?
Where do Posh’s problems lie?
One of last season’s top performers Craig Alcock has been far from his best form, while Shaun Brisley has looked out of his depth in the Championship after seemingly settling well last season, while an injury to makeshift left back Tommy Rowe has meant that promising 18-year-old Kgosi Ntlhe has had to deputise at left back.
The young man has shown promise, however he hasn’t looked entirely comfortable at this level just yet.
The best example of Ntlhe’s inexperience came in the 2nd round Capital One Cup tie against Reading where he faced winger Gareth McLeary, who found him wanting on many an occasion.
With the defence looking shaky, emphasis has been put onto the team’s forward players.
The issues started with frontman Tyrone Barnett incurring a hamstring injury meaning he hasn’t featured yet this season. Without the influential target man, Posh have struggled in front of goal, with strikers Lee Tomlin and Paul Taylor looking off the pace in the Championship.
Ditch the Diamond
Much of the blame from fans has come upon Darren Ferguson’s diamond formation, a style of play which hinges on the defensive anchor of the midfield playing well.
That anchor position is currently occupied by Michael Bostwick.
Bostwick may be strong in the tackle and have good ability in the air, both qualities that position requires, he seems lacking in his vision and his ability to pick a pass, two other equally important traits.
Sadly while Bostwick may be developing a good understanding of how to play the position, he simply doesn’t have the ability at the moment.
This has led to calls for transfer-listed Northern Ireland international Grant McCann, to be re-called.
Where do the solutions lie?
In my opinion, a change of formation, the re-calling of McCann, coupled with the returns from injury of Barnett and Rowe, is what Posh will need to avoid relegation this season.
The 4-2-3-1 employed by Ferguson against Reading in the Capital One Cup allowed Bostwick and McCann to provide a screen and a solid base to build attacks on and looked solid against a strong Reading side.
When Barnett is back fit, he should lead the line, with Tommy Rowe playing in his preferred left wing role and the growing talent of Lee Tomlin on the right, with Danny Swanson playing in the hole behind the striker.
The back four in its current form simply isn’t working. A lot of Posh’s best performances last season came at the beginning of it, with Craig Alcock as a make shift left back and Mark Little on the right. A reversion to this could be what Posh need.
While Craig Alcock may prefer the right back berth, he offers little offensively in that position and will provide a more stable defensive pivot on the left, with Mark Little providing width on the right when Lee Tomlin cuts centrally onto his preferred left foot.
In the centre of defence captain Gabby Zakuani has a guaranteed starting spot, while Brisley and Knight-Percival will battle out for the 2nd spot. With Brisley struggling and possibly even losing his nerve against Reading, it may be time for the new-boy Knight-Percival to step in.
Whether wholesale formation and personnel changes is what a Posh squad in poor form needs is yet to be seen. But from the first three matches of the season, it’s clear to see that the diamond just won’t cut it anymore, with or without Taylor and Boyd.
The hope is that Darren Ferguson won’t plough on stubbornly with the diamond and he’ll hopefully see foul of his decision to list McCann and Little.
What Ferguson Jnr. does now regarding these matters could be what Posh’s season and his job hinges on.