Date:Thursday January 19 2006
Craig Levein says he's had more meetings with his players recently than he would in a business office and it begs the question - does he really know what to do about Leicester's alarming slide?
In such a crisis it is understandable that any manager would ask his players for their views. But how many times?
Would you not listen the first time, perhaps adjust your thinking and then form a new battle plan?
Endless meetings suggest uncertainty, and that's the last thing City need when they face Cardiff at the Walkers on Saturday.
Indeed Levein faces an uncomfortable dilemma. He may have lamented the lack of midfield options at Sheffield Wednesday but he's spoilt for choice now.
In choosing his team he's got to decide how he wants to play and there's the rub. Is he sure himself?
For me it wouldn't have been a problem from day one. I'd have packed my teams with attack minded footballers and gone out to win every game from first minute to last.
In City's situation now, where we need to average more than a point a game to survive, draws are next to useless. We have to score goals and win.
But Levein is his own man and away from home he is caution personified. Even at home you'd rarely say he was fully committed to attack, except of course for that memorable game against Sheffield United.
And so how will he tackle his selection riddle for the Cardiff match?
It's not very motivational but he says the talking has been done and the players now have to deliver on the field. But he still has to pick a team that enables them to perform.
Will he strangle the possibilities before they start or will he adopt a strategy and put a team out to compliment that strategy in every way?.
Look at the possible midfielders for Saturday: Smith, Hughes, Wesolowski, Kisnorbo, Williams and Morris. In a 4-4-2 system, two must be left out and which two depends on where your commitment lies.
It's the same in defence. The choice is Stearman, Maybury, Johansson, McCarthy, Dublin, Sheehan.
The generally perceived strongest line of Stearman, McCarthy, Gerrbrand/Nils and Maybury is strictly defensive and has provenly faltered. Only if you accommodate Dublin and Sheehan does it become more attacking.
That is Levein's quandary, even before he chooses his two strikers from another growing group.
To be honest though, I think you can argue all day about who best to play up front I'd go for the logical line and pick the two highest scorers in DeVries and Fryatt (with O'Grady, Hume and Hammond in reserve).
No, the key lies in midfield and defence. If he's going to attack he's got to pick attackers throughout the side wherever possible.
Wesolowski, for instance, looks a far more creative and effective rottweiler than Kisnorbo.
Similarly if his backline lacks attacking potential then the team will be too vulnerable to the sort of spoiling tactics on which we've founded so often at home.
And that will surely be fatal because Cardiff have front men who can, and probably will, score at least once.
We have, after all, conceded goals at home for our last six matches and in our last 12 games anywhere. So much for solid defence.
The team I'd go for is:
Stearman, McCarthy, Dublin, Sheehan;
Hammond, Hughes, Wesolowski, Smith;
This team is no more certain of winning than any other we've put out so far but, for the first time this season, it would reflect full commitment to a strategy and would have everyone in a natural position, except for the emergency use of Hammond.
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|AFC Bournemouth||1||-||1||Leicester City|
|West Ham||1||-||2||Leicester City|
|1. Man City||4||4||0||0||+10||12|
|2. Crystal Palace||4||3||0||1||+3||9|
|3. Leicester City||4||2||2||0||+3||8|
|5. Man Utd||4||2||1||1||+1||7|
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