I’m sure that Zola didn’t expect the mediocre display of last Saturday.
He fielded our best injury free players and the “take home message” (as lecturers used to be fond of saying), was that without Bellamy, there is no room for complications if we are to grind out a decent league position, or cup success either for that matter. That’s why we need to start fielding the subs a bit more.
To be able to field more or less the same team week in week out is a vital important part of most teams success, at least for the clubs outside the top 4. It can be the difference between top half security and relegation battle.
At this time of the season it can be easier said than done. Most players been problems of some sort (I’m talking physical problems here, leaving their mental status uncommented for now ;-) ) and it doesn’t take much to be side lined. At the moment 80 (!) PL players are out injured according to Physioroom. We are lucky to have only 3 on that list, but then they don’t have Tomkins, Behrami, LBM or Cole on there.
The Club argues that the medical staff has a big influence on the fitness of our team and I’m sure it has, but for a few players to pick up a knock that keeps them out isn’t exactly unheard of. So an extra mid week game came as an unwanted increase in the player workload.
In addition, Neill and Noble are to serve their one game bans for 5 yellowcards. One may think that Neill is not one of the best players in our starting lineup, but I can’t see anybody in our squad doing a better job at right back. Also, to keep that back 4 intact has a great value by itself.
Despite this, the bans may be as well actually, since I think Zola/Clarke needs to give some of the regulars a rest despite us being a few starters down already, just to make sure they are there for the majority of the remaining games. Against Boro we had Tristan, Lastuvka, Lopez, Kovac, Savio, Spector and Sears on the bench. Can’t say I’ve seen that much of the first 4 of them and I'd rather keep it that way. However, that’s why I think we should let some of them get off the bench and get significant playing time.
I'd rather see them doing one or two planned outings than to have them as starters for the reminder of the season.