Can we have our draws back?
A popular complaint from Albion fans this season is that we have had too many drawn games. Well, after the results in the last two fixtures at Bolton and Barnsley I wish that we had another couple to complain about. A draw in either of those games would see us still sitting in a play-off berth with nine games of the season remaining. What a strange game football can be. Our recent run of away fixtures has seen us secure a point at Bristol City without managing as much as a single shot either on or off target whilst the creation of countless chances at both the Reebok and Oakwell saw us leave both empty handed.
Taking a closer look at our drawn games this season we would appear to have had the upper hand in all but a handful of these shared-spoils results. Failing to take chances when on top and catastrophic individual errors late in games have seen us give away as many 16 points in drawn games already this season. Had everything gone our way we could be joint top with Cardiff right now and the play-offs would be a disappointing addition to a great season. Of course it is not as simple as that, you would have to remove the points gained from draws that were perhaps a tad fortuitous, Blackburn away and Millwall at home spring to mind, but our position in the table would still be far healthier and automatic promotion would still be a possibility.
Perhaps the most startling example of a team who could be accused of drawing too many games in a season comes from Italy and the 1978-79 Serie A season. Perugia managed to go the whole league season with their record unsullied by defeat but still did not manage to win what would have been the only scudetto in the club’s 100 plus years history. During that season Perugia managed to win only 11 of their 30 fixtures with the other 19 ending in stalemates – often quite literally stale, seven 0-0 draws or nearly 25% of their fixtures. They were notorious for keeping possession but doing very little with it (sound familiar?) and their top scorer that season managed a paltry 9 goals (the familiarity bell is ringing again!). Had Perugia managed to turn just 4 of those draws into victories they would have been crowned champions of Italy. This was of course Italy in the 1970’s with catenaccio ruling the roost with virtually all teams playing a low risk defensive game that saw many of the fixtures end in draws or settled by a single flash of inspiration or errors. It was also the days of two points for a win and the drawn game was not as costly to either side as it is now.
I’m not for one minute claiming the way that the Albion under Gus Poyet line up resembles those uber-cautious days but just listening to those around me in the Amex on match-days or reading the internet forums it is clear that many fans do believe we do not make the most of the attacking options available to us. Despite the success of the last few years there are still among us several fans who have not been convinced by the possession based cautious approach. I don’t know quite what these people want but I have noted that many of them are the same people who claim that we are drawing too many games. This is, in my opinion, a somewhat blinkered view with a belief that a more gung-ho approach would lead only to victories with two wingers running riot, feeding two strikers a veritable feast of chances with which to gorge themselves on. The reality is that we would see far less possession, would concede more goals and very likely see a majority of the drawn games end in defeat….or too put it another way, we would be Peterborough!
The drawn game is not one to mourn, let’s take a glass half full rather than glass half empty outlook and who knows…that 97th minute equaliser at Blackburn could yet be the point that secures us a play-off spot where we could draw all three games and reach the heavenly heights of the Premier League (although our penalty taking record would suggest this is a long-shot). Got to beat Palace on Sunday mind you….