Thursday, 22 November 2012

Danny Lennon's St Mirren: Where Has It Gone Wrong?

It’s quite strange to note that out of about 150-odd posts, there are only six about St Mirren.  The first was four years ago and about the position of our manager at that point – Gus MacPherson.  Ironically four years on, it his successor – Danny Lennon – who is the subject of the ire of the St Mirren supporters.  This will be perplexing in particular to those people on the outside who saw the fine football we produced last season.  So where did the six defeats in a row come from?

In truth even when St Mirren were playing well but being profligate with our chances, St Mirren were still too light at the back.  Darren McGregor missed most of last season with a knee injury, and is missing this season with another knee injury, in theory while we were bringing in the likes of Thompson, Hasslebank, Teale etc, we should have been looking at our defensive areas as well and brought in another central defender.

Danny Lennon tries out his Cloughie impersination on Gary Teale with little effect

The failure to provide adequate cover at the back was not a huge issue last season, but Lennon’s change in formation for this season has seen this issue come to the fore alongside another issue with Lennon’s recruitment policy – the failure to bring in another defensive midfielder to replace Stephen Thompson.

Last season St Mirren mostly deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation, occasionally venturing into a 4-1-4-1 formation and also deploying a 4-3-3 formation at times (like the Scottish Cup tie at Hearts).  The split midfield consisted of Thompson & Goodwin acting as the more defensive midfielders while 3 of Hasslebank/McGowan/McLean/Teale or Carey (with the addition of Dougie Imrie from the January transfer “Window”) took up attacking positions in advance of Thompson & Goodwin but playing just behind the forward (mostly Steven Thompson).  This formation took St Mirren to 8th but instead of last season being the foundation to better things, St Mirren has instead regressed.

St Mirren lost Hasslebank, Tesselar and Stephen Thompson during last summer, but brought in the defender Dummett (on loan), the young midfielder Robertson and forwards Parkin & Guy.  The idea of playing two up front has obviously been foremost in Lennon’s mind as this season St Mirren have mostly played a variation of 4-4-2 (with the exception of the 5-0 hammering by Celtic that saw St Mirren play a 3-5-2 formation).  The problem with the formation deployed this season is that the 4-1-3-2 formation has not provided enough stability at the back, or provided St Mirren with enough grip in midfield.  The loss through injury of Paul McGowan has meant a loss in creativity for St Mirren, but the loss of grip in midfield has been a major cause of St Mirren’s decline this season.

In the last home match, against Aberdeen, St Mirren had problems in passing the ball into central midfield areas (both McLean & Robertson had a serious off day), this resulted in St Mirren giving the ball away in key area’s.  Aberdeen’s first two goals came from misplaced passes into central midfield areas.  Aberdeen’s well organised pressing meant that St Mirren only really had any joy down the flank’s – from which they were able to have the better of the first half.  In the second half, Aberdeen simply pressed home their advantage while completely nullifying any effectiveness that the St Mirren midfield might have had.

So, how do Danny Lennon & St Mirren take things forward?  I think that Lennon needs to change to a formation that will provide defensive stability, much like the formation Lennon had last season (which provided the platform for much of the attacking football from last season).  He might go back to 3-5-2, but after the horrors of the Celtic game much work will have to be done to make a back three work.  That and i'm not that sure that Lennon knows how to make 3-5-2 work.  The other option being discussed in less and less hushed tones is the replacement of Lennon.

We are still a bit off of that course of action happening.  However that outcome may well come a bit closer to happening if Dundee win on Saturday at Greenhill Road to overtake St Mirren & push them into the relegation spot.  If it’s not crucial for the board, then Saturday’s home match with Dundee will probably act as a tipping point for the fans. 

In this respect, Saturday’s match is a must win match for Lennon who will need something to see him to the January window.  Defeat could well be the beginning of the end for Lennon.

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