Hallelujah! A point at Kingsmeadow for the first time in four visits. As 0-0s go, this one was pretty satisfying – definitely not pretty. Here’s a restricted view of what went down.
SELECTED WYCOMBE NUMBERS
- Possesion: 44%
- Total shots (on target) (inside box): 14 (5) (10)
- Big chances (missed): 2 (2)
- Corners: 4
- Offsides: 3
- Fouls: 12
- Passes (accuracy): 270 (50%)
- Tackles attempted (won): 12 (7)
We might still be waiting for our first league win over AFC Wimbledon on their patch – or our first against them anywhere in almost five years, but snapping a three-match losing streak against a bogey side represents some form of lifting a hoodoo. It’s a small psychological boost at least – and in the bigger picture, while we haven’t won away from home in five, we’re unbeaten on the road this season. Sure, we ought to have scored a couple more, but we have kept two clean sheets and should have kept a third. When that first away victory comes, it will be built on the rock solid foundations we’re laying – and even if you win all your away games and draw all your home ones, you end up with 88 points, which would have got you promoted in two of the last five League One seasons 😉
Joe Jacobson Re-Ascending to His Peak?
This was Jacobson’s best game of a strong early season. He was excellent, playing a big part in stopping his direct match, the hosts’ danger man Luke O’Neill, from causing quite the level of carnage he often does. JJ won 83% (5/6) of his ground duels, his second highest success rate this campaign – although, admittedly, his best so far was only 2/2 – as he displayed a combative side of which we perhaps don’t see enough. Oh, and he registered a rare crossing accuracy of 100% (4/4).
Some of JJ’s overall numbers are seriously impressive. For those who might not be familiar, the Opta definitions of these terms (events) are here, but cop a load of this: he leads League One in key passes per game with 3.5 – a whole 1.0 better than Marcus Maddison, arguably the best player in the division – and ranks equal fourth in big chances created with 3 – alongside, among others, Adebayo Akinfenwa. Admittedly, he’s yet to provide an assist, but it’s surely only a matter of time. He’s also fifth on average SofaScore Statistical Rating* with 7.50/10. Has the arrival of Jamie Mascoll brought the best (back) out of our veteran left-back? Maybe, but who’s complaining?!
*SofaScore is the brilliant website/app I use for all my data – which they source from Opta. The match ratings are stats based but tend to be a fair representation of performance, I find.
Charles the Enforcer
After a fatigue-induced blip against Southend the previous weekend, Darius Charles was back to his usual self in this one, marshaling the defence like a general and, for the most part, channeling his inner Gandalf. It wasn’t the perfect performance – he was the only Wycombe player to make an error leading to a shot – but he was more than impressive enough to remind us of why he’s arguably our best centre-half. If he can stay fit, he could prove to be one of our signings of the summer and forge a formidable partnership with Anthony Stewart. I can’t speak highly enough of the guy; he is a true inspiration.
Nick Freeman Easy on the Eye in an Ugly Encounter
I feel there’s a genuine case for Freeman being our player of the season so far (although, for what it’s worth, I’m going with Jacobson). In only his second league start of 19/20, the 23-year-old continued to ooze flair and class, which he exhibited with his passing and dribbling in equal measure. Gliding stylishly across the pitch and always looking to instigate something promising, he’s just a joy to watch. Our set-up (more below) maybe didn’t do him too many favours, but he didn’t change his modus operandi a jot.
There have been suggestions that he’s more of an impact player, better suited to bamboozling wearying defenders. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think that’s a load of rubbish, to be frank. His skillset – not only a willingness to take players on but the technical ability to succeed, an eye for a sweet precision pass, and general quality which forces opponents to be extra alert – are not the attributes of a super-sub. He won’t start every game – there is some semblance of a rotation policy in place – but he should start most. Let’s give him a new deal as well!
We’ll Never Have to Go to Kingsmeadow Again!
For a league game at least – all being well. This unpretentious, non-League ground has served a purpose, but it won’t be missed once Wimbledon return to Plough Lane for the start of next season – that’s the plan anyway. I think we can all agree that being able to see the game is a Good Thing.
A Rare Tactical Misjudgement from Ainsworth?
I can see why Gareth went for route one – the Dons are big at the back and physical across the board – but it became clear by half-time that it wasn’t really going to work. Adebayo Akinfenwa won enough in the air (18/39 to be precise) – hell, he had the ball in the net at one point – but wasn’t afforded or able to create the kind of space he so often does. This wasn’t even a game in which he would have had much impact late on. The Beast will continue to play a signficant part this season, but his old stomping ground wasn’t welcoming on this occasion.
Faulty Shooting Boots
Freeman, Scott Kashket, Dave Wheeler and Charles all could – and probably should – have done better with efforts, with Kashket and Charles each missing an Opta-defined big chance. With the exception of the opener v Bolton when we managed 10, we’ve not had more than 5 shots on target in a game – not terrible but could be better. Our chance creation, volume-wise, is the best in the division: 16 big chances created (2.66/game) and an average of 13.0 shots per game (second only to Man City in the top four divisions). We just need to be more clinical. We know we’ve got the personnel, but it seems there’s a bit of work to be done on the training ground.
And Another Thing…
I’m sure we all heard some, let’s say, questionable chanting on Saturday. I picked up on two chants in particular, but apparently there were others perhaps even worse. None of this is anything new, of course, but it warrants calling out. The reaction to doing so, though, goes to show why people don’t. They’re likely to be met with ridicule, snideness and passive-aggression from those for whom English would appear to be a second language to ‘banter’.
“AFC Norbiton, AFC Norbiton” Two weeks ago, the same lot (presumably) were singing loud and proud, “Fuck off you franchise, the county is ours” – in fact, this one got an airing or two at Kingsmeadow. Fair enough, makes sense. It’s a bit odd, then, to go mocking those who suffered because of the franchise they so hate. Do they realise how stupid they sound? That’s a rhetorical question. Interspersing the same number with renditions of “Fuck the EFL” is equally contradictory. The EFL are part of the re- You know what, I’m not going to sit here and spell it all out for those who probably won’t read this.
“Oh Gareth Ainsworth, [I’ll/I’d] let you shag my wife” Yes, it’s been sung for years; no, it’s clearly not meant seriously; what’s your point? The song overall is great, but the misogynistic element taints it. Bluntly dismissing it as ‘banter’ – which apparently gives you a free pass to say whatever you want unopposed – replying “I bet you’re fun at parties” to anyone who takes issue, and labelling objection as “boring” are the responses of people who don’t want to consider that their behaviour might be perceived as problematic. It’s almost as if they’re offended, almost as if they’re the snowflakes in all this. Who’d have thought it? Oh, by the way, by far my favourite reaction was the one which used a GIF of Richard Keys addressing the misogyny which got him sacked. Sometimes, you just have to laugh.
Perhaps this is a small matter in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t justify it either. Football needs to root out discrimination at its lowest, most implicit level, otherwise it won’t have any luck in eradicating the most serious, overt stuff. Misogyny and classism, for example, get an easy ride in the game. Sadly, I think that’s because racism, antisemitism, homophobia and all that kind of repugnant business remain such stubborn stains on it.
We live in a supposedly progressive society. It would be nice if football stepped out of its bubble of toxic masculinity and moved with the times. As Kelly Welles writes in this excellent New Statesman piece, “…as the world changes around it, football is suspended in a hormonal state similar to that of a fifteen year old boy: sexually inappropriate, confused, unable to drink in public without vomiting on someone’s shoes and dismissing offensive language and ideas as just “banter.”
This piece from Tyron McGee is also spot on about the issue: https://tlmfootball.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/chanting-in-football-where-do-we-draw-the-line/
Football has the potential to help make huge positive change. Personally, I’m very passionate about the mental health side of the game, in no small part because of my own struggles, which I’ve written about for FourFourTwo. I’d like to be a lot more open about it and will try to be through Chairboys Central, but I do fear the backlash. I think there are a lot of people who’d like to speak out about all manner of social/moral/ethical issues in and around football, but the moment you do so or challenge anyone, you leave yourself open to ridicule and puerility. That’s a real shame, but I empathise with people who stay quiet for the sake of their own well-being.
Ultimately, please think about what you’re saying. Terrace chants are an integral part of what makes football, especially at our level, such a life-affirming experience, but it is possible to be humorous without being crude or moronic. Some of those partaking are probably kids who don’t know any better, but plenty aren’t. Will this side of the game ever change? I doubt it, but what’s the harm in trying?
If you still think I’m blowing it out of proportion, that’s fine; as vehemently as I hold my opinion, it is an opinion. Disagree with me as strongly as you like. Attempting to instantly shut down an argument through the means I’ve mentioned, though, doesn’t achieve anything other than winning ‘banter’ points with the lads and making you look incapable of offering up an intelligent counter-point. Maybe I did come on strong in tone in my original tweet – it was borne out of frustration, quite reasonably I think – but I don’t believe for a moment that I’d have experienced a nicer response had I been more…diplomatic. As much as anything, this unpleasant affair has reminded me that social media, football and reasoned debate enjoy about as harmonious a relationship as fox, chicken and grain.