To put it bluntly, it's been, overall, a very poor start to the season for Crewe Alexandra.
There's been plenty of miserable spells in the past for the Alex, but even the most optimistic of Crewe fans will tell you how bad it's been - myself included. There has been questions asked regarding Steve Davis' tactics and squad selections, speculation over unrest within the dressing room, and frequent accusations of a lack of effort displayed by the players.
Whatever the problem may be, it obviously needs solving sooner rather than later.
Before the season had even started, I have to admit I was concerned. Of course, the allegations from the pre-season tour in Cornwall shocked the club and there's no doubt that will have had some effect on the performances this season.
However, my initial worry was that the squad was too big, which is unusual for Crewe. Creating a large squad can certainly be beneficial, but with the type of players Davis has brought in, they are all players who are of an age where they're expecting to play.
The likes of Osman, Ellis, Grant, Molyneux, Inman and Aneke have surely come to the club with the intention of playing most weeks and then there's other additions in Thierry Audel and Vadaine Oliver to keep satisfied.
As a result, Davis then faces the challenge of finding his strongest 11 amongst, on paper, a relatively strong squad, but at the same time he's got to keep everyone happy, including the youth players who are promised, from a young age, a fair chance of first team football.
On the other hand, maybe the young players in the squad, such as, Billy Waters, Ben Garrett and Liam Nolan aren't quite ready yet and it's important to consider that they shouldn't be thrown into a team that's low on confidence, but even on a good run, when will they be given their opportunity when so many other players are in contention too?
Another problem in this early part of the season has been associated with the below-par performances from the, supposedly, key players.
Abdul Osman has been very average thus far, Mark Ellis hasn't reached the level of form we saw from him last season and Anthony Grant has yet to prove why Davis brought him to the club. Osman was selected as captain following Luke Murphy's departure, but his performances have not been good enough, yet Davis has persisted with him.
Kelvin Mellor was dropped after only couple of errors, so why is it any different with Osman? I'll support Steve Davis all the while he's at Crewe and I don't believe he should lose his job or be entirely to blame for the poor form, but he does appear quite stubborn and weak at times.
He should be strong enough to drop any player, whether they've got the captain's armband or not. However, we should also consider that he's still a relatively young manager with the ambition of going further in the game.
The previous two years couldn't have gone much better for him and the club, but so far, this season is a slight reality check and perhaps an opportunity for Davis to show how good a manager he is.
When Anthony Grant arrived at Gresty Road, Davis insisted there was more to his game than just a battling, ball-winning midfielder like we'd seen when Crewe played Southend last season.
We knew he wasn't going to replace Luke Murphy (who can?) but from what we've seen so far, Grant, Osman and Turton are all far too similar to be a midfield three and therefore creativity has been a huge problem.
f anyone, Turton has been the best at getting himself forward, and has shown improvements from what we saw of him last season but he's has been far from creative. For what it's worth, if Davis is going to persist with at least two defensive minded midfielders, I'd like to see Grant and Turton (when both fit) be those two, with Chuks Aneke playing in the hole behind one of the strikers - preferably Clayton.
The loan market is now open, and Davis hasn't hesitated in looking for new faces; George Evans is the first to be named, but from what I've read, he, like Osman, Grant and Turton, also plays just in front of the back four, so it seems a strange one.
If Davis is going to bring anyone in at all, I'd like to see a creative midfielder bought in, although I'm not even sure that's completely necessary. There are creative players in the squad, they've just not been playing a formation that enhances that. Until Davis solves the problem he created of finding his best eleven from a larger squad than normal, then it's difficult to see much change.
However, whatever the tactics may be and whoever is selected or dropped, sadly, I still believe until that underlying off-the-field issue is resolved then Crewe fans are in for a long, miserable and inconsistent winter.
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