But we have players in the squad that can do the protecting job, that's what's baffling me. Looking at the team on Saturday, how can you play Pratley, Eagles, Mark Davies, Tuncay, Klasnic and Davies in front of the back four?
The defenders must have been thinking 'great. We are exposed yet again'
NRC? Muamba? Both? Neither of them just doesn't add up to me. Tactically foolish.
Indeed. As you may have noticed, I've been far from quick to deride Coyle, but his tactics seem to have gone from naive to disastrous. Even as hay was made in sunshine we worried if there was a plan B for the inevitable rainy day; now, monsoon-drenched, he appears unable to keep our heads above water.
For a man so fond of mentioning "fine margins" he should be aware that our success last season was dependent on a statistically astonishing number of tackles from Holden and Muamba. He can't help the former's injury, but the absence of the latter seems at best petty and at worst disastrously myopic. Mark Davies may have just about enough defensive nous to survive alongside a proper central midfielder. So might Darren Pratley. Putting them together in central midfield while Muamba sits unused is tantamount to waving Villa through. The Villa fans at work are genuinely astonished by how competent we made them look; apparently 'Stan' Petrov hasn't had an easier game all season. Sadly, that seems to be happening increasingly often - too often for survival.
Coyle says if he had the "resources" he would change the team. It's on this poverty-stricken basis that some noble posters defend him. Fair enough, but how we got where we are is almost immaterial when he seems unable to marshall the resources he has. Sorry to bang on about the need for a tackling midfielder – I so wish I didn't have to – but he had the resource and didn't employ it. Sad as it is to admit, I no longer believe he has the wherewithal to get us out of the situation we're in.
I don't imagine for a moment that under the current management we'll never win again. I don't imagine for very many moments that under the current management we'll win enough to stay up. Something has to change, whether it's the appointment of an experienced assistant and a new coach, or the simple end of the Coyle era.
Anyone kidding himself that life is preferable in the second tier - a marvellously unpredictable, open race I'd hate to be involved in – is suffering a lack of experience or a surfeit of nostalgia. I don't know if relegation would finish off the club but I do know that we're in the middle of a deepening global debt crisis and now would be an astonishingly bad time to be relying on credit. I also think that a midfield of Tuncay, Pratley, MDavies and Eagles would struggle to get us promoted even if it were available. We have good players at this club. We don't appear to have a manager capable of utilising them or a coaching set-up capable of improving them.