James Russell looks at five elements which will need to improve if Vale are not to drop into the relegation zone.
James Russell writes…
Port Vale currently find themselves still near the bottom of League Two with just 14 games remaining. As it stands, they’re seven points above the drop so at least they do have a margin for error between now and the end of the season.
What can they change to ensure the rest of this current campaign is as successful as possible?
However, we all know football can change pretty quickly when those results start flying in on Soccer Saturday, so Port Vale fans will still be nervous about what’s to come over the next few weeks. BetVictor’s football betting odds currently have Port Vale at 40/1 to finish in the bottom two, with Barnet being the most likely to go down. So, will Port Vale survive? Will they end up in the National League? What can they change to ensure the rest of this current campaign is as successful as possible? Here are some suggestions.
Neil Aspin will be desperately disappointed with his players’ defensive displays in recent weeks. They lost 5-1 to Cheltenham on the weekend, drew 2-2 with Colchester a couple of weeks before that, and also had a horrible 3-2 loss against Stanley. These goals are coming from a string of mistakes from the defence and, if they don’t sort it out quickly, their poor goal difference could be a decisive relegation factor. Every goal is going to count from now and Neil Aspin will be doing extra training with the defending coaches to ensure they don’t concede many. Port Vale have two tough upcoming fixtures against Swindon and Exeter, so they’ll need to quickly buckle down and ensure they concentrate fully to keep their opponents at bay.
Defend as a team
It’s not just the defence that’s having problems. Vale have a -11 goal difference currently and that’s because the team is also short of goals. It can also be argued that if Vale are not prolific scorers it is even more important to keep clean sheets. To do that they need to defend as a unit and the midfield and forwards need to help out the defence. Vale have conceded 46 goals this season and, although that’s not a terrible figure when compared to other teams, they’ve only scored 35, which had brought their goal difference down to a frightening number.
Neil Aspin’s coaching staff work with the players on a daily basis and will need to ensure they motivate their players as much as possible. Yes, a lot of physical training is involved on the pitch to ensure they’re in good condition, but mentally they need to be as stable as possible, so they don’t make any mistakes. Complacency is a big issue in modern football, and so is having football players with bad attitudes. That is not something that can be tolerated at Vale Park especially with so much at stake.
Gambling on the right players
It’s very much a case of getting the balance right in the Vale starting eleven. There are a clutch of talented youngsters and a group of veterans and the challenge is to pick the right balance which will complement each other. It could be that following the recent poor results, Aspin looks beyond his starting eleven to freshen things up on the pitch with the argument being that presumably they can’t do much worst than the last eleven.
Keep faith in the manager
Changing the manager at this late point in the season could have devastating effects on the club. Neil Aspin has made some mistakes but he has still has plenty of credit – notably for rejuvinating Michael Brown’s squad and arguably having his hands tied in the January transfer window. He only took charge of the club in late 2017, so it would be unfair to say the mess the Valiants are in at the moment is solely his and his coaching staffs’ fault.
Be more attacking
Vale have only scored 35 times in 24 matches this season, which isn’t good enough for a club looking for at least a top-half finish in the table at the end of the season. It’s all well and good being careful but is it time Neil and his staff started to take some risks in front? Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “As long as you score more goals than your opponents, you’ll win the game”. Perhaps the best form of defence is to attack, so if they sit back in games, it could prove to be much more of a risk than playing with an attacking mentality.
Play as a team
Playing football is all about being motivated but, more importantly, it’s about getting on with your teammates. If the dressing room doesn’t have a good atmosphere at all times then they’re going to have a real struggle trying to climb the table. Bonding off the pitch will always form a bond on the pitch and that is always something that can’t be broken by other teams they come up against.
It’s clear that the Port Vale coaches and players have a real job on their hands over the coming weeks. They’re still safe at this time, but seven points ahead can quickly change if they don’t get the points they want.