Bescot Banter: More questions than answers

We're two weeks into the Saddlers' 2021/22 campaign, and, rather unsurprisingly, the almost completely rebuilt team has struggled to find its feet.


And, whilst Saddlers fans were expecting some growing pains, the team has lacked any real direction, and, although were only a few weeks in, the pressure has already started to increase.

League defeats to Tranmere Rovers and Forest Green Rovers along with a Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Doncaster Rovers saw the team reach their midweek clash with Scunthorpe United in dire need of some points, and something resembling a promising display.

Although their first point of the season did ultimately arrive in the form of a one-all draw with the Iron, the result still came with a healthy dose of disappointment as a late lapse in concentration allowed Alex Beestin in to cancel out Kieran Phillips' first competitive goal in a Walsall shirt.

The Reds had started the match brightly and went on to attempt some seventeen shots but were unable to put the game to bed, something which is all too familiar for Saddlers fans, even though just three of last season's basement dwelling squad started the game.

After a summer which saw the club recruit a new backroom team and almost completely rebuild the first-team, it's hardly surprising to see the team enduring a slow start to the season, but the lack of cutting edge and an all round flaccid frontline is a cause for concern.

Clearly, forwards Conor Wilkinson and Kieran Phillips are still learning what each other are about and will take time to become a coherent unit, but they'll never develop into a potent partnership if they aren't given the service by their colleagues in midfield and defence.

Whilst the manager spent the summer recruiting players with certain positions and styles of play in mind, he clearly doesn't yet know his strongest eleven and, given how poorly the season has begun, he'll need to shuffle the pack over the coming weeks in order to find the right blend.

Another factor in the team's lack of attacking endeavour is the extended absence of Rory Holden. His now delayed and much-anticipated return to action would add a much-needed focal point to the Saddlers' frontline, and can't come soon enough.

One player who has started the season well is on-loan Brighton goalkeeper Carl Rushworth. Despite not securing a clean sheet in any of his three league outings, he has entered several solid performances, and deserves far better from his colleagues in defence.

After playing four games in a fortnight, the Saddlers' schedule begins to ease as they face a less hectic few weeks of action. Of course, much of the newfound training time is down to their early exit from the EFL Cup, but the shoot-out defeat to Doncaster may well prove to be a blessing in disguise as the team can really do without the distraction.

Whilst we all know a cup run, and more importantly the money which it generates, is extremely important to the club, last season's 19th place finish simply can't be replicated, and, given how the first few weeks have gone, the team has plenty of work to do if they are to avoid a repeat performance, and we'll happily sacrifice the cups if that allows them to focus on moving up the table.

Although the schedule has eased, the importance of the games shows no sign of abating. The first few weeks of the season have provided far more questions than answers, and any continuation of the recent run will only serve to increase the pressure on the group.

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