Dave Phillips picks up the Nelson Oliveira thread. Should he have taken that penalty at Derby? Is the derby just the sort of game he needs to spark back into life? Nelson Oliveira, scapegoat or saviour?
How do you solve a problem like Oliveira? Scapegoat or saviour? There’s no denying that Nelson has been a hot topic of conversation recently. Even before “that penalty miss” against Derby.
I, along with many supporters during the Derby game, became vocal on Twitter with regards to Oliveira and the spot kick. My view, heavily caveated by the fact that I am by no means a football expert (or an expert at anything else for that matter), was not so much that Oliveira was to blame or be scapegoated, but that he hadn’t perhaps been managed as well as he could have.
I get that he is our designated penalty taker and so I also get that he would be the most likely to step up to take it. However, I had a bad feeling about it, as did many others at the time. Nelson was out of goal scoring form – no goals since a consolation against Brentford before Christmas and a lingering memory of a missed penalty, albeit well saved, in the shoot-out against Chelsea.
My initial reaction to the tame effort that followed, even if Carson did have to guess the right way, was that Oliveira is a shadow of his former self and that Farke should be showing him a tape of his infamous Fulham celebration and asking him; “where the fuck has that guy gone?”.
A tweet both harsh and clouded by emotion of a golden opportunity spurned, but one that led me to start to wonder just how is Farke handling the doubtless talented, if mercurial, Nelson?
Is our “designated penalty taker” chosen at the start of the season and only ever choosing another if they get injured? Or does form, confidence and even match day performance come into the equation? We’ve witnessed players taking on the duty for themselves against team orders, so when does the coach decide?
With the benefit of hindsight and the uneasy feeling that Oliveira was going to miss, I attempted to champion a theory that Farke should know his players well enough to change the penalty taker if he does not have confidence in the usual man.
Great in theory, but what would be the ramifications for a striker desperate to get the goals flowing again?
The purpose of sticking with Oliveira as the penalty taker was, presumably, to give him a golden opportunity to get that pesky ball in the back of the net and kick on, but it was not to be. He was then afforded no further opportunity once we were given another penalty that Maddison dispatched.
I feel for the man – I think everyone, staff and fans alike, are expecting him to play his way back into form. In a stronger squad with more available striking options he may have been rested and come back firing.
Instead, Oliveira, who generally has to plough a lone furrow week after week, is working hard to get his goalscoring form back in the spotlight and under scrutiny from all us know-it-all fans.
To be fair to him there have been many times we could have questioned his application, but I don’t think anyone could accuse him of not being a team player or working hard for the cause in recent times. The poor guy just needs to get the rub of Dean Coney’s bottom (a bit of luck).
There’s no doubt in my mind that a motivated, free scoring Oliveira is one of the best strikers in this league, so I hope he soon gets that elusive goal and is back on track.
One question though: We get a penalty against Ipswich – who do you choose to step up?