Crewe manager David Artell told the club’s website this week that it is important that his side don’t lose too much ground in their quest to move up the League One table.
That could be easier said than done, however, seeing as Alexandra currently sit bottom of League One and are six points adrift from safety.
Ryan Tafazolli struck with virtually the last kick of the game to give Wycombe a dramatic 2-1 victory against Artell’s strugglers on Saturday, meaning it’s now seven games without a win for The Railwaymen.
To make matters worse, Crewe have had to deal with the loss of five key players in a short space of time while midfielder Tom Lowery has only recently returned to the first-team picture after his on-going contract situation.
And despite the Alex boss remaining confident that results will begin to turn once the new group of players click, some Crewe fans don’t appear to be as convinced.
“Optimism was high before the season but with a succession of key players leaving in the summer and the chaos of two of our new signings retiring before a competitive ball was really kicked meant fans’ optimism took a large dip.
“We’ve struggled to gel a crop of young talented players with summer signings and loan players.
“A very soft, and often calamitous defence hasn’t been supported by the midfield, while the attacking talent hasn’t been productive. Too often we’ve given away easy goals and too often we’ve conceded deep into stoppage time to drop points.
“The story of the season boils down to a huge lack of consistency during the 90 minutes. We might be blisteringly good for 30 minutes, and then absolute dross for the next hour.”
Crewe consolidated their position in League One with an 11th place finish last season having been promoted from League Two on a points-per-game basis at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
Back in the third tier for the first time since 2016, the Railwaymen picked up where they left off to solidify their place at the next level under David Artell.
But since then things have taken a significant turn for the worse with Alex registering just one win in their 14 games this season.
“Some Crewe fans might have hoped we improved on last season’s standing, but most realistic Railwaymen knew that the second season in League One would be much tougher,” says Russ.
“Not only down to the calibre of players we lost in the summer, but only the sheer quality of the league this time around. There are no easy games in this league for teams like Crewe, Cheltenham, and Fleetwood for example.
“Without trying to sound like a broken record, when a team loses their best right back, left back, holding midfielder, left winger and right winger all within a six month period – while their best creative midfielder is stuck in the stands due to contract disputes – then it’s no surprise that they’ll struggle.
“Only two mainstays (Luke Offord and Will Jaaskelainen) from last season’s starting 11 started our most recent match at Wycombe.
“So far this season we’ve struggled to gel together a team of last season’s fringe players and relatively inexperienced but exciting youth talent with a bunch of new permanent signings and loan players.”
David Artell was appointed manager of Crewe back in 2017 following the sacking of Steve Davis.
The 40-year-old, whose final act in two years as a Crewe player was to hold aloft the League Two Play-Off Trophy at Wembley in 2012, returned to the club in July 2014 as academy operations manager before graduating to boss.
He oversaw Alexandra’s first promotion for four years in 2020 but now has a battle on his hands to prevent a swift return to English football’s fourth tier, though Russ feels his position at the cub is safe for now.
“There’s no doubt in 99.9% of Crewe fans’ minds that Dave will still be manager if we get relegated this season,” he says.
“Most Crewe fans want Dave Artell in charge of their football club – they’d also like him to start using the subs better and stop starting Chris Porter – but they want Artell in charge.
“He’s a fan’s favourite and has earned the right to fight this tough period.
“He has earned the patience of the fans and board during those four and a half years where he took a club on the brink of the National League, to 11th in League One.
“Although question marks are starting to appear in fans’ minds, most know that there is no one better for the club at this time. In Dave we trust.
“To move up the table the team needs some confidence and consistency. They need to cut out the silly errors and gel together.
“Crewe Alexandra football club is known for their nice passing play; the sooner we can get these players into that mould, the sooner the results will come our way.”
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