It's Their Fault: Charlie Adam

The previous post in this series looked at the reasons why Karl Oyston could be responsible for relegation. Charlie Adam won a PFA Player of the Year nomination for his efforts this past season, but could he also have contributed to Blackpool’s eventual downfall? Let’s weigh up the cases for and against.
The case for the prosecution
Widely recognised as Blackpool’s best player, surely an article apportioning blame on the shoulders of Charlie Adam is uncalled for? That may be true, but some outsiders and ‘Pool fans alike would point to the January transfer window as the moment when Seasiders’ season fell apart. With a few games of the season left, Ian Holloway himself made some vague references to issues in January that he wasn’t happy with, and putting two and two together, it could be argued he is alluding to the Adam transfer saga. 
It’s no secret that there was a lot of interest in Adam in January, Liverpool being the main protagonists in the hunt for his signature. Indeed, Adam looked to force the transfer himself, submitting a written transfer request a week or so before deadline day. The team captain asking to leave can hardly be a boost to team morale, and only two league wins after that date tells the story of a side that looks to have been affected.

Adam’s individual form suffered too – more mistakes creeping in, some wayward passing and ill-discipline resulting in a two-match ban at a crucial time. In fact, mindless mistakes were not merely confined to 2011, with some of his biggest errors taking place early on in the campaign – notably his own goal at home to Blackburn and a catastrophic mistake trying to overplay in his own box away at Birmingham. However, the regularity of his clangers certainly increased post-January. Losing the ball in his own half became a staple of his play in the run of home fixtures in April.

For evidence of his passing ability wavering, I would point you in the direction of Tangerine Dreaming who have charted his pass completion rate over the course of the season. Appearances in the second half of the season largely saw a much lower completion rate, particularly evident in the two games on the chalkboard below, against Blackburn and Wigan.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

A 53% pass completion rate against Wigan, and an even worse 45% rate in the game at Ewood Park shows that for all the skill of his range of passing, Adam can often be hit-and-miss.

The case for the defence

Now, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that the above is heavily one-sided. The pass completion stats may not be the most impressive, and yes he has been prone to various individual mistakes, but let’s not forget that Charlie Adam was Blackpool’s match-winner – the sole man in the ‘Pool squad with the ability to turn a game at the drop of a hat.  David Vaughan and Ian Evatt may have taken the awards at the club’s end of season dinner for their consistency, but neither could take responsibility for winning as many points as Adam did. A 45% pass completion rate in the away game at Blackburn is hardly becoming of a player nominated for national player of the season awards, but look at the key stats from that game – the goals.

Two goals at Ewood Park, one from the spot and another with one of the best free-kicks you’ll see all season, showed how Adam justified the praise, and it was in providing goals that he was most effective. Adam was directly involved in 20 goals according to Opta, either scoring or with the crucial assist – a record bettered by only eight players in the whole league. Achieving this at a club who came 19th out of 20 should not be underestimated. Blackpool also managed to be the most deadly side in the Premier League from corner situations, again in no small part to Charlie Adam.

And that statistic only counts the goals he was directly involved in – how many more would that tally be if you counted secondary or tertiary assists? (I.e. not the final assisting pass, but an earlier key pass). Quite simply, Adam was instrumental in the way Blackpool have played for the last two seasons. A talismanic figure, Adam was at the root of the tactics employed by Holloway, including the much-hailed long diagonals. Of the four games Adam did not start, Blackpool won only one of those, away at Sunderland in rather fortunate circumstances. It is unthinkable that the Seasiders would have even come close to survival without their stand-out player.

Moving onto the January transfer window, did Adam really kick up such a stink as to cause the huge disruption painted by the media? And it wasn’t even the usual tabloid suspects, the ‘new media’ online bloggers and podcasters were at it too. In the penultimate away game of the season at Spurs, Luke Moore of The Football Ramble podcast took a swipe at Adam for his celebration following his successful penalty, at the second time of asking. Labelling Adam a ‘duplicitous fucking charlatan’, Moore seemed to take umbrage at Adam for showing passion for ‘Pool after having requested a transfer in January.

Recent Blackpool convert, a Canadian by the name of Tyler Dellow responded to this in more detail than I’ll go into here, but most ‘Pool fans would agree that despite some rather iffy form post-January, Adam still appeared to be giving everything on behalf of a club he clearly cares deeply for. A player is entitled to want to better himself (and enjoy the riches he no doubt deserves), while still harbouring feelings for a club that has helped his career progress rapidly in the space of a couple of years – the two are not mutually exclusive.

Many media outlets cited the aforementioned interview Holloway gave when ‘Pool were at their lowest ebb, referring to events in January, believing he meant the Adam transfer situation. Just as likely however, is that Holloway could have been hinting at a lack of support in the transfer market. The majority of the signings he did make looked rather desperate in hindsight, coming on the final day in January. Holloway could easily have been disappointed with boardroom constraints in bringing new players in, and most importantly has never explicitly vented any frustration in Adam’s direction.

The Verdict

Not guilty – not by a long shot. I don’t imagine this was a difficult verdict to predict and the few isolated dissenting voices are misguided. Charlie Adam has at times carried this team over the course of the last two seasons, and to suggest that the club would have been best served by getting rid of him in January is absurd. While not quite a one-man team, Blackpool were definitely weaker without Adam and will have a nigh-on impossible task trying to replace him when he inevitably departs this summer. Charlie Adam is certainly not the complete player, but is closest thing Blackpool have had in a generation – he should move on with the supporters’ gratitude and I’m sure all ‘Pool fans will be wishing him well at his next club.

In the final post of the season, I’ll take a look at whether Ian Holloway is at fault for Blackpool’s relegation. Check back in the next day or two for that.