This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Comment’ series, this content strand is where the author of the article issues their personal opinion on the topic at hand….
Oxford United are a side that would surely expect to be pushing towards the top ten right now.
They’ve been around League One long enough to understand the size of the challenge and they recruited relatively well over the summer. They got a good fee for Gavin Whyte which could surely have resulted in reinvestment.
They ended last season on a high as well, finishing in the top half after a season of struggle. However, that finish did mask what was a difficult campaign for Karl Robinson’s side, in which they failed to live up to their promise.
For the second season in succession, Robinson has started badly in the dugout. His side have picked up just one win in seven matches and are the second lowest-placed team who have completed every matchday thus far. Were it not for the woes at Bury and Bolton, they’d likely be in the relegation spots.
That’s got to be a concern, with almost 20% of their games completed already they’re once again facing a tough campaign. They’ve already shipped 15 goals; an indication they haven’t managed to replace Curtis Nelson this season and the new signings have not settled well.
Alex Gorrin was meant to replace John Mousinho as the midfield enforcer, but he has yet to settle into Robinson’s approach. They’re still relying on Jamie Mackie for goals and marquee signing Ben Woodburn hasn’t managed to find a rhythm either.
It’s not all the player’s fault though. Robinson’s recruitment has left gaping holes in the side which he won’t be able to correct until January. He’s already unsure how to get the best out of Tariqe Fosu, a summer capture from Charlton who hoped to find consistency under Robinson.
No fan wants to see a manager sacked or their club bounce from one short period to another, but Oxford’s owners are surely going to want to see some progression on the field. Every club has to strive for better than the year before, especially those with decent owners and little off-field upheaval.
Robinson left Charlton against a backdrop of boardroom trouble, but after he failed, Lee Bowyer succeeded with largely the same side. He’s now struggling to take Oxford forward despite having two pre-seasons in charge. This is his squad, his approach and his staff, nobody else’s.
There is no blame here; perhaps he can point to the fixture list as a cause of their inconsistent approach in terms of selection, but the defeats they’ve suffered haven’t necessarily been against top side.
Bristol Rovers have beaten them, yet the Gas have not got top six aspirations. Fleetwood beat them at the weekend, less than a week after going 2-0 to recently promoted Lincoln City. Burton Albion rolled them over with ease at the Kassam and that will be a huge concern.
There are bright spots, a 3-3 draw with Coventry looks good given the Sky Blues position and they held Sunderland and beat Peterborough, but the lack of consistency looks likely to lead to another season of mediocrity.
How long will the Oxford hierarchy put up with that?