Martin Smith: New signings do not address failings of TP's team
THIS weekend we entertain Reading, opponents we know well from our time in the lower divisions after playing them many times at Elm Park, the Madejski Stadium, the Victoria Ground and now The Brit.
We are two clubs who have tended to follow each other around the divisions ... and now we are meeting in the Premier League.
A few weeks ago we'd have been looking forward to this match with considerable relish.
We were riding high in the top half of the table, enjoying the fruits of a 10-match unbeaten run, while the Royals were firmly anchored in the relegation zone with bookies about to press the "suspend bets" button on their making an immediate return to the Championship.
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Now though it's starting to look like a far more ominous task for Tony Pulis's team.
Reading are playing well and winning games, while we are without a league win since the magnificent 3-1 toppling of Liverpool on Boxing Day.
More worryingly though – and there's no way of dancing delicately around the issue – we're not playing very well either.
The way we make such hard work of scoring goals is beginning to take its toll as our defence have just not been able to maintain the impossibly high standards they set in the first half of the campaign.
It's all looking a little grim at the moment, and we're desperately in need of a first league win of 2013.
At the moment we remain 10th in the Premier League table, despite just two draws from our last six games.
But if you look carefully at the table, you'll see that a lot of clubs are stacking up very tightly behind us.
If we don't claim a full three-point haul soon then we could have a weekend when we suddenly drop three or four places in one go.
Any hopes we had of a moral-boosting performance at Arsenal disappeared once that free-kick deflected past an unfortunate Asmir Begovic.
Some may count it as an unfortunate defeat, but this was a game in which we were only ever going to get a 0-0 because that is all we went for. The home side deserved their win.
That defeat made it 20 out of 20 losses on the road to Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the five years since we arrived in the Premier League.
It's a chillingly bad record, and one which shows little prospect of ending in the near future.
In fact, it's reaching the point where you begin to wonder whether it's worth going to these grounds any more.
We're all in need of a lift at the moment and any hopes that we'd get one during the recent transfer window didn't really materialise.
Instead, we opted to make signings which seem to have more of an eye on the future than seeking to plug any of the deficiencies in the current squad.
Whether or not Tony Pulis was happy with that is not clear, but neither he nor his assistant, Dave Kemp, sounded overly happy when they spoke about their recent window shopping.
They seemed intent to comment more on who they didn't bring in rather than the two players we did acquire.
A recent comment from our manager about player shortages and a reference to Geoff Cameron filling in as a right-back made me smile.
We haven't actually signed a right-back in years, and you have to go all the way back to Andy Griffin for the last left-back we brought in.
Since the start of last season we have seen no fewer than EIGHT players take a shot at the right-back position – Andy Wilkinson, Ryan Shotton, Geoff Cameron, Robert Huth, Jonathan Woodgate, Marc Wilson, Rory Delap and Dean Whitehead.
This is a position we've had plenty of chances to address over the past few seasons, and the same goes for a few others. So we can have no complaints about it right now.
The best thing we can do with the squad is get to the end of the season, make an honest assessment of where we are, and then look to address whatever issues we have when we have a whole summer to do so. We do not want to be making panicked decisions as the clock ticks towards midnight of the last day of a window.
We need to make sure we bring in the right players to do the right jobs. I keep getting excited about new signings we've made and then get frustrated as I watch us keep on using the same system and trying to make those players fit into it, rather than seeking to build our play around the natural talents of the good players we've gone to all that trouble of signing.
A few wins in our remaining games – and we really do have some very winnable games coming up – is what's needed right now, starting with Saturday's game against Reading.
There are no excuses for not performing. We're not in Europe, we're not beset by any injury crisis and we're not playing any more games than any of our opponents.
Last year we pointed to our European commitments as to why we fell away so badly in the latter stages of the campaign.
At the moment we appear to be in danger of doing the exact same thing without any easy excuse to point to.
We did a lot of good work earlier in the season and it'd be a crying shame to see it all going to waste.