Hello Darkness: Who's To Blame For Carlton's Horrible Start?

The Blues have once again put themselves firmly behind the eight-ball.

For a 9th consecutive season Carlton have started 0-2 and ensured that familiar sense of dread wafts unencumbered around Princes Park.

While yes, an opening night smashing at the hands of Richmond isn’t terminal, nor is falling to the Pies, it’s the manner of both losses which suggests the Blues have learnt little from recent failings, nor are they anywhere near the front of the queue where long-exiled September desperadoes are concerned.

Yet what’s been most alarming about both of Carlton’s losses has been how seriously out of touch they’ve looked from a defensive standpoint. 

While sure, the Blues have been able to get their hands on the footy, dialling up a decent 9th place disposal differential number, they’re getting positively torn to shreds when not in possession.

Dead last in tackle differential and second-to-last in metres gained differential speaks alarmingly to a club who appear happy going one way, but as as stubborn as an ox when required to go the other. 

Carlton’s unwillingness to get down and dirty is resulting in opponents having their way with them both in-play and on the scoreboard. Their rivals have so far averaged 61.5 inside-50s against them over the first couple of rounds which is a number only the hapless Kangaroos are performing worse in. The 211 points they’ve so far surrendered makes for the league’s third-worst return. 

So poor is the Blues resistance at the moment they even allowed Collingwood’s offence to spring back to life, with the Magpies helping themselves to 16 goals last Friday night. This from a club who’d produced all of 53 points the week prior against the Dogs, and who were one of 2020’s least efficient attacks.

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After so many re-births and regime changes over the last couple of decades the Blues have run out of catchphrases to sell sell hope to fans.

While their youth stocks are undoubtedly impressive, led by the likes of bourgeoning superstar Sam Walsh, their ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ and reigning Best and Fairest winner Jacob Weitering and impressive key forward Harry McKay, the Blues aren’t exactly Robinson Crusoe where the accumulation of exceptional young talent is concerned.

In fact, sourcing top-tier talent appears to be the least of Carlton’s worries these days, with the club seemingly at sixes and sevens when it comes to moulding a workable, durable game-plan for the talent at its disposal.

While the Blues have won plaudits on draft nights and been industrious in the trade period, they’re either selecting or acquiring the wrong kind of players, or their coaching personnel is letting that talent down spectacularly. 

What’s most concerning for Carlton is that it continues to be stung by the same wasp in the same spot. 

For years now Carlton have performed deplorably from a defensive perspective, continually smashed on both the scoreboard and within key statistical metrics. While their awful start to 2021 is concerning, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. They ranked 12th and 11th last season in tackles and metres gained differential, with the latter in fact being a continual club bugbear ranked 18th, 13th, 15th, 18th and 17th over the preceding five seasons. 

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Clearly Carlton’s injury concerns aren’t helping their cause. Patrick Cripps is obviously hampered, while Jack Martin will join Zac Fisher and Tom De Koning on the sidelines. And don’t even ask the Blues medical staff about Charlie Curnow

Yet with that said, and like Carlton’s prestigious youth, the Blues aren’t on an island where injuries are concerned, and while the club is having to scramble to replace quality players, the absences are shining a bright light not just on the club’s depth, but upon Teague’s ability to improvise in the coaches box. 

Again, it’s early, and losses to Richmond and Collingwood haven’t caused the Stats Insider futures model to panic, still affording them a respectable 36.5% chance of playing finals.

With that said, this week’s clash against Fremantle shapes as enormous match for a club whose tortured fanbase is once again on the brink of revolt.

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James Rosewarne

James is a writer and Managing Editor at Stats Insider. He likes fiction and music. He is a stingray attack survivor. He lives in Wollongong.

Email- james@thehypometer.com for story ideas or opportunities.

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