Prior to Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Coventry, Orient manager Mauro Milanese highlighted the importance of stability. After Francesco Becchetti took over from Barry Hearn it led to 3 managers in 15 games with Slade, Nugent and Milanese all taking charge. Milanese understands that “it is already a difficult situation and we don’t want to change too much”, he added “we try to have stability and if no results come it is normal to change again”.
With relatively the same squad as last season together with the normal arrivals and departures, Orient’s form has led to a period of uncertainty on and off the pitch. Injuries and suspensions have played a major role with 23 different players named in the starting 11 in just 16 games; in comparison to 24 in the whole of 2013/2014 season. Alongside injuries, discipline has been an ever growing problem with the O’s already picking up 45 yellows and 4 reds in 21 games compared to 93 yellows and 2 reds in the whole of last season. Orient regulars Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke, Omozusi, James, Vincelot, Cox, Mooney and Lisbie have all missed games due to injury only playing 1 match all together in the league.
Team selections and partnership was an integral part to a successful season with them running throughout the team with only the goalkeeping position becoming a problem. Defensively Orient have struggled for a settled back 4 with 5 different back 4’s being named already. The strongest defense of 13/14 played 29 out of 46 league matches together comprising of: Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke and Omozusi with a record of W17 D8 L4 picking up 59 points. When one of these was absent Gary Sawyer covered in all but one with Moses Odubajo reverting to right back against Wolves to deal with Bakary Sako. Although they played over half the season together they conceded 26 in 27 but without them the record was 19 in 19 highlighting that no matter what the defence Orient would concede on average 1 goal a game compared to 1.4 goals per game this season.
The midfield quartet of Odubajo, Vincelot, James and Cox also played 29 matches together winning 17, drawing 7 and losing 5 accumulating 58 points. Losing Odubajo to Brentford in the summer disrupted the four but they have played 6 matches this term: W1 D3 L2. With both first choice central midfielders in James and Vincelot out injured, several players and loan signings have had to cover the area. When James and Vincelot played last year Orient picked up 72% of their 86 points – W18, D8, L6.
Kevin Lisbie and David Mooney have been injured since September playing only 2 times together this season compared to 25 last year – W17, D5, L3. In those 25 games, 54 out of the 85 league goals were scored equivalent to 63% of total league goals; Lisbie and Mooney scored 31 of those goals. Orient scored 54 in 25 matches with Mooney and Lisbie and just 32 in 21 without them. Orient have played 7 players in the striking role this season only scoring 17 in 16 matches failing to score in 6 whist Orient scored in 42 out of 46 matches last term
Milanese has called for stability and when Orient had a stable defence, midfield and attack their records were very good last season. Putting all of these together the strongest 10 played 12 matches together winning 10 and drawing 2 but only 4 of those games were against teams that finished in the top half. 32 goals /37% of Orient total league goals were scored in those 12 matches. 37% of Orient points were accumulated with Orient’s strongest team – 32 points in 12 matches with and 54 points in 34 matches without all 10 playing. As previous mentioned how the O’s form dipped, these 10 players played 10 out of the first 12 matches then only 2 of their next 34 together.
Everybody knows that every season is different with players form dipping and runs ending but when Orient had a settled team point were accumulated steadily. Orient had a settled back 4, midfield 4 and front 2 but these season our strongest team is unknown to date. Milanese has not had all his players fit or available to date and won’t for many weeks to come but with improved performances in his first two matches, stability may be building. However if form and results do not improve the Italian owners have hinted that they are not afraid to make another managerial appointment.