Caley Thistle’s 3-0 humbling at the hands of Arbroath has led to some soul-searching in the Highland capital.
The performance was not Dumbarton levels of bad. That still sticks out as the low point of Inverness’ time in the Championship, when the drop from the top tier looked as though it may continue following a dismal 2-1 defeat at Dumbarton in 2017.
After that game, with Inverness sitting third-bottom and taking just four points from their first seven games, manager John Robertson indicated he was willing to sacrifice his own job for the good of the club, but was not sure his players would do the same.
The manner of the defeat to Arbroath was shoddy. Caley Thistle were outworked by a team full of confidence, regardless of their part-time status. Arbroath were given freedom to play their own game as Inverness wobbled defensively, with Bobby Linn and Scott Stewart relishing their afternoon on the flanks.
Going forward, Inverness seem out of ideas beyond hitting a target man early and try to pick up scraps. The midfield of David Carson and Charlie Trafford on Saturday was bypassed for large parts. Nikolay Todorov was not an attacking threat while James Keatings and Miles Storey were ineffective, leaving Tom Walsh as their sole light going forward. Arbroath were organised and fed off Caley Thistle’s indecision.
Perhaps more worryingly for Robertson, he remarked after the game that players started to do their own thing and were not working together. A penchant to go freelance in the middle of the game does not paint a picture of a focused camp.
Inverness have won just one of their last five and were beaten 3-0 at home by Dundee United the weekend before. The letdown after that game was arguably greater, given they had set themselves up as potential challengers to United’s position at the top of the table. But a team with designs on getting out of the division does not lose in that manner at Gayfield.
There are still 69 points to play for and while a 10-point gap to leaders United is significant, the teams below them seem capable of cutting each other’s throats. It is going to take a consistent run of results, some ground-out, horrible 1-0ers if needs be, to get momentum behind the Caley Jags again and alter the mood music around the place.
Over the past two summers, they have lost the craft and guile of Iain Vigurs and Liam Polworth, without directly replacing them. Both players, although polarising to the home support, were productive, racking up assists and being able to prise open packed defences. Looking at the current Caley Thistle squad, they do not appear to have that and instead have to rely on playing direct up to a lone striker.
There doesn’t seem to be a reliable Plan B, so when that approach is snuffed out Inverness struggle. Factor in more frequent defensive errors and you have a recipe for a downfall. They don’t have the finances to go bring in a couple of big name signings in January so this will be the squad, barring any unexpected departures, that gets them through the season.
Carl Tremarco urged them to go back to basics, after some home truths in the away dressing room on Saturday. Victory against Clyde at home this weekend in the Challenge Cup is a must before they start about rejuvenating their Championship campaign.