There is a ‘change the formation’ school of thought that inevitably has its attractions when a form trend becomes as alarming as St Johnstone’s current one.
You have to go back to the start of October for the last time Saints played well for a full game.
The school of thought has three main strands to support it that I can see.
The first is that things have been mediocre to poor for long enough to suggest that the current broad system Callum Davidson favours, and enjoyed such stunning success with last season, doesn’t suit this group of players or, more specifically, this group of midfielders.
The second is that things can’t get any worse. That Dundee was as abject a performance as Saints have in them. And that, as such, the reward outweighs the risk.
The third, and most important part of it, is that things can reasonably be expected to improve if the set-up is altered.
There’s only so much you can tweak in midfield and attack if you stick with three centre-halves and two wing-backs and Davidson has been making those subtle refinements.
For Saints, significant change would mean going to a back four.
At this point in the season, I don’t think the potential for improvement is realistic enough to warrant doing it.
It isn’t a systemic failure that has brought Saints to the point of being a defeat away from potentially dropping to the foot of the table.
It’s footballers not playing well.
The whole team pressing with intensity across the pitch and midfielders passing and moving with conviction will not suddenly happen if Davidson goes 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or any other formation you care to mention.
It was tried at Livingston last year when Saints were toiling and didn’t result in a discernible uplift.
If anything, there’s even less reason to consider doing something similar now.
In the middle of the busiest spell of the campaign, training ground time is limited and the Perth side’s way of working is now so ingrained that it would need to wait until the mid-season break to unpick it and stitch something new together.
The best and most recent example of a manager trying and failing to use a formation change to turn around fortunes was James McPake.
What's better than one Chris Kane goal?
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) October 5, 2021
By half-time at McDiarmid Park, with his three at the back foundation going horribly wrong, McPake realised he needed to find solutions to his team’s problems another way.
Centre-halves backing off, as Jamie McCart did in midweek, is a worry.
So too is nobody doing well enough on the right of the back-three to make the position his own.
You could probably say the same for right wing-back as well.
The dangers for St Johnstone are both real and present.
For a match of such significance, that’s a big concern.
It’s bad but it’s not catastrophic
But it doesn’t take a fingers-in-the-ear fantasist to see a way out of this.
That a 35-year-old midfielder will walk straight back into the starting line-up and almost certainly improve it is an indictment of standards in that area of the pitch.
But a Craig Bryson looking to make amends for a match-turning red card in his last game against will be an asset and an upgrade from the other night for the Ross County contest.
And the impact Viv Solomon-Otabor made off the bench at Dens with his power and pace would suggest he too could raise levels in the starting XI.
Winning on Saturday would open up a six-point gap to the bottom and ensure whatever happens in Saints’ remaining 2021 fixtures, the January predicament won’t be catastrophic.
The defensive side of things is giving Saints a fighting chance in every fixture they play.
So, no, throwing that up in the air and changing to a back-four isn’t worth the gamble.
And, yes, it could precipitate the situation getting worse rather than better.