BEN RUTTEN wants his Bombers to play a "more aggressive" brand of football as pressure mounts on the club and its young coach after a 1-6 start to the season.
Essendon sits third-last on the ladder and faces a tough month of games before its mid-season bye, having delivered a poor start to its campaign following a finals appearance in 2021.
Rutten has come under scrutiny as the Bombers' slump continued with a lacklustre defeat to the Western Bulldogs last week, with his side averaging two fewer goals than last season and conceding on average four more goals in the opening two months of this year.
The former Adelaide full-back and Richmond assistant said the Bombers understood the pressure would come as a result of their poor opening.
"I feel really well-supported in the club. We've got really experienced people around me. We're not playing the footy or as going as well as we would have liked and we understand when we do that you open yourself up to some criticism and different opinions and that's part of the game," he said on Thursday.
"I don't think that's a new thing for me. I just need to be really clear on what my job is and how I can best coach the players and get us performing at the level we need to."
The Bombers' only win came in round four when they beat Adelaide by four points at Marvel Stadium, with clashes against Hawthorn, Sydney (at the SCG), Richmond and Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval) to come ahead of their round 13 bye.
Rutten said his players understood the club's gameplan but there has been an inconsistency in executing it.
"There's a level of frustration from everyone – the players, coaches, probably externally as well – and it's more around our consistency and our ability to execute the way we want to more frequently," he said.
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"We're seeing it at times and there's some really positive parts of our game, but we're not seeing it enough often enough and consistently enough and that's what we're striving to do. We understand we're never going to play a perfect game and get it right all the time but we're working really hard."
Dylan Shiel is expected to play in Essendon's starting 22 after being dropped last week but winning a reprieve as the medical substitute, with Rutten saying it was "looking more likely" the midfielder would face the Hawks.
Ruckman Sam Draper missed training with illness.
Rutten is encouraging the Bombers to play with more excitement and dare.
"We want to play a more aggressive brand of footy with some flair. It's one of the things we're not quite doing at the moment. There's a number of reasons for that but we want to keep pushing it to be able to do that more often," he said.
Jake Stringer will miss the next month with another hamstring injury he sustained against the Bulldogs. It is to his opposite leg from the strain of which he returned from for the Anzac Day clash with Collingwood in round six, but Rutten said the club would review whether he came back too soon.
"He did everything, we were confident in the way he presented and he got through his first game. It's his other leg. Maybe that's an indication it was too early, maybe it's just a bit of luck as well. We'll have a look at that," he said.