Chess, Tactics and Steve McClaren.

I had never really cared for American Football, until a girl I was going out with described it as “a game of chess played by the coaches with enormous, roided up hunks of meat as the pieces.”

Not that I now get up at three in the morning to find an internet stream and wave a ‘Go Yankees’ flag (they play in the AFL, right?) but I could now better understand the appeal of American Football to someone heavily invested in it.

The same argument can be applied to many team sports, such as rugby, cricket, baseball and of course, football.

The manager/board purchases players in the transfer windows and then it is up to the manager to work with what he has. A football match is a game of chess played by the managers, with the footballers as the pieces.

A manager’s team selection and tactics ultimately determine how good he is at his job.

A grandmaster chess player can take over a game where you have taken several of your opponents pieces and go on to beat you despite being at a disadvantage.

We see this all the time when a manager takes over a new club mid-season. Suddenly, the players have a new found confidence, are tighter at the back, they start scoring more goals and most importantly, start winning. Example: Liverpool this season. If Shteve McClaren is good at chess, he certainly isn’t showing it.

Of course I could be wrong and our gaffer’s alleged coaching skills are going to pay off next weekend against Crystal Palace.

Maybe Mitrovic will finally be able to channel his ‘passion’ into a display worthy of the number 9 shirt, perhaps Shteve will finally be able to drill into Sissoko the importance of bottle, effort and workrate when the team is playing poorly – this weekend could be the one where things finally click…

In my opinion, the tactics are not working, and McClaren is bordering on insanity for persisting with them.

I’m aware that this isn’t football manager and you can’t just switch up your game plan every fortnight and expect players to know where to position themselves and how they’re all supposed to link up and cover each other. If the gaffer has a tactical plan to get the best out of what we have, then he does need time to get the players used to it. But after 6 months and no results, you’ve got to start asking questions.

Why does Sissoko continue to play down the wing when he’s clearly more effective through the middle?

The same goes for Wijnaldum.

As for Mitrovic, why are we building our entire team plan around one player, prone to suspensions and who is unproven in this league?

Why is Paul Dummet consistently played at left back even though he’s ‘a better centre back’ if you’re generous and ‘second rate’ if you’re not?

And what the hell has happened to De Jong? A strained hamstring, a punctured lung, what now, a broken heart?

Why aren’t we utilising Perez, arguably our best player, more?

Perhaps we should go with a diamond in midfield with any one of our 4 attacking midfielders actually playing in the attacking midfield position, or go 4-3-3, and have 1 defensive midfielder and play with 2 attacking midfielders (This is our strongest position both in terms of personnel and quality and we’re not playing anyone in it!!).

You could debate what might be the best formation for hours but the only thing we know for sure, is that the tactics we’re using every week are not working and something needs to change.

It’s incredibly frustrating but sadly I don’t expect it to end any time soon. Though who knows, Tiote’s injury might force Shteve to have a re-think. Its his move.

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