What a frustrating final result. On the basis of chances in the game, why didn’t we win?! Too many missed chances, too many long balls and not enough football to get the best from our best players.
I also feel that two main problems face us, when we play a side who don’t let us exploit our main strengths (counter attacking football), and those two problems couldn’t have been more evident than in the game against Villa.
Firstly, Vurnon Anita and Jack Colback were great in the Liverpool and Spurs games I think, and there’s a reason for that, we have been playing games where we don’t need them in an attacking sense. Their jobs in the team are to sit in and try and break up opposition attacks, whilst releasing others to attack quickly on the break once they’ve won the ball. We don’t want or need them to be box to box players in those games.
When we play a team like we did on the weekend where we are expected to control the game, we have two players doing the same job of a holding midfielder. Anita and Colback aren’t both needed to do that job against a side like Villa.
The ball ends up being used further up the pitch, meaning we have a player out of the game when we attack, as we have two players sitting deeper – rather than the one we need. We don’t need both. As a consequence it doesn’t suit our tactics or chances of scoring, to have two holding players when we are the more dominant team.
At home against a side like Villa, we should have had either of them in center midfield, alongside Winjaldum, with Sissoko on the right and Thauvin on the left with two up front.
Alternatively, if Steve McClaren insists on sticking with De Jong then we should play two up front, De Jong in behind them. Add that to Gini and Sissoko on either flank and again either Anita or Colback holding, and we are a much more attacking outfit and much better at holding the ball in attacking areas.
McClaren’s lack of imagination in these sort of circumstances does concern me slightly. As did the choice to start De Jong. He just offers us nothing at the moment and was totally out of the game in my opinion.
The second issue is that, by not playing this more attacking system, I feel we aren’t getting the best from Gini and he floats in and out of games. His lack of a coherent partnership with a left back has a negative impact on the team. Dummett had his worst game for us in a long time and kept being caught out of position and then giving the ball away by humping it long when he often had time to find an easy pass.
Mitrovic may be a target man but lumping balls up to him constantly doesn’t play to his strengths and these tactics make him ineffective, which is why, when Villa attacked us more and more in the second half we couldn’t get a foothold in the game.
These aren’t the only reasons we didn’t take all three points against a desperately poor Villa side of course and our wastefulness in front of goal came to haunt us eventually, whereas the screamer they scored got them the point their hard work probably warranted.
Seven points from the last three games is a much better return than I expected but it doesn’t tell the full story of the last three weeks. If progress is to be made in terms of results long term, then progress needs to be made in our approach and tactics.
Sticking with a “winning team”, told of a manager who didn’t understand why we won those two games.
Steve McClaren’s unwillingness to adapt to the opposition or a way to exploit our strengths, continue to be our problems and the reason I am still not convinced McClaren knows how to get the best from our team.
Until that improves, we won’t improve and neither will our results.
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