I must start this by saying I didn’t expect much from our last two games. The billionaires of Manchester City were always going to provide us with a problem through their endless attacking talent, coupled with the fact they’ve seemingly become a bit of a bogey side to us. We’ve not beaten them since the 2005/2006 season.
The same can be said of our trips to Craven Cottage. We’ve also only won once in Fulham since the same season and that win wasn’t exactly a classic – Joey Barton converting a last minute penalty after the ball spent the majority of the 90 in the air.
I did however expect some kind of return from the two games but our lack of ability to take some of our many chances in both games, coupled with a sieve-like defence, made it unlikely come game time. It would be easy for me to sit here, typing away and pointing out our faults but that is meaningless. What I think is important is that as fans we have some perspective on certain situations before being angry about them all.
Our defensive frailties have been there and a problem for a while. If we look at the Fulham game from last season for example, we conceded five goals in 37 minutes. In our match against Norwich last season we conceded four goals away from home too, so our faults on the road have been a problem before. Rather than as happened last season us having one poor game and recovering, we are stuck in a rut. The reasons for that?
Coloccini hasn’t been at the same level as he was. As a consequence (I think anyway) the others around him at the back aren’t able to raise the bar to that same standard as last year. This is leading to mistakes which we aren’t able to recover from, leading me to the next issue. Our attacking threat.
Our midfield last season gave our attackers an endless supply of chances. Decent crosses and clever balls through the middle helped us score some clever and wonderful goals. When those didn’t come off, someone did something magnificent. Be it a screamer from Ben Arfa, a miracle strike from Cisse or some selfless interplay through Ba, a goal never seemed off the cards. The goals have dried up for Cisse, Ben Arfa has been injured as has our main supplier of assists – Yohan Cabaye. In their place we’ve had Tiote playing very indifferently and the supply line from Jonas has been non-existent. In fact our biggest attacking threat out wide is looking like being Santon.
We have been unlucky with injuries to an extent this season, as we have also been with players simply being out of form. It happens. We all know these things happen though, so it begs to question why more wasn’t done in the summer to plug possible gaps, especially defensively. There is nothing we can do about that now however, and in my own cynical opinion, I don’t think anything will be done in January either.
So how can we solve these problems without splashing the cash? I think it’s time to move Jonas along, give him a bit of time on the bench and bring in Marveaux. Stick to the 4 – 3 – 3 which served us well last season but also dropping Cisse. Play Ba through the middle with Marveaux and Ben Arfa (once fit again) either side of him. They will also be more naturally suited to dropping into midfield when we lose the ball. I also think that when going forward they will bring us a spark that Jonas and Cisse simply don’t have right now.
To help us at the back, we don’t have any options. It’s that simple. What I would like to see however is an improvement in simple things. We got cut apart yesterday by one twos. Premier League players should follow their man not the ball. In fact I’d get a row if I didn’t do that properly with my five-a-side team. Danny Simpson was very guilty of it yesterday as Coloccini has been too – Stoke away being the worst example for him.
The same applied for the second goal yesterday. Perch simply lost his man and Javi Garcia got to the ball, we all know what happened next. In behind him Coloccini had done the same thing too by the way and this concerns me greatly. The second goal on Monday night, Coloccini also lost his man and was totally on the wrong side of Rodallega when he plundered the ball past Krul. The basics are lacking at the back and that can only improved by training drills and the like, as we have no one who can replace players who are out of form at the back.
I appreciate all of my comments here seem negative and I’ve been encouraging as many people as possible to be positive in recent weeks. This is still my feeling as negativity will solve nothing, especially on match days. What I do expect however is a positive response from our players in regard to doing simple basic things properly. This is turn means that then all goals we do score become valuable, then hopefully the goals we are scoring will be goals which get us draws and wins rather than just consolations.
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