Sunday, August 22, 2010

Same old Defensive Story

Yesterday's game really didn't tell us anything we didn't know from the preseason games or even from last year. Our attacking is exquisite but defensive frailties still remain. Enough has been said about the lacking of personal in quality and numbers but personally I feel that there is something fundamental wrong with the tactics.

No matter who we play in defense, we always seem to be caught on the counter attack. Last year, against Man U and Chelsea especially,  we were succintly exposed to quick fast break after losing the ball. Up till yesterday, we have still  to correct this mess whenever we lose ball in midfield, which we tend to do when we have Diaby in midfield(more about him in tomorrow's post).  If not for the lack of pace or support among Blackpool's front line, we would have been caught several times yesterday.

I am no master tactician but anybody can see that there is a big  gap between the central defenders and the attacking block of players when we attack. Our  players usually congregate around the borders of the penalty box with the midfielders  getting sucked in as well. This leaves the 30-35 yard area totally empty. This is the domain of the defensive midfielder and when Song is playing he tends to patrol this area well although he does get out of position as well. When we play Denilson and Diaby, both who have the tendency to give the ball away or being muscled off the ball, then we have a problem. Given their lack of pace and reluctance to hustle back, we oftten find ourselves under pressure.Not suprisingly the best player as an alternate to Song is  Emmanuel Frimpong during the matches that he played in preseason.It's just too bad that we have lost him for the next 9 months at least.

The other issue I have with the defensive formation is that  somehow we don't seem to pressure the opposition that much anymore. We often do that in the early part of the decade and during the era of the "Invincibles" with Ljungberg, Vieira, Gilberto all pressuring the opposition from the from. Nowadays,  we seem to invite the opposition to have a run at us before making our stand. In a pre-season interview, Frank McLintock said  that Arsenal and Barcelona have similar tactics but when the Barca players lose the ball, they try to win it back within 6 seconds. We don't and that is why we are under defensive pressure a lot. If you analyze last season, these the two defensive inefficiencies cause us more than 50%  of the goals we conceded.

So far, nothing in the team suggest that these issues have been addressed, so we may really need to score a lot more goals to counter the one that we will inevitably let in.

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