Play It Short Or Kick It Long? – 18/9/14

There has been a lively debate within the pages of the Griffin Park Grapevine, the main Bees supporters’ message board, regarding how we now almost invariably build up slowly from the back.

Some love it and see it as further evidence of our progress and development, others are not so keen.

The trend started under Uwe Rosler, but it has been developed over the past nine months under the direction of Mark Warburton and David Weir until it is now our default approach.

Warburton is always talking about the need to “take care of the football” and is loth to allow the players to give it away unnecessarily.

Gone are the days when the ball was thumped from end to end by goalkeepers either looking for the head of a giant striker or even seeking to put the ball into touch deep in the opposition half for a set piece restart.

Richard Lee is an obvious exception, but most Bees keepers of recent vintage have been blessed with the ability to launch the ball to the other end of the pitch, even if where the ball ended up was pretty hit and miss.

Now, it is now very much the exception rather than the rule for David Button to kick the ball long either out of his hands or from the ground.

Our attacks start from the back with Button encouraged to throw or kick the ball out short and quickly to a member of the back four or sometimes midfielders Jonathan Douglas or Alan Judge.

It is then up to them to seek out gaps in the opposition formation and ideally move the ball onto one of the other midfielders who can then start an attack.

Maintaining possession is the key to our footballing philosophy.

Patience is a virtue and the players are encouraged to pass the ball across the back four from side to side whilst they probe for openings.

The perfect example of how this approach can work was seen on Saturday against Brighton, when Button threw the ball short to Judge, the opposition backed off and he then hit a wonderful defence splitting pass inside the left back for Moses Odubajo to do his magic and score a goal that was truly a thing of beauty.

All our defenders are skilful on the ball, probably even more so than they ever thought possible, and have developed the confidence to call for the ball when under pressure, secure in the knowledge that they are good enough to either beat or outpace their man or pass the ball quickly to an unmarked team mate.

zokoNinety-nine times out of one hundred all goes well, the ball is moved slickly between players, and we are off and running.

It is the hundredth time that causes concern, as that is when disaster strikes.

David Button’s inelegant attempted step-over and pirouette fooled nobody, particularly Francois Zoko who managed to stop laughing long enough to charge down the keeper’s eventual delayed and inept clearance and score a crucial equaliser for Stevenage, who went on to beat us in a match that had massive repercussions for the team.

Button too was mainly responsible for Swindon’s winner in a tightly fought battle late last season.

Right on halftime he exchanged passes with Tony Craig and rather than play the ball long, as the situation surely demanded, he played a hospital pass to Jonathan Douglas twenty-five yards out, directly in line with the centre of the goal.

Douglas had his back to the opposition, but Button was facing the play and should have noticed the cavalry bearing down on Douglas, who was duly dispossessed, and Louis Thompson ran through a non-existent defence to score the crucial goal.

thompFinally, on Tuesday night Button played the ball short to James Tarkowski who was in space, but he played a sloppy pass in front of Douglas, the ball was intercepted, Norwich had men over and scored comfortably.

The game turned and slipped away from us in a twinkling of an eye.

There have also been some narrow escapes as opposing forwards begin to wise up on our approach and press us high up the field.

We played Russian Roulette for much of the second half at Blackpool and on Tuesday, Norwich forced two earlier errors soon after half time but we got away with it.

AFC Bournemouth also pressed us and Button was forced to go longer and kick the ball forward.

In David Button we are blessed with a keeper who despite his faux pas at Stevenage, is remarkably talented with the ball at his feet and he strikes the ball beautifully with both feet.

He reminds me of a golfer as he pings the ball forward.

Occasionally he over clubs and it goes into touch but he is very accurate and more often than not he finds his man.

The problem is, though, that in a team comprised mainly  of Diddy Men, we have very little aerial ability and also generally only play one striker.

We are packed full of speedy, small ball players who revel in keeping possession of the football.

If and when Button does kick it long it invariably comes straight back and we lose possession – a cardinal sin.

Gray is weak in the air and Proschwitz, who can head the ball, is generally stuck on the bench.

Button’s interim solution is therefore to look for Jake Bidwell, just over the halfway line.

A Plan C is definitely needed.

Whatever we fans think, nothing is going to change for the foreseeable future, and, indeed, we play exactly the same way, with a patient build up, in all of the age group teams too.

We are still learning and I see this philosophy as being part of Mark Warburton’s desire to empower the players to take responsibility and keep possession at all costs.

For the most part the fans have been supportive of this new fangled approach and there is overall approval, if not amazement at the sight of Brentford players looking so skilful and confident on the ball.

This really isn’t what we have been accustomed to over the years and we are still getting used to it.

But isn’t it wonderful!

There are a few reactionaries who scream at Button to “kick the damn thing up the field” and who are not onboard with the new philosophy.

When things do go wrong you can hear them tutting in disapproval and saying “I told you so”.

My view is that we are still a work in progress.

We are getting far better at keeping possession and mistakes are now becoming less common – but will still occur.

Within reason, I am happy with that state of affairs as the advantages more than outweigh the negatives.

Yes, I do sometimes cringe when we pass the ball around dangerously twenty yards from our goal, but it is all part of our progression and development.

The club has been turned upside down over the past couple of years and I for one am proud and delighted with what we are now seeing.

The odd mishap and accompanying raised blood pressure is surely a small price to pay!

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4 thoughts on “Play It Short Or Kick It Long? – 18/9/14

  1. I agree with what you say Greville, and would add that Mark Warburton possibly welcomes the opposition pressing us high up the field because that opens up gaps to exploit. Not unlike counter-attacking when we are away from home, which I know you believe to be when we are more effective. Apart from concentrating better for the entire game, I wonder if our two centre-backs should also be schooled in a very simple decision-making process which means they automatically go longer when in difficulties.

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