I burned the midnight oil the other night turning over in my mind the reasons for our defeat at Wolves and outlining the lessons, good and bad, that we need to learn from the opening half of the season, and what we need to do in order to maintain our progress and impetus..
My comments seem to have touched a chord amongst some of my readers as I received quite a few comments yesterday from fans giving their view too.
Mike was one of many shared my concerns about our central defenders:
I have always wondered why Kenny Jackett allowed Tony Craig to leave Millwall, especially after having read Michael Calvin’s “Family” on your recommendation.
I always assumed it was because he could not hack it in the Championship.
With our excellent start to the season – post the Brum howler – I was beginning to think Jackett may have got it wrong, or Craig had grabbed his second chance with both hands and learned from the first time.
Now I’m not so sure.
My view is that only Tarkowski has the class and power to play at the top end of the Championship consistently, but he still has much to learn.
He needs to play alongside somebody of Craig’s experience, but that person must have more height and pace.
I cannot imagine though where we find, or how we afford, a player like that.
I can, Mike, and I suspect that there are moves currently afoot to fill that gap.
Paul also felt that we needed to upgrade our defensive personnel:
Tony Craig has a tendency to be indecisive and lets the ball bounce when he should clear it.
He is a tad slow and is not strong enough against the bigger forwards.
Dean makes one or two silly errors per game and also lacks pace.
Paul also isn’t a great fan of Jake Bidwell:
I will be contrary here as he seems to be loved on the Griffin Park Grapevine, and I know that you rate him.
He is a great guy, committed and learning, but he is too slow (hence his tendency to tug opponent’s shirts), and we definitely need cover in his position.
I can’t say I agree with him as I firmly believe that Jake is one of the best players in our squad and has adapted seamlessly to the higher division.
Paul then raised an interesting question that had me scurrying to view those damned Bees Player highlights yet again:
I wonder how many headed goals we have scored this season? Andre has had a few chances but it probably is only Douglas who has done so. We need an aerial option in midfield.
I spent an interesting and illuminating half an hour watching all of our forty goals once again, and most entertaining viewing it was too.
Can anybody answer that question posed by Paul?
In case you can’t, the answer is a bit shocking.
We have scored the grand total of two headed goals all season, both by Jonathan Douglas, against Brighton and Reading respectively.
Oh, I almost forgot, Harlee Dean also scored with a late header against Dagenham, but that came in a cup match.
Given his height and build, Andre Gray is by no means an aerial threat and he has managed to hit the post twice with close range headers, against Derby County, and frustratingly, in the dying seconds against Wolves.
I then went on to break down our goals even further.
It won’t surprise many of our supporters to learn that we have scored from only two set pieces, a corner against Reading and a Pritchard penalty at Nottingham Forest, plus that Dean header from a Bidwell free kick at Dagenham.
That is a quite frighteningly poor record given how crucial set piece goals are to a team’s armoury, and it is an area that we need to improve over the remainder of the season.
Our delivery is often not the best, particularly in the absence of Sam Saunders, and none of our players seem to attack the ball in the manner, say of the two Ipswich centre halves, Berra and Smith who this season have scored eight goals between them.
I fondly remember the days of Terry Evans, thundering in like a colossus at the back post, who presented an enormous threat to our opponents with his aerial presence and feel that we are certainly missing a trick.
Over the past few months I have often remarked flippantly that given our speed on the break, we are far more dangerous from opposition corners than our own, and the more I think about it, the more certain I am that that statement is entirely correct.
We have also scored only three goals from outside the penalty area, Alex Pritchard’s at Cardiff and the two wonderful Jota specials against Fulham and Cardiff, and maybe we could improve that record too given Alan Judge’s prowess from long distance.
Brentford have become justifiably renowned for the quality of their football, and we have been treated to some really special goals this season which totally encompass our pass and move philosophy, with Jonathan Douglas’s strike at Watford, Jota’s awesome goal against Leeds and Andre Gray’s first strike at Millwall being my personal favourites.
The Wolves performance on Sunday, however, did flag up some concerns as despite our massive sixty-four percent possession we only managed a mere five shots on target, an extremely poor return.
Perhaps we should listen to the guru, Pep Guardiola who doesn’t want to be associated with tiki-taka any more and commented in a recent book about him:
I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka.
It’s so much rubbish and has no purpose.
You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal.
Don’t believe what people say.
Barça didn’t do tiki-taka! It’s completely made up! Don’t believe a word of it!
In all team sports, the secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent must tilt its own defence to cope.
You overload on one side and draw them in so that they leave the other side weak.
And when we’ve done all that, we attack and score from the other side.
That’s why you have to pass the ball, but only if you’re doing it with a clear intention.
It’s only to overload the opponent, to draw them in and then to hit them with the sucker punch.
That’s what our game needs to be. Nothing to do with tiki-taka.
Wise words indeed and ones perhaps that we should take heed of as we pass the ball relentlessly backwards and from side to side.
Yes, we certainly need to probe for weaknesses but there does come a time when we need to take the bull by the horns and play an incisive ball into the penalty area or try a shot.
Patience is certainly a virtue but sometimes action speaks louder than words!
Paul Ridley has a similar point of view:
I completely agree with that, Greville.
I loved John Terry’s comment after Chelsea beat Barcelona
Interviewer “Barcelona had seventy eight per cent possession tonight”
John Terry “Yeah but we had a hundred per cent of the goals.”
Sometimes tippy tappy for the sake of it is pointless.
It has put us in trouble a few times this season with the passing across the back, Norwich and Fulham spring to mind immediately.
Have you noticed, we often play all this passing only to eventually pass back to Button who then whacks it upfield aimlessly?
We are still a work in progress and our progress to date has been little short of astonishing, with the promise of far more to come.