What A Waste! – 4/1/15

Who can tell me what these figures represent?

65-16-6-2

64-17-5-1

61-19-6-0

Do any of you have any suggestions, or do you all give up?

Well, they represent the possession percentages, shots on goal, shots on target and goals scored by Brentford in their last three matches.

As you can see, for all of our overwhelming possession, our number of shots on target per game remain very low, and indeed, in those three matches, we have scored only three goals, two of them from deflections, from fifty-two shots of which only seventeen were on target.

Conversely our opponents, Ipswich, Wolves and Brighton have had minimal possession, averaging less than thirty-seven percent per match and have been restricted to a total of thirty-seven shots of which sixteen were on target, and yet between them they have scored no less than eight goals.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase attributed to both Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli but the most important facts, and ones that cannot be contested, are that Brentford have lost three games in succession for the first time under Mark Warburton and have only kept one clean sheet in their last twelve matches.

It cannot also be denied that our last three opponents have done far more with far less of the ball and have been more clinical, composed and indeed, successful in front of goal than we have.

Is there a pattern emerging and if so what is it and how should we combat it?

Well in my opinion there most certainly is and we need to do something about it. And soon!

We have certainly contributed heavily to our own downfall by our profligacy in front of the opposition goal and our carelessness and needless risk taking in front of our own.

Looking at yesterday’s match, it is hard to be too critical when appreciating the sublime quality of some of our approach play, the subtle probing for gaps and the sudden quickening of pace, but all too often it just all fizzled out with a careless final pass or wasteful shot that soared harmlessly wide or well over the bar.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that we tore Brighton apart for much of the first half but so much possession resulted in so few real chances. But we should have made far more of what we did create.

Jota was untouchable as none of the Brighton defenders could get close enough to him to make a tackle. His early shot was pawed away by Stockdale straight to Gray, who had two attempts to score from close range, but somehow managed to send the ball all the way along the goal line without it actually entering the net when surely it was easier to score? Jota it was who then danced through the entire Brighton left flank before setting up Toral for what seemed the formality of scoring, but he could only force a solid smothering save from the keeper.

Brighton were light years behind us in terms of imagination, movement, pace and use of the ball but they defended in numbers, rarely allowed us to get behind them and simply clung onto the
ropes with few thoughts beyond surviving until halftime. Their craven policy deserved far less reward than it actually got, but we did not take advantage of our opportunities.

Brighton reformed after the break and the match became more even and open with Jack Bonham, given his first start since the Derby League Cup fiasco last season, impressing as he came under increased pressure.

Toral sliced over the bar before the game turned on the Andre Gray horror show. Having missed badly in the first couple of moments, his day went from bad to worse as the ball went everywhere apart from its intended direction. The ball fell invitingly to him from a cross weakly spooned to him by Stockdale but he shanked the ball horribly wide. Two more close range headed chances were spurned before he sped through on the left after a quick break from a Brighton corner, unforgivably ignored the three colleagues lined up unmarked and onside in front of a gaping net and sliced the ball towards the corner flag. Odebajo too let Brighton off the hook when roaring past his man into the box, but he too lacked composure in front of goal and blazed high, wide and not at all handsome.

Brighton then made an inspired substitution, with the burly Chris O’Grady at last giving them a decent out ball. Brighton gained in confidence as ours dipped and we decided to give our visitors a helping hand or two.

Three times we gave the ball away criminally just outside our penalty area, twice by Tarkowski and once by Moses. Unlike us, who struggled to get a shot close to goal, Brighton seized on our generosity yet somehow we escaped as March and O’Grady both hit the post and Bonham half smothered O’Grady’s second effort which slithered right through him and went tantalisingly close
to spinning inside rather than outside the unguarded post.

If you can’t win a game then surely the next objective is not to lose it but, almost on time, we conceded a dubious free kick which was floated in and Dunk’s touch beat the straining Tarkowski and the ball flew into the bottom corner of the net.

We never looked like recovering and a naive offside trap was caught out before O’Grady left a floundering Tarkowski flat on his backside before finishing emphatically for a fully deserved goal.

I really am not too sure how to react to this defeat. I so wanted a victory yesterday, firstly in the hope of gaining a lucrative draw in the next round of the FA Cup which would ideally see us given the chance to test ourselves against a Premier League team, but, more importantly, to arrest a minor slide before heads drop and it becomes a mini-slump.

Had we scored early on, as indeed we should, then I suspect that the motor would have purred into action and we would have gone onto a comfortable and much needed victory, but as it is, we have nobody to blame bar ourselves for the poor result, and we simply have to do better next time.

Gray surely cannot have such an appalling match again and I shudder to think how the supporters would have reacted had it been the unfortunate Nick Proschwitz who had been so profligate in front of goal. Given how well he has done, it is hard not to forget that, like so many of his colleagues, Gray is a work in progress and has barely got his L Plates off. The crowd stayed with him and indeed the rest of the team and they are fully aware that we will have bad days as well as good.

Brighton though, were there for the taking and were unbelievably poor and limited in the first half, beyond defending for their lives. That should not be denigrated though as we are totally unable to do the same.

I am completely in favour of, and full of admiration for our playing style and patient approach in terms of building from the back, however that does not excuse the crass stupidity, lack of strength, both physical and mental, basic errors of judgement and poor decision making that we have seen in bucket loads from all of our defenders recently.

Of the eight goals we have conceded in the last three games, yes, eight goals, it is hard to think of any of them that we could, or indeed should, not have prevented had we defended properly or with a modicum of concentration and common sense.

I well appreciate that we cannot have everything given our chosen style and have to make some compromises. I know we cannot have two dedicated strikers – but we could do far more with the chances we create and get more shots on target. I brought a Watford supporting friend yesterday who admired how we try and play but thought us very predictable as we invariably attempted to create openings down either wing without endeavouring to play our way through the middle. Our crossing was far too random and inaccurate and is another area where we desperately miss Alan McCormack.

I also understand that sometimes we take chances when playing the ball out of defence, but surely we need to make better assessments of the risks we are taking, because at the moment we are becoming a soft touch at either end of the field.

Clubs know that they cannot live with us if they try and out-football us, but if they press us high up the field and maybe even knock us about a bit, we are likely to crumble and concede poor goals. Similarly if they funnel deep and defend their penalty area they fully realise that we have no aerial threat and will not simply sling high balls into the box, but we will try and play around them and get midfield runners into shooting positions. If they defend stoutly they are likely to escape fairly unscathed.

Clean sheets are precious, as I have outlined in my last article, and we need a few more of them. Maybe we need to get Alan McCormack back next month in the hope that he will organise and perhaps even terrify his own team mates into defending properly.

And that is the key to what I am trying to say. I am not trying to have my cake and eat it and we don’t have to change the way we play, but we just have to be a little bit more careful and consider the risks before we decide whether to take them or not. In Mark Warburton’s words, we simply need to stop “taking liberties” at the back.

I well remember the howls of surprise a few matches ago when Harlee Dean sliced an agricultural clearance high into touch. There are times when you simply have to bite the bullet and clear your lines. Sometimes you can play it short or try one-two’s on the edge of your own penalty area, on other occasions it makes no sense to do so.

At present we are making poor decisions in and around both penalty areas and we need to do far better in each of them. We are so close to becoming a real force and maybe I am simply being impatient, as in my more rational moments I do realise that we have come an extremely long way very quickly, and perhaps a bit more patience and a lessening of expectations are required.

I hope and expect that there will be some hard work and perhaps even harsh words at the training ground this coming week and let’s just hope that Rotherham are on the receiving end next Saturday.

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12 thoughts on “What A Waste! – 4/1/15

  1. I regularly enjoy your articles and thought I should make a contribution. as a world renowned expert supporter (you know the kind who has never managed a team, but is better qualified than those who do), I am at a loss as to what is the best plan. Would we prefer less nice football and a 1-0 win or continue with trying to play attractive football and . . .Although most of us would say both, at the moment, I think our first policy must be to not let any goals in, and that really does mean safety first, second and third. I think we must stop this obsession with the passing out of defence. And then, to make our shots count by getting them on target, at least then there is a chance that they will end up a goal.

    The last 3 games have been a reality check and I hope that in the next game we can start to see the much vaunted as long as we learn from our mistakes.

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    • The trouble is, Michael you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You cannot change what we do but merely tinker as we must not lose what is so good about it but we need to make better decisions in both boxes and not take stupid risks.

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      • Absolutely agree. That’s why I said at the outset that I am just like any supporter who thinks he knows best.
        I also think that the quality of our play and wins has given us ever increasing expectations. At the start it was as long as we stay up, that will be great and now we are getting disappointed that we aren’t in a position for automatic promotion !

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  2. Morning Greville. ‘ we must learn from this’ what mark Warburton says in the morning papers! No surprise there then however now I have calmed down after yesterday’s poor display and after reviewing the season so far I have decided not to feel negative about the last three results or question the area’s we know we need to improve ( quickly) as surely the management team will be working on this already starting with a few harsh words to the players. So from now on as a show of faith I am going to approach each game with patience, without judgement and with a belief that Mr Warburton will continue to take us in the right direction.

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  3. I just wish some of them were a bit quicker on the uptake though!!

    I too am a bit more phlegmatic today than I was at 5pm yesterday when I was seething.

    A win would have got us right back on track, now we all have another week of waiting and worrying ahead of us!

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  4. Brentford are in the top 6, are generally playing flowing expansive football and the whole place has a feel good factor. So you lose a few games, have a bit of an off day yesterday in front of goal and its time to slash your wrists and throw yourself off a high building – delete as appropriate. Welcome to the second tier of English football (yes I know it was a cup game) where bottom can beat top and if you’re not on your game every single week you’ll get punished.

    As a Watford fan I suffer the same as you every week. Sometimes brilliant,sometimes mediocre and sometimes crap – for us more mediocre. You are not an established Premier League side with a strong squad of seasoned players but you are that work in progress as Greville says.

    Be pleased with what you’ve achieved so far which has been excellent (albeit with almost everyone there ex-Watford) and recognise that you’re on a journey which often has bumps along the way. It doesn’t happen overnight but I’m sure you would have taken your current position and general quality of team performance back in August. However be pleased you’re on the journey.

    Just please have an off day on 10th Feb.

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  5. You’re right, Greville, we’re letting in too many goals and not making the most of the possession we have. At the back, I don’t think it’s so much of a change in personnel that’s needed rather than being a little bit cuter. Warburton always (and rightly) talks about defensive lapses as opportunities to learn: Fair enough, but the mistakes of August are still being repeated in December.

    As far as Andre Gray is concerned, I wonder whether we are paying the price for Scott Hogan’s injury?

    I’ve really got no idea about Hogan as a player, as he got injured so early, but he was intended to be the main man up front, with Gray as the impact sub. Instead, Gray (who was playing non-league a few months ago), has been asked to shoulder the burden single-handed. He’s done an absoluty splendid job, but he does need a rest from time to time, and there is no alternative. Proschwitz really isn’t the answer, At best, a square peg in a round hole. At worst, another Murray Jones. Hogan couldn’t be worse.,,,

    I see we’ve opened the transfer window by signing another midfielder. Looks like an excellent prospect. But please, pretty please, another forward? It’s unfair on Gray to ask him to be the single point man in his first seson of League Football.

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  6. As I said, I wish they learnt their lessons a bit quicker!

    We have to be patient with Gray who for all his misses yesterday, still showed some wonderful movement.

    Let’s see who comes in and please let me know what you think we should do in the window.

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    • No criticism of Gray intended. He’s been a real revelation, but it’s been a big move up for him, and he’s ended up being the only forward at the club, which is big ask. Case in point was Saturday, which would have been an ideal opportunity to start someone else and have him on the bench – only there is no someone else.

      During the window? Nothing radical, but I think if we are committed to 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1, then the first priority is to look at what might happen if someonce got crocked and was out for the rest of the season. Assuming Alan McCormack is a month or so away from being available again, then two posiitions really stand out: Left back and forward. There’s no cover for Jake or for Andre. Unfortunately, those happen to be the two positions which are hardest to fill. At least left backs come cheaper thatn a goal-every-other-game forwards. And let’s not forget loan options either.

      Any other signings are lower priority.

      Also, let’s not forget, after all, that it’s not us writing the cheques. Let’s also not forget that, although we’d love to go up this year, consolidation was the main priority at the start of the season.

      Incidentally, one slight disappointment for me has been the absence of players moving up from the development squad. I know it’s early days and work in progress, but Montell Moore looked lively pre-season and I would have hoped that he, or someone of his ilk, might at least be taking one of the sub spots (there are seven). If nothing else, just to give them some exposure to and involvement in the first team set-up

      Luxury problem, isn’t it? Like you, I remember when Brentford had a squad of just 14 players, no reserves, no juniors. Of course, we were bumbling around in Division 4 in those days.

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