Written by kirsikka
I’ve kept my powder dry so far as I tried to digest yesterday since there was a lot of food for thought. In many ways, I’m actually left with more questions than answers.
First up, let’s talk about Blackburn to give the game some context. Reading their forum and looking at their record, they’re a midtable Championship team with ambitions to go further this year (although what team doesn’t think like that?). They’re very good in attack but have long-standing defensive issues that again haven’t been addressed in the transfer market this window. So they expect to score but also concede quite a lot.
Then the game. It was frenetic but not fast. The scything pacey skilful attacks that would take us to pieces seem to be missing at this level which is a huge boon for us. There was skill on the pitch but the baseline of quality is that much lower I believe it showed an individual can have far more impact. You can see how, for example, Grealish drove Villa to promotion.
Next the team units. If we’d have defended like that in the PL we’d have lost by a good couple of goals. Whilst our attacking personnel might be different if we’d have stayed up I’m not sure you can say the same about those at the back and so there’s a lot to work to do on the training ground. We have to recognise that this wasn’t Blackburn’s first competitive game but the organisation wasn’t there and holes were exposed way too many times to be comfortable. Someone needs to take the defence by the scruff of the neck and make sure everyone is doing their job. Plus ça change.
The midfield was really patchy. They rarely imposed themselves on the game to dominate the opposition. This is the one area of the pitch where we have PL strength in depth and so must be looking to maximise what should be a skill/ability advantage. Other teams will know this and try to outwork us or use it as a showcase to prove they can compete at a higher level. This is where the game should have been won and lost and so we got lucky with that performance.
The forwards showed moments of quality but let’s not forget they were playing against a team whose widely recognised weakness is their defence. We scored three with the second being excellent attacking play. The other two relied upon individual moments we can’t expect to happen in every match. Considering the opposition we didn’t actually create that many clear cut chances. There will be far sterner tests to come and so let’s hope it was a little rustiness on show. We may get a far better insight as to where we are when we play a Boro team managed by Colin next week. Our forwards shouldn’t expect a mm of give in that match and so will have to force the issue.
The management. It was an interesting tactical setup and good to see they want to try different things, even if we did end up reverting to the classic towards the end. There’s nothing wrong with that, sometimes it’s horses for courses. Let’s hope it’s a sign that we’ll try to innovate with formations to play the situation. However, they can’t be happy with the way the game evolved. We didn’t look like the home team in that match and, no matter how we try to spin it, Blackburn haven’t shown themselves to be anything more than midtable fare. There are far tougher games to come. Still, in context, it was only the first match and it was a win. Sometimes a manager needs a bit of luck and I think we got that in taking all three points.
The squad. Despite all the departures we all believed we’d held onto a very good bunch of players. What the knock to Rico and the look of the bench showed is there is a very little depth and a huge gulf in class between something around our 14th and 15th player. The youngsters may be able to step up but it’s crystal clear we need to bring in a few quality faces to bulk up our options if we’re serious about trying to go straight back up. Let’s hope there’s some movement on that front this week.
Individuals. These are meant as observations and not criticisms as such.
Danjuma looks great but everyone will know he’s a danger man now. Having tried to pull off the party trick against Benfica and then doing so successfully against West Ham and Blackburn every scout worth his salt will be making sure his team know to try and block that cut in. What he needs to do now is skin some people down the outside, hit the byline and put in some killer balls. Then defenders won’t know how to stop him and he can toy with them. If he tries the same thing every time it will become too predictable.
Lerma. It’s almost like when Austin Powers lost his mojo. You know there is this unstoppable force of nature there but somehow it isn’t happening for him and hasn’t for a little while. Impossible to say what it is from here but maybe a sport psychologist could help refocus his mind? I yearn to again see the beast that has been tamed inside the current shell on display.
Travers. Every keeper makes howlers. It’s how they pick themselves up from them that tells you of their character and future in the game. He has to put it behind him and mentally start next week with a clean slate. He’s been given the huge vote of confidence to be our number 1 and has a top-two tier pro career open before him if he can put in the performances. It’s harsh as for a keeper he’s young and there’s no hiding place but sometimes you have to grasp your opportunity when it comes. He has the ability, let’s hope he now shows he has the mental side to match.
Solanke. If the keeper is going to pull off a worldy it seems inevitable at the moment it will be against a decent Dom finish. Rather than dwell on that, he should take heart from making the right call when setting up Lerma. Instead of snatching at a shot through a crowded defence in the hope, he might sneak one in through an impossible gap he calmly laid it off to a player in a better position. That’s intelligent striker play and one of the reasons we have three points. More, please.
Overall grade: C+
A reasonable start but with a lot of work to be done. Encouraging in places with familiar frailties and some individuals needing to pick themselves up a little. I’m looking forward to next week!
Spot on..pretty much how most of us saw the match ….although regarding Arnie’s party trick…….knowing what a player is going to do and stopping him doing it are two very different things…..just ask Marc Pugh! – Join the conversation, click here.