Wow. What just happened?
You will find a match report containing stats and interviews elsewhere, this post is more of a post-mortem than a match report. In fact this post is almost going to be a carbon copy of the one following the defeat by Spurs a few weeks back.
What on earth is going on?
Southampton were better than us yesterday, let’s get that out there straight away. Southampton. On the back of five straight defeats, with multiple first team players suspended or injured, with academy players in the first team. Southampton were more organised, aggressive and balanced. And for me the key to yesterday (and other games this year) was the balance.
Problem Number 1
Gareth Barry returned from his suspension, and as seems to be the case under Martinez came straight back in to the team, despite struggling in most games this season. Barry looks decent when paired with McCarthey who does the majority of the running for him. Besic, despite looking like he is going to be a great player for us, does not offer the same level of support for Barry. This leaves Barry chasing shadows and looking his age. For me, the team had to stay much the same as the one from the win earlier in the week.
Problem Number 2
In the game against QPR, Ross Barkley had his best game for a long long time in a deeper role, and we played with two wide men. Today we played with 3 number 10’s with Barkley playing left and Naismith right.
Naismith can do a job filling in wide when needed but Ross Barkley is not, has never pretended to be and never will be a left winger. Ross was largely ineffective today and often found himself naturally drifting inside. This has the knock on effect of stunting Leighton Baines’s game too as he has no cover in front of him.
Similar things were happening on the right wing too with Naismith drifting inside (although a lot less often than Barkley), which has the same effect on (the jaded looking) Seamus Coleman.
Problem Number 3
Samuel Eto’o has had some good games for us, but when he plays our style seems to change from dynamic, everyone has a touch of the ball to ‘give it to Sammy, he’ll sort it out’. It reminds me a little of the days of ‘hoof it to Dunc, he’ll sort it out’. We have a lot of creative players in the squad but all route seem to lead to Eto’o when he plays, and that’s not really ever going to work as players will just double up on him.
Problem Number 4
The Premier League rules allow a team to name 7 substitutes. Of these 7 subs, 3 may be used in any game. Yesterday despite being 1, then 2 and finally 3 goals down we used…none. Not a single sub, despite the bench offering attacking options such as McGeady, Pienaar and Kone. Hell even Garbutt would have offered more.
For me a better approach yesterday would have been to name an unchanged side from the QPR game, with the exception of Pienaar coming in for the injured Mirallas. This would have given the team, wait for it…. balance. Barkley would operate to his strengths more, Baines and Coleman would have had protection and support from 2 natural wide men who also track back. Naismith would do what he does best and support both midfield and Lukaku.
Obviously this doesn’t cover the defensive and goalkeeping frailties we had, but would they have been under so much pressure if we hadn’t played with effectively 4 up front, and no width? Maybe, maybe not but I 100% feel that it would have been better than what we had to witness yesterday.
Roberto Martinez needs to have a long hard look in the mirror, and realise that you cannot just pick your favourite players and make the formation fit them. The best player is the one that fits the role of the team, and the position first.
Come on Roberto, you had us purring last year with attacking wing play. Dynamic midfield play and ruthless attack. This year we are toothless, narrow, slow and predictable.
Ahh well only Stoke next!