I’m going to preface this by saying that Pardew needed to go and I’m very glad he did. However, that change won’t mean anything unless the coaching staff are changed too in my opinion.
I went back and quickly re-watched elements of yesterday’s game, focusing mainly on the first half as I feel that will show how the coaching staff set us up to play. Subs and reactions to the opponents in the second half always break the flow of the game up and make it much harder to identify a gameplan.
We were so static as an attacking unit that it actually shocked me how many times the camera would zoom in, then pan back out and the players were within the same 3 yard area making it nice and easy to be marked.
I’ve picked out 3 snapshots that underline exactly what I think is wrong and why I think our coaches are out of their depth with this group of players, and why the formation of 4231 doesn’t seem to be working (although I actually think it’s perfectly suited to us if used correctly).
It’s all to do with lack of movement and lack of runners going past Pérez… It’s no coincidence that one of the few times in the game an attacking midfielder ran past him was when we scored.
Here I’ve highlighted our front four. Cabella is on the ball with Pérez giving him an option up the line. Nothing wrong with that, good movement and it pulls away the centre back creating a nice hole in their defence for a midfield runner to exploit. So far so good…
Except there isn’t a midfield runner. At the bottom of the screen you can see Gouffran jogging along, very rigidly sticking to his left hand third of the pitch, but more worryingly you can see Sissoko standing there pointing backwards.
There is so much space between Gouffran/Sissoko and Pérez that we aren’t exploiting.
I was intending on highlighting our front four again this time, but as you can see only three are visible. This second image is over 20 seconds after the first one, but look at where our attacking players are. They’re still within five yards of where they were in the last screenshot; so much so that Sissoko isn’t even in the shot.
Pérez has again made a good run, drawing a CB out of position, but there is no willingness from anyone else to run past that and make the defenders turn. Cabella’s first instinct is to make himself available as a short backwards pass, but that’s what Colback, Anita and Janmaat are there for! He’s got to be bursting a lung to get into that space, drawing a midfielder with him and creating space for one of the defensive midfielders, if Pérez does need to go backwards.
I’m not absolving Colback or Anita of blame here either! If they can see Sissoko is walking on the halfway line he’s effectively covering for them so one of them can go and join the attack but there’s such a rigid mentality to not move away from their position that it barely crosses their minds.
I’m not going to say too much about this one, but if you were Cabella on the ball with two defenders in front of you and you look up to see Sissoko wandering around on the far side of the pitch with Gouffran jogging up in a straight line, leaving Pérez to be marked by two big CBs then what are your options? Janmaat or Colback basically.
What these still shots don’t show is the lack of movement when either of our CBs have the ball. We’re too quick to blame the defenders for playing the long ball to Pérez but I guarantee you that’s the only option they have aside from just passing it between themselves.
As I said, the few times we did get runners going beyond Pérez we looked dangerous but that was all too infrequent. Our players are capable of doing it – Cabella scored loads last season, Sissoko is one of the most explosive players in the league on his day, and Gouffran had a great run at the beginning of last season where he scored in something like 5 home games in a row – so to me it looks like the mentality of the coaching staff is to rigidly stick to your area of the pitch and make sure you don’t lose the ball… That’s not playing to the strengths of our attacking players and it shows with performances like yesterday.
Do you agree that we need a coaching overhaul? Have your say in our discussion thread.
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