What is it with Lancashire? For some reason most of the times we play there we show ourselves to be southern softies without fight or idea. Yesterday was no exception and was for me our worst performance of the season by far. You heard it from the top at the end of the game “we were as open as a barn door – you just can’t play like that”. But we did.
My team selection differed by one player from Harry. He went for Sandro I went for Huddlestone but apart from that no difference. I was surprised to see both Wilson and Sandro on the same pitch but reasoned that yes this was going to be a tough battle so good choice. Then the referee blew his whistle.
You can’t blame this performance on the Champions League because we played like this before we qualified for the competition. There is – as we know – the Spurs way of playing free flowing quality football with goals goal goals. Unfortunately they’re often at both ends.
In years gone by we loved it because we only saw the home games and the programme told us about an unlucky defeat on our last trip. These days you can see every minute of play and some of it isn’t pretty. Yesterday was one. We offered nothing at all for most of the game – yet scored the two best goals. Despite all of our talent we got put under pressure by Bolton for most of the game and we had no answer at all.
I can only conclude that Harry did not want to destroy Sandro’s confidence by subbing him at half time for the lad’s sole contribution from the armchair was to concede possession in a dangerous position which allowed Kevin Davies to score from on offside position. No moans about the offside the ball should have never got to him but interestingly the linesman had his flag up against us in the second half!
This was the goal I’ve been waiting for from Ekotto but his sloppy concession – along with others – got intercepted or missed. So with Sandro continuing Wilson got tugged off and Pav came on. As we know JD is injured but hopes to return for the Arsenal game. Without him in the side much of the scoring duty has fallen to the midfield with Crouch becoming more of a provider than goal scorer. Many of you will say Pav would score more if he got more games but yesterday was once again a typical Pav performance. He was not in it throughout yet scored close to goal of the season.
It was similar to the Young Boys game. Yesterday proved that if a sub plays badly the game cannot be changed around. For us to get back into it we had to win the ball and get it to our sub to make him do something with it. Never happened. Maybe not Pav’s fault but it gets to be like playing with 10 men.
I prefer Crouch because he does provide you with more options. He stays up front for a start so away from home you can try and belt it at him up the field. With both Pav and Keane playing in a different way it becomes more difficult. Neither can head with any great prowess and so you can get caught carrying a man by selecting them. Keane is a better option because he will try and press more but in front of goal Pav is definitely better – if only he would attack the ball a bit more.
At home this is a problem enough but away it’s magnified 100 times. With our midfield weak in the tackle but full of flair going forward the extra man in midfield helps to close down a marauding opponent – or that’s the theory. So the one man up front needs the support of the midfield and that’s where Rafa has come in. Without him it did not work so we reverted to 4-4-2 and saw we’d forgotten how to play it properly!
So will Defoe be able to fulfil the one man role? Balls hit into space to run at yes for sure but those don’t often provide opportunity for him to score; balls hit at him in the air – we know his record in the air about 1 in 10 possession retained.
Having got to half time only 1 down on the back of a very poor half what did go wrong? A free man in the box for the second and a dreadful clearance from Gallas and very noticeable nudge in the back to concede a penalty for the third but overall Bolton were very good stuck to their job and overwhelmed us for a lot of the time. What was Billy doing? Surely sticking it in the crowd was preferable to what resulted and he certainly won’t enjoy seeing that again. By the end he looked in trouble and was pushed upfield where a break fell to him but he couldn’t get up the speed needed to win it.
At 3-0 Harry told Bentley to sit down again but then relented and Hutton scored a peach of a goal to get it back to 3-1. I’m pleased for him. He does make it hard work at times at the back but going forward he is a decent player and hit a sweet strike with his wrong foot right into the top corner.
When Pav scored there was a momentary panic amongst the Bolton fans but in pushing for an equaliser we were caught on the break and conceded a fourth to Petrov who thankfully only played a short sub role rather than from the start. We had other chances. Bale had a good free kick hit the corner of post and cross bar and Sandro should have scored to make amends but went with feet rather than head.
He has much to learn about this league and maybe should not be risked in these games so early but without Carling Cup what have we got? Niko on the other hand knows all about this league. He was just poor. Surprising because so many – including myself – wanted to see him get a game and I’m sure he really wanted to play and perform himself.
I couldn’t decide his position. With five in midfield should he not have been out right stretching the play? He was inside for most of the game. His performance showed why Harry has had him on the bench or is it because he has not had 10 minutes here and there from the bench that his confidence has dropped to a low level. On this performance Bentley is likely to get a game if Lennon is not fit on Tuesday night.
Harry was incensed about Wilson’s performance and about him getting forward on occasions. Yes he should be holding but Luka wasn’t getting forward in support often enough and he did have the ball on the occasion of biggest rollocking. And Bale? Quiet, well marked, appallingly smashed by “90 cards” Davies without a 91st but still provided a couple of opportunities.
So what did we learn from yesterday’s game?
Alan Hutton has a decent left foot and should be phoning Andy Gray for a motivational talk about capitalising on his ability.
And what did we already know?
Sandro is not yet ready for this league.
We miss Huddlestone when he is on the bench..
Van Der Vaart is essential for 4-5-1.
We don’t travel well and should review our travel plans for this part of the country before we gift Blackpool 3 points!
Pav is like Class A drug addiction. All highs and lows with not much in between.
We need Berbatov back – or a player like him to be the front striker.
Lastly, Richard Gough suggested Harry picked the wrong team. I don’t agree with that. I think they let him down and made it look like that. They need to sort it out with a table having a 3 point difference between 5th and 16th place!