Same Old

New season, same old story. Good possession and passing wasted because there’s nothing going on up front. Unprotected defenders stretched out of shape, eventually reaching breaking point.  Free-kick routines that would be laughed off the pitch at an under 10s tournament. After coming back into the match before and just after half-time, by the end it’s relief that it wasn’t more.

Previews on the game focussed on the inexperience of the two sides in key areas. The game was won and lost because United exploited our weakness, centre midfield, whereas we put little pressure on their new back five.

Talking of previews, my pre-season effort implored Redknapp and his players to adopt a formation that gave the back four additional protection. Every other team in the Premier league does so. If it means a more cautious approach, so be it, especially away from home. It shouldn’t matter – we have the perfect players for a counter-attacking game.

So forgive me if regular readers have heard this before. I’m a fan of Bale, Lennon and Kranjcar in their different ways but their indolent approach to defending was inexcusable. Strolling back when United got past them high up the pitch, they left Livermore to do his best. Walker and then Corluka in the second half were more often than not left one on one with Young or Nani, two of the best wide men in the business, or else were outnumbered two against one as Evra raced past. Both did well, considering, Charlie turned this way and that but made four or five tackles to block Young. It was noticeable that our best period came in the second quarter when someone had obviously had a word. They worked back and we looked better prospects, the solidity at the back offering a platform for our best passage of play.

Up front, well, the preview said we need a striker or two. Revolutionary insight, huh. You know it. Defoe demonstrated why. Kind of him, not that any further evidence was required after last season. Maybe Harry put him up to it as another dig in Levy’s ribs to spend spend spend. I can’t think of another explanation as to why he was so lame. Even then, there was a might-have-been, unlucky with a volley against the post that could have given hope out of the blue.

I’m not too down on myself or the team. I can’t say I’m disappointed because I had low xpectations beforehand. We’ve learned nothing new – the only problem is the same old same old – but I’m happy to give them time and new players to sort that. It’s the first game of the season away to the best team in the land with our 6th and 7th choice central midfielders. At least we’ve got it out of the way.

Positives too. I realised Friedel was likely to be first choice not on pre-season displays but when Paddypower made him odds on to have more first team appearances than Gomes by the end of the season. Straight away there’s an air of assurance and command of the box, plus several excellent low saves that kept us in the game. I don’t know how Gomes communicated with his back four, or perhaps the question is whether he communicated in ways other than fear-laden grimaces, but the super new Sky effects mikes picked up Friedel’s stream of encouragement and authoritative instructions.

The back four did better than I expected. Kaboul had an especially good game. Every defender looks unsure at times against United and given how exposed he and Dawson were, I’ll give them the benefit. Daws might have come for the cross as Welbeck came in for the first but overall credit to United, there’s a limit to what a defender can do if a forward comes between two centre backs at pace and the cross is that good. Some goals are just good goals, this was one of those, although we gave the ball away needlessly further up the field in the build-up. The second was an example of what I’ve been saying about defending as a unit, centre half unprotected has to come out, they switch the ball one way then another, so quickly. Brilliant move. The third, Daws might have put in a better challenge there, on his heels as Rooney came in.

Rafa looks fit and eager, lasted 90 minutes and as the game progressed can be excused for all the long shots as he had nothing ahead of him. Livermore is a fine prospect with impressively quick feet, good control and enough poise to hold onto the ball when required, at Old Trafford, on his debut. Before he tired, his application was an example to more experienced team-mates around him.

United remain the benchmark in the Premier League and we could learn a thing or two from them. Much of what they do is comparatively simple. Our movement and passing was good when we could get on the ball. However, in advanced areas sometimes the easy ball is best. Cleverly had options, slipped it easily out wide for the ball before the cross that provided the goal. Time and again we held on to it in those situations, Defoe, Bale and Lennon jiggling around, waiting to be closed down.

Let’s leave it and move on. No time to bemoan our tough start. City on Sunday, let’s get on with it.

14 thoughts on “Same Old

      • Alan, that you need even ask. I am wounded…

        I was moaning about the central midfield because of the lack of protection it afforded to the back four last night when things got tough, but you are right in that the problem stemmed from further up the field.

        I have been championing for some time now, mostly to myself when cooking or washing-up, three in central midfield for away games at least: Huddlestone Sandro and Modric. Bale and Lennon wide. Drogba, or failing that, Zamora or Doyle up front. VdV cameos. It’s a winner, though I am worried about leaving VdV out.

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  1. How do you start a game like that one with Krank and Livermore?? Seriously – I am so tired of the Huddlestone abuse. He is the player that can thread the ball through but seriously giving him what 14 mins…… come on now that was a stupid decision. We needed a defensive midfielder and 4 wide and forward players one f which would have been Rafa. Tommy could have put them in space. No other player in spurs can – even modders cant do that. So please tell me WHY!!

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  2. A reasonable summary of where it fell apart. It’s a strange mind set at the moment, part anticipation of a new season ahead of us and already our weaknesses are exposed and apparent for all to see. I’ve said before that I don’t think a team with Lennon and Bale can handle the pressure that the best teams will deliver. One of them has to give way to allow another defensive midfielder to protect the defence. At the moment Lennon is employed as a utility defensive midfielder and occasional winger and he does neither effectively. I despair when Harry repeats his mantra that we aren’t set up, and don’t have the players, to play a holding game. If we fail in our first duty to protect our goal then the rest is an uphill slog. Krancjar is not a midfield general. More of a Lieutenant. But Palacios can still do a job for us as he showed at Man City last season before he was injured. Jenas at a pinch. Last night, so many of our passes went needlessly astray, when under no pressure from United. And our dead ball results were pitiful. Somehow, I don’t think opposing centre backs go to bed the night before a game trembling in fear at the prospect of Defoe and Pav. They’d think twice about Adebeyor, however, and if he’s the best we can get at the moment then so be it. We’ll learn more against Man City this weekend when all that happened last night was that United confirmed their superiority. Stiffen midfield, and with Modric back, (maybe) we can blow away a few cobwebs with a result against City.

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  3. VDV has to go. Hud isn’t fit and even if he was he isn’t the player we need in CM.

    To be honest I just see a season of deja-vu. Levy doesn’t want to spend money and Harry and his coaches can’t produce a winning team with what we have so more disappointment seems most likely.

    I think we have reached the same point we were at with Jol and without new players and new thinking progress will not be possible.

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  4. It’s hard enough to go to OT when you’ve got a fully fit squad. Take out your two most experienced central defenders and ALL of your first team squad central midfielders and you haven’t got a hope. Still, there is plenty of criticism to be laid- mainly at the feet of our attacking players. On the few occasions we created openings, the movement and thinking was far too slow. And don’t get me started on the long stream of high balls up to Defoe and VDV …

    Typical Harry in his post-match interview- appearing not to make excuses but clearly passing the buck onto Levy for not closing the deals. Let’s just hope the players can get this one out of their systems quickly and get themselves up for a tough but winnable game against City. It will certainly be interesting to see how Redknapp reacts if we perform like we did last night again. What are the odds on Levy’s patience running thin soon?

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  5. Absolutely sick and tired of the whole blaming (insert name of picked striker here). In the words of an infamous swede “first half very very good – second half… Not so good”. Let’s try pointing fingers at some of the supply to the front. GB and Lennon were poor. Kranky played too deep. VdV lost his temper and refused to pass to Lennon for most of the secod half, and then decided to shoot every time he got the ball. Defoe hit the post, went wide a couple of times, and was generally the fittest, most mobile we had. Credit to BAE, KW, Jake and Kaboul who played like they wanted to be there

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  6. I appreciate the point another poster made about the team set up and i think that the challenge we face is that VDV is neither a striker nor a midfielder. Two seasons ago we were a proper 442 team with Modric and Hudd orchestrating things and they were hardly exposed becasue the two strikers we deployed with our two wide men menat that the opposing team HAD to deploy a defensive midfielder. Rafa makes it easy and i honestly think he should be the alternative to Lennon in any team we play.

    Lennon was frustrating yesterday as was Bale. He has scored some screamers from the positions he was in yesterday when he was passing. It made no sense.

    Though Hudd is not fit, it is not why he is in the team. Its the pyschology of knowing he can put the ball int the space bale and lennon can attack. I dont want spurs to be a team of Lampards.

    Positives. BAE, classy and Kaboul is a player that more and more i think needs to be the number 1 choice CB.

    Bale to deliver balls from free kicks. VDV is NOT the man fr the job!!

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  7. I’d rather a ‘Fat Frank’ who (used to) scores 20 goals a seasons than Huddlestone any time. Most overrated player in the league. Doesn’t score, goes missing frequently and very poor off the ball.

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  8. Thanks as ever for comments. Stiffen midfield with the current squad, plus the ‘s’ word, then we’ll see where we are. Pointless getting rid of quality footballers, up to Harry to get them playing in the right formation

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  9. Good article, you appear to have kept a cooler head than I was able to last night! Without seeking to make excuses though, United in that second half were as unstoppable as you’re likely to get in this season’s Premiership. Talking about formations again – the constant debate since VDV rolled up. The argument for playing him and one striker up top is surely that a player of VDV’s calibre should be on the pitch whenever possible. Well, as you pointed out, he was reduced to launching 40 yarders every time he got the ball, at least partially, one presumes, because there was nothing going on in front of him. So currently, we actually don’t have the playing staff to accommodate VDV. Let’s hope we get Adebayor, since there appears to be nobody else in contention now.

    If we fail to sign a new striker, I don’t think we can afford to keep trying our current strikers alone up front.

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