Too much respect? Knee Jerks
Monday, 30th Sep 2019 10:56 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola returns with his six talking points on Saturday's game, in particular the post match comments from manager Mark Warburton that we'd shown West Brom too much respect.
Once more, I thought Warburton's comments after the game were pretty much spot on: from the start I felt we paid them too much respect. In fact, I'd go further and say we looked a bit frightened. In a way, I don't blame them. I saw Albion last week and felt that to get anything at all out the game we'd have to score twice, such is our accident-prone defence this season. And we looked like we knew that. We looked terrified of their pace down the wings and their ability to attack quickly on the break. Mix this with the added extras of a place on top of the league and also a game on Sky after getting rave reviews recently, and we felt a bit like a deer in the old headlights.
Against Luton, the passing from the go was magnificent - crisp, incisive, attacking. Against Albion it was tentative, much slower - we were afraid to make a mistake, and because of that, we *did* make mistakes. Kane, Eze, Wells, Cameron - all gave the ball away early on in siutations when really they were not under significant pressure. Wrong decisions were being made, we looked jittery and with each bad pass, only came more jitters and so more bad passing. It was like a cricket match where two players drop catches and suddenly the whole team stiffens and forgets how to field.
However, I also thought that by half time we had calmed down a bit and just before the break twice we could have done better when we got ourselves into good areas. We were well in the game, as we were at the start of the second half, until some very poor defending from the front right to the back allowed the admittedly excellent Ferguson to grab his goal. But, we are a new-ish team against a good side. A side that will be in the play-offs this season at a minimum, unless something drastic happens. A side that can afford to leave expensive striker Zohore on the bench for the whole game. It wasn't an unexpected result, we didn't do ourselves justice, but we must learn from it in the future, have more belief, and know that we can hurt even the better sides in this division.
I think The Beard is starting to look better in the three at the back, and I actually thought he had one of his best games for us on Saturday. He made some crucial blocks, an excellent one on Austin, and also threw himself into some headers from dangerous crosses. His passing was, as usual, reliably good. On first impressions on Saturday, I was a bit annoyed at his red card challenge. I feel in those situations you are almost always better off allowing the forward the run - there's no guarantee he'll score and that late in the game, it feels stupid to me to risk a red card and a ban. Rob Green's brainless one against Forest the other year was one of the worst I'd seen (just let him score, FFS), Gary O'Neil in the play-off final a little more understandable in such a big game. But here, I thought it was clumsy. Having seen the replay, though, I have some sympathy for Barb. The Albion striker was undoubtedly, and weirdly, considering he was clean through, looking for a touch as an excuse to go down, it does look accidental at worst, and possibly there was not even a real touch - not enough to send him down, anyway. So, I feel for him a bit. But he can sit out Cardiff, Wallace will get a baptism of fire, and Warbs will have a decision to make next week in the QPR 0 Blackburn 2 (Dack 2) match.
I only become a bigger fan of the Moroccan Messi with each passing game. Other than Hugill, who refused to be bullied and worked as hard as he could for very little reward, I thought Chair was our only offensive player who met the challenge as if it were any other game. As usual, he barely gave it away (that boy really takes care of the football), and all our best moves involved him, even if he should have done better when he raced into the box, left two players on their arses, and then failed to find the killer pass or shot just before half time. He didn't have an amazing game, but I thought it was a good sign Warbs noticed his performance and kept him on, having faith in him to play first wide and then off Hugill.
Just a quick word on the BFG. We are all saying how well he's done to get back in the side and play so well, but we do need to keep some clean sheets somewhere. The two on Saturday had little to do with Leistner, however and once more I thought he played very well. The myth that he can't pass seems to have finally faded, which is perhaps the best news. I always think the key to passing from the back is not how good your defenders are at passing, but what options they are given from the players in front of them. That was the main problem last season, and it's much better this season, making it easier for everyone. But mostly he was what he is - a hard as nails centre half making sure Charlie Austin knew exactly where he was at all times with a whole gameful of crunching tackles, that the ref was sometimes too quick to penalise. Glad to have him back, although I thought the back three missed the moderate pace of Hall - Cameron looked slow again to me.
Seemed like a typical early season Charlie performance to me - not quite at full fitness yet. The movement in the box was occasionally there, and he always showed for the ball on Albion attacks, but in truth he was fairly easily dealt with by Leistner. Yes, he still had a couple of good efforts, but he'll do that in almost any game because his movement, willingness to shoot, and accuracy is so good. I was glad at the ovations he received and I'm sure he appreciated it too. I was less impressed by the pathetic booing of Phillips, but that's just me. I agree that sometimes he didn't seem to put in his all, and Clive will no doubt cite the Blackburn away game. But equally, he stood up at times, particularly the end of our relegation season, when others didn't even give the slightest toss. He wasn't a playboy, a drinker or anything. He provided loads of assists, scored some great goals, and we sold him for a profit. I'm really not quite sure how all that justifies a booing, however tongue in cheek it might be.
I don't want to harp on about our fans, but I will a bit. It won't make a blind bit of difference me writing this here, but a bit more patience for a new team would be nice. We won three in 23 at the end of last season (or something), we had a huge turnover in personnel and a new manager, we've had a start absolutely no one predicted. And at the game people were getting really quite angry. I had people around me demanding we 'go long' after about 20 minutes of the game because they were so frustrated that we weren't, I dunno, already 2-0 up. We were beaten by a better, stronger, bigger side in a game we deserved to lose, for sure, but not a game in which we were out-classed until, perhaps, we were down to ten late in the game when Lumley had to pull off some fine saves. And I get back and find, of course, far more messages on here than there were after the Luton game, with a decent portion of them accusing us of being 'awful.'
Now, I'm not saying we were good. But 'awful'? Surely we can just find a bit of moderation, a bit of understanding here? It was 2-0. Two preventable goals, for sure, but it was 2-0 against a side unbeaten in the league this season. Do we need to get better at the back? Yes. Can we play a lot better? Yes. Were we 'awful'? No, come on. 7-1 at theirs last season was 'awful'. Losing at home in quick succession to teams that would go down weeks later, was awful. It's semantics, I know, but I also think it's worth being a little moderate in our views sometimes. I remember we lost to Norwich 1-0 last season and there was a similar reaction on here. They then went on to walk the league and in retrospect, we actually did ok in that game. This season will not see us challenging for promotion - let's just all understand that. Let's still have high standards, of course, but let's also be reasonable. No one was not trying, no one was not working hard, no one was not caring. We will do better - and, sadly, we'll probably do worse, before this season is out.
Pictures – Action Images
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