Enough with the generosity - Knee Jerks
Sunday, 24th Nov 2019 12:05 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola's six talking points from Friday night's defeat at Fulham look at improved showings for Todd Kane and Luke Amos, but further gift bearing by our porous defence.
There are some fans who a couple of years ago were pining longingly for the days when we were everyone's second team. This was even mentioned on the podcast the other day. I have no idea why people care about this, if anyone tells me this I sniff and think, 'So? You either support us or not, don't demean me with your pathetic, patronising smile and condescending pat on the head.'
But it seems the club itself also wishes for those days to come back, and they're going about it in a radical new way: gifting (not that kind of gifting you filthy people. Don't google it either, ffs). Yes, the spreading of cheer via the medium of unsolicited gifts. Here's one wrapped beautifully by Nahki Wells, woth a red bow. Here's one Joe Lumley done with crepe paper. Here's one all our defenders have done together, separately, in different rooms - this exact same present was given to both Fulham AND Brentford, so there's no hard feelings among our neighbours. Here's one that's been wrapped hastily and not very well and has arrived late from Barbet, but it's still a good one, so good, it's been given to a lot of clubs. Gifts for all! Please be our friends again now we're not rich c**** with a man who makes Boris Johnson look truthful as our manager.
This is all very novel, but it's time to have some pride. Let people like us if they want, and try to rise above it if they don't. Us against the world! The penance is over. Charoty starts at home, people.
I've seen Bosh advocating more man-to-man marking, but I don't really think that will solve the problem. He suggested going man-to-man on Cairney, for example, which to me, means you basically go 10 v 10. You can't man mark someone in midfield and effectively sacrifice a central midfielder. I remember when Derby went for this and Savage marked Taarabt (you may know about this, he mentioned it about 400 times afterwards). In Savage's world, 1-1 was a good result and he'd done it by marking Taarabt all day. The truth was, Taarabt made our one goal and Savage contributed nothing else. So what was the point? I actually think Leistner was man-to-man with the impressive Kamara, pretty much, but our back three is still not cohesive. Nominally, Leistner should have had Kamara for the first goal, but a second watch shows Hall miles away and too slow to react to an obvious danger (Leistner's body shape for the cross was also all wrong).
And this was a key problem all night for us. With our two wing backs high up the pitch, our two wide centre backs were drawn further and further out towards the wings. This not only left Leistner isolated, almost playing as a lone centre back at times, there were, crucially, enormous gaps between the three of the that Fulham constantly exploited. For this to work, these three need to be much, much tighter, much more of a unit - at the moment they are comically stretched out. It's all right blaming zonal marking, but when there's that much space either side of Leistner, it doesn't matter who is marking who - those gaps are so easy to attack, especially for a team like Fulham. Not sure what the answer is here - Manning and Kane are so effective going forward, but the gapes behind them are in turn creating gaps in central defence and we're not plugging them.
It's slowly coming. I thought he looked good last night and maybe was brought off ten minutes too early - perhaps he was blowing a bit, or they're nursing him a little, but we started to see a player there. He was stronger last night, more forceful, more confident, and his passing, particularly on the ground to the wings was crisp and intelligent. It may be that if he can stay fit then half our midfield problems will be solved over the next few weeks as he grows into the team. There's no doubt he has quality, and after he went off it took us ten minutes to recover as Fulham ruthlessly sliced us open through the hole he left. Good energy too - one of his best games for us.
I also thought this was one of Kane's best games too. Back to back assists now for him and his crossing is very decent. As I say, the problem is that he's leaving gaps behind that Hall had to move across for, leaving a huge space between him and Leistner. Warbs may say this is a gamble worth taking and I think it's also fair to say we seem to get punished for every mistake at the moment, but it isn't quite right. Still, Kane looked good in possession, passed well and caused them a lot of problems going forward.
I think it's harsh to say our finishing was poor yesterday, but it is fair to say that our conversion of chances in most games is not high enough. That seems really harsh when you look at the goal totals of Eze, Hugill and Wells, but it's true. We battered Fulham for the first 20 yesterday, played the game almost exclusively in their half and really should have had three goals - unlucky in some cases not to score, should have been more clinical in others. This is a growing theme for the season though. If we can score the goals we should when on top, perhaps we would be able to be a little more pragmatic and play a smarter game. As it is, we don't take the chances, and constantly find ourselves in tight situations with regards to the score. We seem to be constantly chasing a goal in games, rarely the two goals ahead we seem to need to allow us to be more controlling in our play. I keep thinking there's going to be a game where everything goes in, but I don't want everything to go in: just a higher percentage - enough for us to win again.
We do have a problem here I think. You can't be too harsh on keepers, because their mistakes are always magnified, but Lumley's kicking throughout last night was not great and for the goal was poor. I think people criticising us for 'playing it out' are wrong: to me, last night, we actually played longer balls a lot more often and took far fewer chances than we have been. The ball back to Lumley was not a bad ball, nor was it unreasonable, but, yes, he should in that situation and with clearly nothing obvious on, have put his foot through it as, to be fair, he had done earlier in the game. These errors - this one, Manning and Wells two weeks ago - are not 'playing out from the back' errors. They are poor passing or poor thinking in reasonable positions when a better option was available. Kelly is slightly better, more at ease, with the ball at his feet than Lumley, but there's very little to choose between them overall and sadly I'm starting to think, even allowing for their age, neither are quite what we need. Smithies back would be so lovely were a miracle to happen, although we should remember he barely kept a clean sheet in his final season with us either. This is not a new problem for this team - it is seasons old but has become more acute this season with the change in style. As it is, I suspect if fit Kelly will be back in soon and we're just going to have to bear with them and hope one or the other can find some consistency.
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