Tim Sherwood promised to bring attacking flair to the team, and whilst his team selection on Sunday certainly had a lot of that on display, anybody with an ounce of footballing intelligence should know that simply picking four attacking midfielders and two strikers doesn’t necessarily make a fluid attacking system.
Would teams like Barcelona, Bayern Munich be the force they are without a holding midfielder to break up the opposition and protect the back four?
Tackling back, breaking up play are not strengths that can be attributed to any of Holtby, Eriksen, Chadli or Siggy – let alone Soldado or Adebayor – so why doesn´t Sherwood realise this. If we go to ManUre next week with this set-up we will be hopelessly overrun. We lack power in the middle of the pitch.
And without such a holding midfielder, our back four looked ill at ease, especially through the centre. Dawson was caught out for pace while Chiriches seemed too comfortable on the ball and was caught in possession far too frequently.
Additionally the use of such a defensive midfielder does release our full backs. When playing with Sandro (or even Capoue) in the middle of a 188.8.131.52 system he would drop deep in between the centre backs creating a back three – so that the full backs could get forward knowing there was extra cover in case to need. Without such cover any forays by either full back are nullified by the realisation that they might have to use their pace to get back and cover themselves.
And on Sunday the only pace we had in the team was from those full backs – and both did very well – up and down the flanks, putting in crosses and both even having long range shots which were not far off being converted into goals. But they had no support. All four midfield players like to occupy centre stage, drifting into attacking positions, laying the ball into the strikers, and in doing so cause congestion.
Without Lennon, without Townsend – both admittedly injured for this game – we lack pace down the wings. When Lamela was introduced he was unable to get into the game, and again resorted to coming inside when getting to the byeline would have been preferable.
And without power in the middle and pace down the wings, we cannot hope to control the game and get forward quickly to create the chances that players like Adebayor and Soldado feed off.
And are they really the ideal duo if we are to continue with a two man strike force. All too often they were occupying the same space in the box, or they both drifted wide or deep. They are too alike and without the pace of someone like Defoe, we are not the balanced attacking force we should be.
West Brom came to spoil and spoil they did – to great effect. They were strong in the tackle, we weren´t. They contested every ball, we didn´t. They got men behind the ball, we didn´t.
That they were lucky to have eleven men on the pitch was perhaps the most striking conversational piece of an otherwise dull second half.
Reid was booked on the half hour mark for a foul on Rose, and when on 65 minutes he performed the same heinous act, the referee produced a yellow card but for some reason put the name of Olsen onto his book, while Reid remained on the pitch. Did Anthony Taylor suffer from some element of mistaken identity or did Olsen´s foul mouthed rant make him forget why he had the book in his hand?
Had Reid gone off would we have managed to break down a ten man defence? Unlikely, but the odds would have been more in our favour.
Yet again we enjoyed more possession, yet again we had more shots on goal, more shots on target, yet again we failed to capitalise.
It is all very well putting out a group of talented individuals that can pass the ball around, but without pace and without power we cannot hope to win consistently. Stoke will offer much the same resistance as WBA, while the following two games will pose far more serious questions for the new Manager and his team.