Certain tactical decisions made by Tim Sherwood are now giving me cause for concern.
Against Chelski he started with 5 defenders and yet when one was sent off – Kaboul unfairly – he chose to move our most effective midfielder – Sandro – in to Plug the gap. This disrupted our play and allowed Chelski to get a strangehold on the game, and then he blamed those players for showing lack of character, yet it was he who was asking them – Sandro and Walker in particular – to play out of position.
Last night we all knew what we were up against, a top European team brimming with goals whilst miserly at the other end. Benfica attack down the flanks at pace yet he had Naughton at left back with no-one covering in front. Eriksen was assigned the left wing role but we all know from past experience that he does not do defending – as evidenced by problems highlighted in the Cup defeat to Le Arse earlier this year.
If Eriksen has to play – and in my opinion he must whenever he is fit – he has to be allowed to roam, get into goal scoring positions and into goal creating situations. If this means deploying him as our second striker, then so be it, but free him from any real defensive duties. A left winger, Townsend, Chadli – Siggy even – would have been on hand last night and may, just may, have prevented their first goal.
The other tactical decision is: Why Kane? He is a young kid still learning his craft but he is hardly a serious goal threat at least not up against the meanest defence in Europe – prior to last night they had conceded once in their last 12 or so games. No-one would bet on Harry Kane to break that run. Mind you I doubt if any of us would bet on Soldado either!
Kane offers youthful enthusiasm, he ran and ran for the team, cropping up in unexpected areas, like central midfield where he promptly lost the ball, the shot was saved by Lloris but from the resultant corner they got their second.
But that is over, nothing much to praise last night, we were always going to find it hard going especially once Sandro had been booked inside the first ten minutes and he had to be careful in the tackle. Eriksen once again showed that he is a goal threat, even if it was a dead ball kick, but it was sublimely taken, as I said before we need to get him into that type of position more.
Next week’s return leg in Lisbon is almost a dead rubber. We need to score at least three goals and hope they have a day off – and that is not realistic.
We now need to concentrate wholeheartedly on the Premier League, and where better to start than at home to the old enemy as Le Arse make the short trip across North London.
They sit six points ahead of us, with a massive goal difference advantage (24 actually) and a game in hand, but a win for us on Sunday, followed by another win when we play Southampton next weekend will bring us level on points and bearing in mind they have to go to Stamford Bridge next they could easily lose both games.
They are without some key players – especially in midfield as Ozil, Wiltshire, Ramsey and Walcott are all out – but they still have the likes of Cazorla and Arteta who can be very effective through the middle while Oxlade-Chamberlain will be a constant pest down either flank and therefore Sherwood has to get his tactics spot on.
We have seen that we can play attractive free flowing football based on a strong defensive core – the Newcastle match springs particularly to mind. Somehow we emerged that day with a 220.127.116.11 formation with Sandro protecting the defence and four hungry attack minded midfielders all surging forward and that is what I would like to see.
Utilise Eriksen as the focal point of the attack in and around Adebayor, who will no doubt need no firing up to perform against one of his old clubs. Bring in Townsend to attack at pace down one flank with Lennon on the other as both will help counter the threat of Oxlade-Chamberlain, and use Paulinho in the central box to box role.
Defence should pick itself as the options are becoming limited. Walker, Kaboul, Vertonghen and Rose would have been the back four most of us would have wanted to see week in week out at the beginning of the season yet we have never – as far as I can recall – seen it in the starting line-up his season.
This is a must win game, the players should need no extra encouragement, what they need is the backing of their Manager, the knowledge that he has picked them for their tactical strengths to go out and take the game to the opposition.
No more bickering, no more in-fighting as that obviously did not work, just get on and play.