Back in the bottom three, but Cardiff maintain improvement under Warnock.

Coymay

By the New Year, Neil Warnock will have learned that his Cardiff City side can barely ever manage to win both games when they play successive home matches within a few days. Only during our record breaking run of consecutive home wins during our promotion season have we suggested that we have been able to put this weakness to bed, but, usually any of our previous half a dozen managers who have expected six points from such a pair of matches have ended up being disappointed.

So, while there will always be feelings of what might have been when City scored so early and produced what I would rate as their best half of football in a home match so far this season, there also has to be an acceptance that, given where we were after we lost at Burton, six points from home matches with sides in fifth and seventh position in the table was a bit too much to hope for.

Indeed, as the game ended with the score 1-1, it was probably fair to say that if a team deserved to win, it was a Sheffield Wednesday outfit which, for me, earned the accolade of being the best side to visit Cardiff City Stadium so far this season. Now, despite our very poor home record, that is not an award which carries much merit because the four sides able to leave with all three points during the Trollope era didn’t have to be that impressive to win and they duly weren’t.

Therefore, I would be giving Wednesday more credit if I said that, come the end of the season, I believe I will still be singling them out as one of the best teams to visit Cardiff City Stadium during 2016/17.

In saying that, I do find myself wondering if I’m saying that because, in the second half in particular, they played a lot of pass and move football at pace – it’s the way I’ve always liked to see the game played and so, perhaps, I’m being guilty of over rating a team that I feel have a decent chance of earning automatic promotion this season?

I’ve alluded to this before on here, but, after a few years where everyone seemed to be using the brilliant Barcelona team of around 2011 as a template, the game has moved on and, nowadays, there is definitely more than one way to skin a cat so to speak.

A look at the highlights from last night’s match will show that Sky thought there were almost twice as many incidents at the Sheffield Wednesday end of the pitch worth showing as there were at ours and, looking back, I’d say that it’s hardly as if they have missed out on many, if any, examples of our opponents really putting our goal under threat with a shot or a header.

To continue with this theme, the BBC’s report on the match states that in the first half Wednesday “enjoyed as much as 78% possession”. As regular readers on here will have seen before, my fundamental attitude to the game is that your opponents cannot score when you have the ball, so that begs the question as to whether I’m contradicting myself when I state that a forty five minute spell when we had less than a quarter of the possession represented our best half at home so far this season?

Neil Warnock talked about a need for his players to get fitter. so I wouldn't be surprised to see a few changes for our third match in eight days in the televised clash with Nottingham Forest on Saturday - I reckon the fourth of his signings, Keiran Richardson, will get some game time*

Neil Warnock talked about a need for his players to get fitter after last night’s match. so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few changes for our third match in eight days in the televised clash with Nottingham Forest on Saturday – I reckon the fourth of his signings, Keiran Richardson, will get some game time*

Well, leaving aside the fact that, up to last Friday and the Bristol City game, we would not have had to play that well to merit such a claim, the easy answer to that question is yes, but I would qualify that by saying that I’m coming around to realising that I have been looking at things in terms that are too black and white.

To illustrate what I mean, I would point to a couple of things that Neil Warnock has said since he was appointed our manager. In his introductory press conference he remarked that he saw little point in passing the ball backwards and sideways all of the time, when all this does is give your opponents more time to organise themselves. Logically, this has to be right and, so I now accept that when I talk about liking passing football, what I really mean is that I like football where the ball is passed with a purpose.

Also, I think it was after the wurzels match that our manager said that we had been able to get a rest while Bristol were passing the ball around at the back (incidentally, it seems that Lee Johnson was not too happy about the way his team went about things as well, because he said his centrebacks should not try to play out from the back because they weren’t good enough at it!).

So, it seems that Neil Warnock is perfectly happy to let our opponents have the ball (to the detriment of our possession stats) in certain areas of the pitch – this helps to make something which, on the face of it, seems to make no sense understandable.

I’m pretty certain that anyone with Sheffield Wednesday’s best interests at heart who was at the match would agree that they played a lot better in the second half when their percentage of possession was lower than it was in the opening forty five minutes. However, what they were able to do, to some extent at least, was pass through us, where they had previously been passing in front of us.

So, looking at things from a City perspective now, they were, just as they were on Friday, able to limit in form opponents to few sights of goal by defending far better than they had done in their previous home games.

There were two occasions when Ben Amos was tested in the first half, once to catch a Gary Hooper turn and shot and then to keep out an Adam Reach effort after the winger had beat three City players (I rate that save as the best he has made for us so far). Apart from that, it was a pretty quiet evening for our keeper as he was, again, given good protection by a back four in which Sol Bamba followed his stellar showing on his debut with a less spectacular, but still impressive, effort here.

Even when we were really struggling, there was little wrong with Lee Peltier’s defending and I would nominate him as the most consistent player we have when it comes to that side of the game. Sean Morrison appears to be benefiting from Bamba’s presence alongside him as well – while there were one or two moments of alarm caused by his failure to deal with what looked like straightforward situations, the skipper has played quite a bit better in the last two matches than he had been previously.

In front of them, I thought the central midfield three of Ralls, Gunnarsson and Whittingham performed the defensive side of their game with discipline and selflessness. This side of the game does not come naturally to the last named, but, whereas with some as talented as he is, you can say that they are not a team player, that has never been the case with Whitts. So, while there is the quandary about whether what he can bring to the team justifies his inclusion while there are better options available when it comes to other facets of the game always applies, you know he’ll always give of his best for the team.

Certainly, when he can provide you with a goal like the one he scored last night that only begged the question “if you can make scoring a goal like that appear so easy, why on earth is it more than three years since your last goal from a free kick in a home game?” then Whitts begins to look indispensable – especially when you extend the discussion beyond the defensive side of the game.

While the central midfield three worked their socks off when we didn’t have the ball, they did little to alter my perception from Friday night, that they will only very rarely be able to provide the “third man running” situations that teams (especially teams that only play with one main striker) need if they are to offer much of a threat in open play. With no disrespect to him because he is not in Warnock’s team to be it’s creative hub, when Aron Gunnarsson, as he did last night, offers your best attacking option from central midfield in non deal ball situations, then you know you’ve got problems.

With little to harm opponents in terms of counter attacking or running beyond them in our central midfield, the need for some attacking threat and penetration switches to the wings. When you look at the right flank, while it would be wrong to say that Craig Noone was left to do all of the attacking by himself, I think it’s fair to say that if Peltier had the attacking game to back up his fine defending, he would be celebrating his thirtieth birthday in December as someone who had spent most of his career playing Premier League football.

So, while Noone showed the same dedication to the team that the three central midfielders did, he was given a heavy workload that included having to be the one who would need to provide so much of the attacking thrust down that side of the pitch and, as has been the case too often in recent years, he was never really able to deliver on that score.

There is some cause for optimism on the left though I believe. I didn’t mention Joe Bennett when I talked about the back four earlier because there is a common perception that he is a full back who is happier attacking than he is defending – certainly, there was more talk about what he could give us in an attacking sense than there was about his defending when we signed him.

So, Bennett looks like he might be able to do a job in our opponent’s half of the pitch in a way which Peltier struggles to on the other side. However, the issue which struck me from last night is that, in the second half in particular, Bennett was very often further up the pitch than Junior Hoilett was.

I thought the linesman on the Ninian Stand side gave us nothing all night. I still feel he was less keen to raise his flag during the second half than he was in the first half when we were attacking. However, having seen highlights of the game, I have to admit that I was wrong to think that Sean Morrison's header had crossed the line before it was cleared by Gary Hooper. Likewise, I'm no longer sure that there was an offside in the build up to the Wednesday's goal, seen here - it was one of the few occasions the visitors were able to carve us open and if there was any feeling that it shouldn't have been scored, it's got more to do with the suspicion that Ben Amos and Craig Noone get in each other's way somewhat as they tried to prevent Daniel Pudil's shot from going in,*

I thought the linesman on the Ninian Stand side gave us nothing all night. I still feel he was less keen to raise his flag during the second half than he was in the first half when we were attacking.
However, having seen highlights of the game, I have to admit that I was wrong to think that Sean Morrison’s header had crossed the line before it was cleared by Gary Hooper. Likewise, I’m no longer sure that there was an offside in the build up to the Wednesday’s goal, seen here – it was one of the few occasions the visitors were able to carve us open and if there was any feeling that it shouldn’t have been scored, it’s got more to do with the suspicion that Ben Amos and Craig Noone got in each other’s way somewhat as they tried to prevent Daniel Pudil’s shot from going in,*

This was not as obvious on the right, but it did strike me that, perhaps, our wingers were being told that they had to stick with the Wednesday full backs come what may rather than “pass them on” to Peltier or Bennett because they were expected to play narrower when Wednesday attacked to deal with what was going on in the inside right and left channels.

Although the equalising goal came from a move which developed in the sort of areas I’m talking about on our left, our opponents lack of a real goal threat was testimony to a plan which worked when it came to defending. However, while Hoilett was more of an attacking influence than he had been on Friday and was, in my book, a candidate to be our man of the match (I think it had to be Bamba again though in the end), you have to wonder what he might have been able to do if he had not been required to play so much of the game as an auxiliary left back.

One of the other things Neil Warnock has said since his appointment is that there are not many goals in our team at the moment and so particular emphasis has to be put on attacking dead ball situations – so far, two of our three goals in the Warnock era have come via this route and the other one was a penalty.

I feel our manager is correct in what he says, but he must know that the way we set up last night in particular did little to rectify this problem and, even more so than normal, Rickie Lambert (who, one shot flashed not too far over from a Gunnnarsson long throw apart, got as close to scoring his first home goal with a shot straight from the kick off which forced Keiren Westwood to tip the ball over) and then a Marouane Chamakh who, hardly surprisingly, looked well short of match fitness, cut a very lonely figure up front.

By the same token, even if the manager is not too bothered about winning the possession battle, I wouldn’t have thought he would be too happy with the twenty nine per cent possession figure the BBC credited us with – it’s hard to say how we can move away from being a side with not many goals in us if we are only going to have the ball for just over a quarter of the match every week.

That shouldn’t be seen as a criticism of Neil Warnock because, with the situation he inherited, the defence did need a great deal of work done on it and I think any incoming manager would have made it a priority.

However, I’m sure that he will know that getting things sorted at the back is a lot easier than turning the goalshy group of players he inherited and the quartet, at various degrees of fitness, he brought in into a potent attacking force.

Overall, four points is a good return from Neil Warnock’s first two matches – the Bristol game was a very timely shot in the arm and we went toe to toe with a good side last night, but, at the end of it all, we are back where we found ourselves when Paul Trollope was sacked.

While Rotherham are in danger of being cast adrift already, the other sides at the bottom have all shown that getting clear of them will not be as easy as those who see us becoming promotion contenders believe it to be – especially when you look at our games in November, plus a visit from Brighton to get December underway.

For me, avoiding relegation has become the priority for this season – as for more than that, our manager believes there’s not enough goals in this side yet and I agree with him.

*pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

 

 

 

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12 Responses to Back in the bottom three, but Cardiff maintain improvement under Warnock.

  1. Dai Woosnam says:

    A deep reflection on footballing philosophy from you there, Paul. And I so enjoyed bathing in the the sheer THOUGHT you put into those words.
    As for me, I confess to being reasonably pleased with the point. I am at a disadvantage, as unlike you and our Band of Brothers, I did not see the game here in Grimsby, but watched the Man City debacle at the Nou Camp instead.
    And, I submit, that was VERY relevant as to how we should see Neil Warnock.

    You see Paul, last night my astonishing near-conversion to the philosophy of Pep Guardiola, went firmly out the window. Extraordinary kamikaze behaviour by a whole team. And suddenly this recent verbal groan of Neil’s, resonated within me…indeed, bellowed out at me:
    ”All these young coaches with their passing, passing, bloody passing …”

    Yes indeed. Football is a game best played forward, alright.
    And a lesson I got from my televisual experience last night was that you have to play people in their right positions. Nothing will persuade me that John Stones is a £50m centreback: like Steven Caulker, he does not possess that vital ability to perform that last ditch tackle. But also unlike Caulker, he will never make a centre forward. Missed a great headed chance, that Caulker would have buried.
    No …both of those are really midfield players in my book.
    And although Sean Morrison will prosper under Warnock, and hopefully lose forever his dreadful desire to back-pedal, I will never be convinced that he is being played at the correct end of the pitch.
    Me? I’d have made Gunnarsson captain.
    But hey, we are where we are.
    We will do well to get a point at Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Thankfully though, they have sold the astonishing Oliver Burke to Leipzig.
    DW.

  2. Anthony O'Brien says:

    I have avoided reading any other assessment of last night’s game, preferring to wait for the MAYA blog, and as is the case at all times, Paul’s reportage is absolutely spot on. As the game progressed, however, a sense of disappointment and even of somehow being cheated began to overtake me — and that boiled down to Cardiff’s serious failure to produce any sustained attacking intent. It’s all very well to play Lambert as “the loan striker”, but he then needs immediate and rapid support from a teammate or teammates who can run on towards goal. And this assuredly did not emerge in terms of attack. It’s like expecting a six cylinder car to run effectively on one cylinder. It cannot and will not happen.

    I need to bring forward another point. One of the earliest contributions I made to this esteemed blog was regarding the way we habitually take throw-ins. We all (including the opposition) expect Gunnarsson to hurl the ball into the box, but he might occasionally try to do something different, assuming other members of the team move swiftly into positions where they can be found. Again, this does not happen. But I also blame Gunnarsson’s long throw in down the line as a prime cause of Sheffield Wednesday’s equalising goal. To throw the ball down the line into a group of players from either side is to enter into a lottery. There is no guarantee as to who will win the ball, where it might bounce, and what can afterwards transpire, such as the opposition scoring! I was always taught that a throw in should usually be thrown to a teammate’s feet (or perhaps his head for an immediate return to the thrower) but this also requires constructive movement from teammates, yet another missing element in Cardiff’s play and lack of creativity going forward. People will say that we gained a point last night, but ultimately we were lucky, as well s being predictable and pedestrian. I can understand why the manager did not change a winning team, but the defects were already apparent in the game against Bristol City. I was therefore hoping for team changes last night, either before or comparatively early in the game, but in the end the performance was as sterile and unproductive as the fare we’ve become used to. I acknowledge the importance of a strong defence, but I also believe in the old saying that attack is the best form of defence!

  3. russell roberts says:

    Thanks Paul , bit disappointed overall by the night ,however it was always going to be tough to beat last Friday .

    Wednesday as you say are a good side and have been for a while , and if you think they may get into the play offs , it tells a story of how far away we are .

    What worries me though , we now come out of the trap very quickly with a huge intensity and effort , with older and not match fit players in the team we may struggle to last a full 90 minutes , so we need at least a 2 goal cushion before half time as teams will simply watch us punch ourselves out, and pick us off as did Wednesday last night , and to a lesser extent Bristol did last Friday.

    Chamakh I though was well under prepared , unfit, and lacking match fitness,he could take a leaf out of Lambert’s “on how to look after yourself ,whilst not playing regularly ” Lambert appears to be an old fashioned throw back professional footballer .

    We still lacks pace, support and supply to Lambert , which has to be NW priority area to work on.

    I also think Morrison is now playing second fiddle to Sol , perhaps Manga alongside him would be the answer , with Gunnerson made captain or even Sol. Another Trollope error making him captain .

    Thought Amos was again very good and decent signing ,how PT and his team could not see that and it still baffles me . I’m no football expert however you could see form archive footage of him playing for M.U. as a youngster that what he has in his locker and with the right handling and motivation he was a good one , Utd don’t just take on anyone and keeper opportunities are at a premium and have to be earned .

    Midfield still lacks that punch through the middle ,lacking any shots from outside the box ( even VT spotted that one some time ago )

    Great 4 points though over the two games , as you say Wednesday are the better side, Bristol I’m not so sure about . Imagine where we wold be if we had lost those two, and we would have with PT ??

    I’m hoping that NW with his contacts ,knowledge and network can grab some nice leggy , pacy youngsters in the January window , as we will need them , its a long season and old legs and past their best players ,ain’t going to get us through the winter months

    With all that said its nice to see the effort back,and Gunnerson showed that in bundles last night ,what a captain he would have made under Trollope ?.

  4. MIKE HOPE says:

    Great report as always by Paul but I am surprised by the negativity of the comments.
    Did we really think that in two games we could go from bottom three standard – which we clearly were – to top three – which we would need to be – to outplay and beat Sheffield Wednesday ?
    Perhaps it’s an indication of how much optimism Warnock has brought to the club .
    What has been achieved in two games is that we have been transformed from a team that is enjoyable to play against and easy to beat to a team that is horrible [ an adjectiye that Mick McCarthy seeks for his teams competitiveness ] to play against and difficult to beat.
    I think it significant that as the game went into extra time the Wednesday manager was signalling to his defensive players to stay back and for the goalkeeper to take his time with a goal kick.
    Warnock currently and I am sure correctly sees us as a work in progress and until we are fit enough to regularly get players up in support when the ball is played long to Lambert we will be heavily dependent on set pieces for goals.
    What disappointed me most was the attendance . The weather was good and the televised game against Bristol had been a good advert yet over five thousand fans seem to have absconded between the two games .
    Presumably they were prepared to pay £5 under the special offer but were reluctant to pay the full price.
    I think that the recent management enterprise and the players efforts need and deserve better support if Sir Vincent is to be encouraged.

  5. Dai Woosnam says:

    A very sound set of comments. Mike’s last para in particular should be echoed from the rooftops throughout Cardiff, The Vale and The Valleys.
    Sir Vincent must think that long-time Bluebirds fans are a fickle lot.
    More important now than ever to get after the next generation.
    I advocate free promotional tickets wing their way to all youth clubs, YMCAs, amateur soccer clubs…anyone anywhere in the catchment area (yes, even Open Prisons !!!) so as we can fill “Vincent’s Vision”.
    DW

  6. Anthony O'Brien says:

    Excellent comments all round. I am particularly impressed by the sense of fair play and balance intelligently expressed by the eponymous Mike HOPE, and though I was disappointed by Cardiff’s lack of attacking intent, I am glad that Mike has given reasoned argument as to why we should not feel too downhearted. Thank you, Mike.

  7. Colin Phillips says:

    Thanks, Paul, another thoughtful and accurate report.

    Nice to see people looked on the game with such positivity.

    I’m afraid I was quite depressed by the performance. I felt our ‘mid-field’ was totally outplayed and find it difficult to believe that we got a point out of the game.

    Keeper, back four, Hoilett and Noone (except for one instance in the first-half when the opportunity was begging for him to on the outside and get to the byline, when he did what he ALWAYS does, he turned back on to his left and his shot/cross was blocked) did OK. But Ralls, Gunnarson and Whittingham were overrun by the pace and slick passing of the Wednesday mid-field. As a consequence, Lambert must have felt like the Lone Ranger.

    Surprised that Warnock started with the same eleven to be honest, there were obvious problems with the mid-field against Bristol and I thought O’Keefe or Richardson or both would have figured in the starting line-up.

    Have fears on what to expect on Sky on Saturday evening. The energy that was shown against Bristol was nowhere near as apparent on Wednesday evening and with only a short break in the action some of our old legs will not have recovered. I’m hoping that the ‘off-the-field problems’ at Forest will have a negative effect on their performance but I can’t see us getting more than a point from the game.

  8. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning everyone, some thoughts on a few of the points made.
    Dai, I’ve seen Oliver Burke compared to Gareth Bale in some places and, although I don’t see him becoming the world star Bale is, I can see where they are coming from. I’d seen a little bit of him before Forest visited us late in 2016 where he was in their team from the start. It was the first time he had featured in the Forest team for nearly four months, but he scored a fine goal inside the first ten minutes and made a real impression with his strength, ability and composure – it’s fairly unusual to find a young player with all of these attributes and it’s that which persuades me that the Bale connection is a fair one – on the face of it, the fee Leipzig paid for him was too much, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him transfered for a larger fee and to a bigger club within a season or two.
    AMO. although Mike makes a persuasive argument about Neil Warnock’s first two games in charge, I edge more to you and Colin’s opinion than his. I’d qualify that slightly by repeating what I said in my piece. That is, our manager was bound to do what most other new bosses do when they take over a struggling club – try to sort the defending out first. There is an obvious reason why managers work this way – stop conceding and you stop losing, but there’s also the fact that transforming a side’s defensive capability without access to a huge transfer budget at a time when only a limited pool of players are available anyway, is easier to do than teaching your players how to get quicker, how to become more creative and how to acquire more flair.
    Even though we were at home both times, I think our central midfield three took to the field in our last two games with more emphasis put on what they do when we don’t have the ball than there was on what we do with it. However, to put it bluntly, the quality and pace of passing from that trio was embarrassing when compared to the slick way Wednesday moved the ball at times. The change in attitude in the last two games has been marked in terms of defensive organisation and resilience, but, apart from slightly more threat from attacking set pieces and the thought that Junior Hoilett can become a big player for us when he becomes fully match fit, we’ve looked as lightweight and insipid as an attacking force as we did when Paul Trollope was in charge – I’m hopeful that Warnock can improve things somewhat on the attacking front over the coming weeks, but there’s only so much that can be done with the players we’ve got.
    Russell, I was expecting one or two changes for Wednesday’s match for the reasons you alluded to at the start of your message – Neil Warnock doubted whether Lambert was able to play three matches in a week and also spoke about players needing to get fitter – it has to follow surely then that, having gone with the same side so far, there will be a few changes tomorrow, will Bennett and Hoilett be able to play three times in a week so soon after coming back from injury and not playing regularly respectively? Will all of our central midfield three, who were all struggling somewhat physically in the final third of Wednesday’s game be, up to more of the same at Forest? I reckon we could see O’Keefe, Richardson and Harris play some part tomorrow.
    Mike, while I’m not quite as optimistic about the coming months as you, I’m in complete agreement with you as far as the attendance is concerned. I was expecting a drop in the attendance, but not to that extent – I wonder if the televises Barcelona v Man City game was a factor in why around a quarter who were there on Friday decided not to bother this time?

  9. Stephen fairhurst says:

    With apologies for coming late to the party but didn’t comment under the Bristol City report but waited to see the team against the very competent Sheff Wed side. Pressing strongly may be an over statement but the players are seemingly putting in a shift and not back pedalling as much as in previous games. The problem with the 4-1-4-1 tactic as mentioned in forums etc. means Lambert has to hold on to the ball to allow the midfield to come through. It did seem that similar to the Bristol game he was not holding it up but having to jump for ball out of defence and flicking the ball on but players were usually behind rather than ahead or to the side and unable to make up the ground, each attempt sapping the energy a little. Sheff Wed came stronger second half a result of the energy expended but being blunt a point was appreciated rather the capitulation from last season. Being in the family end I got a good look at Chamakh and I felt he was a bigger threat than Lambert, quickly playing back and running forward to re-receive the ball or collecting and placing a neat threaded pass forward. I did feel the other players were not necessarily on his wavelength and similarly players would make a break down the right for the ball out of defence to come too slow. I can see individual created goals from Chamakh in the future. Noone ’s foul leading to the pen against Bristol was a case of him going to a ‘natural’ left side and confusing the defender with his skills but he was involved a lot in the game on Wed but again the transfer of ball to left foot to cross from the right side of the pitch was a tad predictable. My opinion is that Morrison was left with the captaincy to avoid upsetting applecarts and the like but his performance against Sheff Wed was at best described as having a ‘mare and his header towards the seemingly empty net went so far right I am not believing that he placed it towards that spot as it was easier to head forward and probably score. I think I would prefer Connelly or Manga instead and I hope the captaincy doesn’t mean he gets an undeserved place. My opinion is that Manga will be moved on but on his day he can defend, last ditch sometimes and can play. Can I echo other contributers to say I look forward to seeing your blog as it’s insights are making a better more informed Cardiff City supporter and I appreciate you allowing my two pennyworth and I’m from the days when two pence would buy you a suit and a night’s drinking!

  10. Stephen fairhurst says:

    I should have the words ‘making me a better informed Cardiff City supporter’ in the appropriate place but I know all supporters do get a well written thoughful piece from yourself.

  11. Dai Woosnam says:

    Paul,
    Like Stephen there, I wish to add a coda to my words.
    I had meant to say something about the Thursday night ITV UEFA Europa Cup highlights, but forgot.
    (As it was 2.43 on Friday morning, I can be forgiven, I hope! Now at 5.45 on Saturday morning, my head is a bit clearer.)
    I wanted to refer to the Dundalk v Zenit highlights, and how I can imagine Neil giving the Dundalk centre half an almighty roasting, were he their manager.
    For that was a game the Irish minnows should have won. Against one of the Russian giants to boot.
    You’ll recall that the game was into its last quarter, and Dundalk were incredibly leading one nil, and would have been two up, if a header had not come back off the post.
    But then their centre half goes on a silly crossfield run just outside his penalty area. He has two possible let-out passes forward at his disposal, but chooses the kamikaze option of passing back to his keeper. The ball hits a slight divot, the keeper makes a horlicks of his kick, and Zenit score.
    The momentum of the game changed in a heartbeat.
    Suddenly, the Russians gain belief. They go on to get a winner and miss a penalty.

    I recall a story from the past…

    For the want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost.
    For the want of a horse, the journey was lost.
    For the want of a journey, the battle was lost.
    For the want of a battle, the War was lost.
    And because the War was lost, so it was that the KINGDOM was lost.
    …And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

    And gentlemen, that stupid, totally unnecessary pass-back by the Dundalk centre half was the horseshoe nail for little Dundalk. It should have been the greatest night in their history: beating recent winners of Europe’s second highest cup competition.
    But the kamikaze centre half, given at least two options of receiving that horseshoe nail (i.e. there were two passes that were “on” for him that were not backwards), instead chose the suicidal course.

    And yet, here’s the thing…
    The studio presenter and pundits issued not a word of criticism of the pass-back afterwards !
    What hope have we, when pundits are this lacking in common sense? None, I suggest.
    They ought to put the man from the top of the Clapham omnibus in the studios: he could not do worse.
    Incredibly, one pundit went after the centre half for panicking after the pass-back went belly-up !! Not a word on the absurdity of the totally unnecessary pass-back itself.
    YCNMIU*.
    I sincerely hope that Mr Warnock will give any centre half of ours making such a back pass, an almighty rollicking.
    And I think it’s now time to say goodbye to watching analysts pore over a game. Whether it be on MotD or SKY.
    Why?
    Because they are largely sheep.
    How well I recall the World Cup of 1970, and the realisation that in Brian Clough we had a guy who was a true original, and who could come at a game from a wholly different angle to everyone else.
    Did he just occasionally choose what Frost called “the road less traveled”** just for the sake of it? Oh, for sure.
    And was he sometimes wrong?
    Of course… none more so when he called the Polish keeper a clown in that vital 1973 World Cup qualifier.
    But by golly…he was a breath of fresh air, in the years before the daily two bottles of Sherry took hold. And I submit that we have never seen his like in all the years since. Show me the real DIFFERENCE in the mindsets and views of Carragher, the Nevilles, Shearer, Murphy, Dixon, Hartson, Keowne, etc., etc.? I submit there really isn’t one.

    *You Could Not Make It Up (even if you tried!)
    ** the great man’s American spelling.
    DW.

  12. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Good to hear from you again Stephen and thank you for your kind comments. You’ve identified what I see as the biggest problem City face until January at least – how to stop our striker staying so isolated all of the time? Neil Warnock alluded to this in his pre match press conference yesterday when he said he’d like to play two strikers, but appeared to come down on the side of opting for the increased defensive solidity having three out and out central midfielders gives us – understandable I suppose when you look at our league position.
    Interesting to read your comments about Chamakh because, while I’d say the majority of the comments on messageboards etc. about him tended to echo my opinion (not very good, but it’s unfair to be too harsh on him when he has had so little match practice), there were those like yourself who thought he did better than Lambert. Whatever the relative merits of our two senior strikers, I think we probably agree that, too often, the quality of the balls played up to them have generally been poor with too many “fighting balls” that can only be flicked on with the head to no one in particular or balls fired at them about a yard off the ground (Chamakh seemed to get a lot of them) – in some ways, this is a consequence of Warnock wanting the likes of Bamba and Morrison to stick to basics, but the service from the central midfield three hasn’t been great either with Ralls in particular letting his passing standards slip this season.
    Agree with you about that header by Morrison – once he managed to get to the ball first, he really should have scored, but. so far at least, he’s not been the aerial power in attacking situations that he was last season.
    Dai, I take your point that the summarisers on television are all much of a muchness when it comes to tactical appreciation – it’s as if ex players who want to work on the television have to do something equivalent to the London cabbies “knowledge” before they can get the job. That said, I tend to rate the pundits by how often they make me say “I didn’t think of that” – Gary Neville does it the most (his brother less often), then it’s probably Carragher, while I think Murphy talks a lot of sense and I like Jermaine Jenas. As for the rest, Dixon’s not bad, but I tend to fast forward if I’m watching a recording and anyone else is on.

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