Inept official cannot disguise City failings.

In what I believe to be a first in this blog’s history, I’m going to begin a match reaction piece by talking about a referee.

Steve Martin had already officiated in a match at Cardiff City Stadium this season before yesterday’s 0-0 home draw with Millwall. He was the man in charge for our 2-1 League Cup win over Portsmouth back in August and, having checked my article on that match, I made no mention of him in it. As I like to think that a referee has to be plain bad or very good (not sure the latter’s ever happened mind!) if he is to get a mention about his performance on here, I assume he was like most refs of our matches in that Portsmouth encounter – he was someone who I did not deem worth mentioning in a positive or negative way.

A look at Mr Martin’s career record tells you that he is an official on the way up and one game in League One apart, all of his Football League games this season have been at Championship level.

He has taken charge of other City matches in the past. He was the man in the middle for our 3-0 defeat at Preston last season, but there is nothing in his previous dealings with us to mark him out as one of those officials I dread hearing is going to take charge of one of our games (there is only man who does that to me currently and you only have to read my piece on our 1-0 defeat at Birmingham in 15/16 to get his identity!). In fact, after giving us two penalties in a 3-2 win over Blackpool in 14/15 and the last minute spot kick by which we won 4-3 at Derby back in February, I’d say we’d done alright by Mr Martin up to yesterday.

I noticed that last week Mr Martin took charge of the game between Wolves and Preston which finished in a 3-2 win for the home side after he had awarded a controversial penalty to Wolves and saw fit to issue seven yellow cards (two of them to Preston’s Alan Browne). The official was criticised by both managers after that match and, playing amateur psychologist for a while, I wonder if his performance yesterday was a consequence of that?

Whether I’m right or wrong, Mr Martin found himself in a similar position yesterday with both managers singling him out for criticism, but the difference this week I suspect was that he left the field at the end of the game to a chorus of boos from the home support – apparently, Neil Warnock pointed to the stands as Mr Martin walked off and asked him if he was enjoying the applause he was getting.

I’m sure anyone who was not at the game (and quite a few who were I would guess) is now expecting me to go off on a rant about how Mr Martin was instrumental in denying us a win yesterday, but not a bit of it – the key here for me is that Mr Martin was criticised by both managers and it’s my opinion that Millwall’s Neil Harris was as justified in finding fault with the ref as Neil Warnock was.

For me, Mr Martin was as bad for Millwall as he was for us – indeed, our opponents may have had more grounds for finding fault with him than we did! I reckon if that game had been played at the New Den and it had panned out exactly as it did yesterday, Mr Martin would have got the same reaction from the home fans as he left the pitch!

Our manager said that Mr Martin started the match poorly and got worse. I know what Neil Warnock means there because it struck me that he began a game between two physical sides by letting all sorts of things go – there were some pretty obvious fouls by both sides ignored, but as things wore on, Mr Martin found himself having to blow his whistle more often and it was then that his performance really starting going downhill I feel.

The problem for me was that Mr Martin consistently favored the defending side in his decision making and, as long as professional football has been played, defenders soon realise that an official is favouring them and so start to push the boundaries that bit further. The best referees make decisions based purely on what happens in front of them and do not cater for whether it is an attacker or defender he is considering penalising.

It’s equally true to say that a referee who consistently takes the side of attackers over defenders is getting things just as wrong as Mr Martin did, but at least such an approach would lead to a more watchable game of football than yesterday’s frustrating encounter was.

That word “frustrating” goes to the core of things. I felt frustrated at the final whistle yesterday and a proportion of that emotion was directed at a very poor referee. However, if I’m being honest with myself, I’ve got to admit that more of that frustration was down to the fact that, not for the first time in recent home games, City’s performance level fell well short of the standard required for a team which has ambitions of a top six finish.

I stick by what I said about last week’s win at Middlesbrough being a very significant result because it offered proof that even though we can look very, very ordinary at times, there are qualities within our squad which place us in the top six, or even the top two, when it comes to certain parts of the game – sadly, yesterday offered more proof that we can look relegation material in other facets.

In recent seasons, City fans have had to get used of their team coming second in the battle for possession of the ball. My initial attitude towards this was that it was a sign of serious failings within a squad which was, at the time it first started happening, a very expensively assembled one.

I’ve modified my approach somewhat since then in the face of results, both with City and in the wider football world, that show conclusively that possession of the ball is not the be all and end all when it comes to deciding the outcome of a match. However, this leopard is too old now to change it’s spots completely because  I’ve always believed, and always will do, that control of the midfield gives you control of the game.

Yes, “control of the midfield” does not, necessarily, mean that you have a monopoly of possession, but if you are not dictating the tempo, pattern and flow of a match,  then you become over reliant on things like set pieces, grit and individual moments of inspiration for your successes and I can’t help feeling that, over the course of a forty six game season, you need more than that to give you a good chance of a top six finish.

Has a side with the worst passing stats in a league in the pyramid structure of the domestic game  ever gone up or reached the end of season promotion Play Offs? I don’t know the answer to that question, but, if there have been some who have, I’d bet you could count them on the fingers of one hand.

In the build up to yesterday’s game the view was expressed that Millwall were a similar type of side to us – I agreed with that opinion at the time and feel it to be even more true having watched the two sides play each other.

Perhaps the clearest proof of this came in the possession stats as we, almost uniquely, found ourselves comfortably winning the battle for the ball – the fifty seven/forty three breakdown in our favour, according to the BBC, being riches indeed as far as we are concerned!

However, all that all of that possession did is provide more evidence than normal of something that was pretty clear anyway – we are not very good at passing the ball (certainly when it comes to passing the ball incisively anyway). It says so much that the only two passes we played all afternoon that opened up the Millwall defence, as keeper Jordan Archer was forced into impressive saves, were by a centreback (Sol Bamba) and a wing back (Callum Paterson).

The three centreback system we’ve used in recent matches has seen a big responsibility placed on our central midfield two and yesterday I thought Craig Bryson and Joe Ralls found it all a bit too much for them.

Bryson has his qualities (seen to good effect in scoring against Sunderland and in the win over Leeds), but can become a bit of a peripheral figure in a two man central midfield, while Ralls, who I believe has it in him to play defence splitting passes, is not yet the sort of player who can dominate games from the middle of the park at this level.

I have some sympathy with the two of them, because, with us still not playing the second striker the three centreback system can allow you to, we end up with something like a 3-6-1 whereby our central midfield is still undermanned because we have a couple of wingback/full backs and Hoilett and Mendez-Lange who, although they drifted in field at times yesterday, are, essentially, the sort of wingers Neil Warnock always seems to want in his sides.

I admit that there is not a great deal of evidence over the past two seasons to back me up here, but I still believe that a three centre back system can be an effective and winning way of playing for City, but I can’t help thinking that the current version of it we’re using leaves us top heavy in favour of wide players in the balance between them and those in central areas – something must be wrong when the central players in what can be a six man midfield at times are struggling in the way Bryson and Ralls did yesterday.

Millwall’s away record is very revealing – they came back from 2-0 down to get a point at QPR, but, apart from that, they’ve not scored a goal in their other six away games. Despite this, they’ve still managed to get 0-0s at Bristol City, Preston and Cardiff and their three defeats have all been by a single goal at Forest, Wolves and Brentford.

Therefore, you’d think there was some justification in the charges I’ve seen that they were very defensive yesterday, but I’m not so sure about that. Yes, they were content to sit back in the closing stages, but I thought they looked to get forward much more than the visitors in our previous home game (another very drab 0-0) Derby were and I’d put their lack of away goals down to a lack of attacking pace based on yesterday, rather than an over defensive approach.

Millwall were better than us in one area where we tend to be strong – they won nearly all of the second balls that were going. Also, just like every side we play it seems, they were better than us at passing the ball in areas where space and time are at a premium.

Even so, Millwall’s deserved point had something to do with a City display which had too many careless moments from individuals in it – Bruno Manga had one of those occasional matches that he is prone to where he makes simple errors that you’d never see from him on other days and, even the one player in the side, who was playing well as an individual in the first half an hour of the game, Sol Bamba, slipped up with an underhit  backpass which left him very grateful for Neil Etheridge’s speed off the line to block Steve Morrison’s shot.

Those two individuals, along with a few others, are not in the habit of making the sort of sloppy individual mistakes we saw yesterday and City will play better at home than they’ve done in three out of their last four games, but the suspicion is taking hold for me that our fine start to the season was based primarily on the fact that our three forward players were in great form – of course, a defence which was giving hints that it might have the best goals against record in the league come late October also helped, but, even in August, our possession and passing stats were suffering in comparison to others.

Of course, getting Aron Gunnarsson (a player whose value to the side really does become clearer when he is missing from it) back will help things and I feel Loic Damour can be excused for wondering what he has done to cause his non use, even from the bench, lately. However, fundamentally, I think we suffer from an excess of a certain type of midfielder (“bread and butter players”) and a complete absence of another type (a Barry Bannan or John Fleck – he’s not the same type of player as those two, but Adam Clayton seems to be struggling to get a game at Boro these days, could we make a loan enquiry for him come January?).

Looking for positives, it’s three clean sheets in four games now and we should be very grateful for that when you consider that during that time, we’ve only managed to score through Joe Ralls’ penalty last weekend.

There was also a bonus in the form of a very encouraging first home appearance from Callum Paterson who played almost two thirds of the game after coming on for injury victim Joe Bennett – he wasn’t immune from the sort of careless moment I mentioned earlier, but the good points certainly outweighed the bad as he made an immediate impact with a run and quality pass to present Junior Hoilett with what was probably our best chance and also showed the sort of qualities, when he outjumped Archer to head narrowly wide in the second half, that gave him such a good goalscoring record at Hearts.

Another very impressive display by Sheffield United on Friday means that we now drop to third, but with Wolves, Leeds, Preston and Norwich all losing, no great damage has been done by the two dropped points (and I see it clearly as two dropped, rather than one gained). However, to return to “bread and butter”, we seem to have lost the knack lately of coming up with those type of performances that top six aspirants rely so much on – we either are good (e.g. Leeds and Boro) or poor, there are no “not great, but we did just enough to win” type games at the moment.


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10 Responses to Inept official cannot disguise City failings.

  1. Barry Cole says:

    Spot on Paul nobody can blame the referee for what was a mundane performance. The idea of playing two in midfield just didn’t provide a positive approach to winning the game.
    There are a number of players who just were not at the races and it’s not the first game this has happened.
    Leaving players like tomlin and damour out of midfield wasn’t the best idea and I don’t think ward was given the type of service he required, with the wind the ball should have been on the floor. Which brings me to the words you used on our passsing game. No creation no killer balls on a regular basis and this falls back on the midfield and wingers.
    I have no reason to dispute what NW thinks but the players who were turning in great performances week in week out at the start are not doing that now.
    There cannot be favourites and it does seem that a number of players are hoping they can call in their previous history to keep a spot in the team.
    I still believe that we are desperately short of quality forwards as is proved by the goals scored since we lost zahore .
    So back to the referee and the blame culture, he wasn’t brilliant but that went for both sides so it’s no good masking that as the problem. If you are a good team you rise above that , everybody makes mistakes and he did that on a number of occasion but to solely blame him for our performance is just moving the problem and not getting to the heart of it.
    Unless we can create goals similar to the Leeds and wolves games on regular basis then we really need to look inwards rather than outwards. Never the less football is never straight forward and it’s time for the players to roll up their sleeves and get a grip and NW will need to select the best team for the next game on Tuesday.

  2. paul says:

    Blame the ref???

    After 10 to 15 minutes I said to my son that this idiot of a ref had already lost control and we could see a sending off.

    He was shocking. How can a ref affect a result.
    Let’s start looking at it firm a players perspective.
    City play the ball long, not great I agree, as the city player is about to jump there is a one or two handed d shove in the back. The result is that the ball comes back to city defence to start again. Or it head tennis in midfield.
    Millwall players jumping with their as leading, as when Patterson won a fair header and their 3 went down hurt.
    The high feet that were ignored. The out of control tackle on Hoillet that left him hurt.
    well done to Millwall, they came to do a job with a ref who they probably knew has many games like this. Look him up on the Web. They got away with it
    How does this effect a performance?
    At one point I spotted a city player hesitating going into a challenge. Morris on had a chance to win a ball but totally ignored the chance to challenge. Millwall had won the psychological battle. Assisted by a ref who does not know the rules. High boot, deliberate hand ball and no card.
    Could city have done more Yes and no.
    We are forgetting their keeper made 3 good saves, if just one had gone in we may have seen a different game.
    We could have gone down the flanks more and turned their defence rather than crossing from 20 yards out.
    As a positive this city team has mental character, despite the shoves, high boots, Morris on arching his back to hurt Magna, out of control tackles and a ref who favoured them more than us, we did not capitulate and concede late on. I am not sure we would have been able to have done that over the past season or two.

  3. BJA says:

    Paul – Totally agree with everything you state – poor performances from many, the referee’s being the worst. Just a very bad day for him, but that should not excuse our own rather limp and inept performance.
    Sadly we persist on occasions to lump the ball upfield from the goalkeeper and other defenders, and expect Ward to win the ball in the air against players that tower above him. I do not recall that he won that type of “pass” once, and must have been so frustrated to be substituted. The one opportunity that he had by the through ball from Bamba brought that very good save from Archer that you mentioned. And Bogle who has a somewhat more physical presence fared no better.
    You are so right about our mid-field performances. To expect Ralls and Bryson to provide everything necessary in an attacking sense for widemen and number nine as well as being in the penalty area to support is very optimistic. Another is needed, and NW is going to have to have a re-think on team selection as no goal has been scored in open play for four and a third games, and that is no way that any side with promotion ambitions can continue to perform.
    Tomlin’s introduction might have been made earlier. One rasping shot showed his preparedness at a scoring attempt, and his cheeky flick at the ball from the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance ultimately saw the ball in the net, but Mr. Martin was never going to allow that to stand based on his mood yesterday. But wait a minute, did not Samiel Eto do the same to Marshall when we played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and that goal was allowed to stand. There was a view after the game that the rule has been changed since then – is that correct?
    And now on to Tuesday. I hope to see Gunnarson and Zahore if fit, and Damour for his energy. Paterson also, who had a very promising baptism to life at the CCS. But who goes from yesterday – Bennett, Manga, Bryson and Ward? Second guessing NW is a mug’s game – but I suspect there will be changes.

  4. Anthony O'Brien says:

    We constantly hear armchair critics on the television calling for “consistency” from referees. We had it yesterday and therefore we cannot blame the referee for what our Blogmeister correctly calls Cardiff’s inept display. The papered-over cracks are becoming more and more obvious.
    Where is midfield creativity coming from? Would it have been worthwhile to bring on Damour instead of Ralls?
    We have all been hoping that Lee Tomlin would be the creative genius, but his most memorable contribution to the game was a totally justified booking for unlawfully and dangerously harassing the Millwall goalkeeper. Was this due to frustration or stupidity (or a combination of both)?
    When will Mendez-Laing realise he does not have to beat a man several times with flashy stepovers before crossing the ball?
    By the same token, why keep hitting high balls upfield when our centre-forward is consistently outjumped, although he did have the stomach to keep challenging for the ball. If Ward had the physical attributes of Zohore he would be some player.
    To continue this tale of woe — Why are Cardiff virtually immune to the idea of taking a quick throw in? Is it because our players are not tactically aware enough to make space in order to receive the ball to feet? Long throws down the line are rarely successful, and it is a waste of Morrison’s talents to keep giving him this role. Another reason to thank heaven for Paterson who set the crowd alight with his first foray upfield and a cross which could easily have led to a goal.
    In fairness, it’s worth recording that Cardiff had a few excellent goal attempts which were unsuccessful only because of good goal keeping. Another positive was Neil Etheridge who also displayed good goalkeeping as well as courage and speed off his line to smother a wayward back pass.
    Now, we need to cross our fingers and hope that Mr Warnock comes up with solutions to the current problems, beginning with what to do if Bennett is unavailable for Tuesday night.

  5. Jeff Blight says:

    Agree with everything you say Paul. We all applauded our manager for the way he set us up last week at Middlesbrough. However to do the same again at home against a limited team such as Millwall was naive and very negative. We were always going to loose the midfield battle with only two central lightweight players.

    I don’t enjoy singling out players but I fail to see that Brayson is any better than Damour if you have a battle on your hands or Tomlin if you are trying to unlock a packed defence. We were at our fluent best earlier in the season with a midfield of Gunna, Damour and Ralls. Yesterday a midfield of Damour, Ralls and Tomlin would probably have dominated and got us the win we desired. It’s frustrating that our manager regularly talks about the much improved strength of the squad yet only seems to make changes because of injuries.

    Ending on a positive what a player we have on our hands in Paterson, not your conventional fullback and a complete contrast to the other fullbacks in the squad. Very impressive with a great engine and a desire to bomb forward at every opportunity.

  6. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul yesterday’s game very well summed up

    In my view we are more than likely to face this type of game In the coming months if we stay in the top 6, as sides set out for a point and the chances for a win will come easier away from home against better opposition when the game is taking to us and we nick a win .

    Yesterday showed me that Ward is no Zohore, way too small for our tactics.

    Our midfield has no front foot ambition, or playmaker and is average in the league .

    Defensively were a decent side at this level probably better than most.

    Patterson looks a great player perhaps if he plays wide with Bennett behind him it may be a stronger option than the current one .

    Tomlin has to have a run along with Damour on Tuesday.

    Zohore is our best and only option which is a worry .

    Tomlin goal should have stood, note to the referee if your reading “”please view Marshall moment v Chelsea””

    I understand the refrees frustration i tend to think the games like this is usually down to us to bury those poor decesion ,we simply didn’t threaten or haves plan B.

    Tuesday night worries me, as they should be better, however those spaces perhaps being created by better teams may give us a sniff of the goal having said that where has all the efforts on goal gone, never mind actual goals.

    I think generally we are over exceeding ourselves and should between 8th or 10th not in the top 4 , that position is down to the crazy nature of our league, Sheff Utd as good as they are, there not the best ,just consistent.

  7. HarryKirtley'sGhost says:

    If they suddenly struck oil in my back garden, and I became the richest man in Britain, I would immediately buy Cardiff City.
    I would then immediately relieve Mr Morrison of the captaincy, and replace him with a man who does not think it funny to defecate in the street. That is a Roy of the Rovers superman, wh goes by the name of Callum Paterson. (Russell, please note the single T…he is not descended from the Floyd side of the family, but from the side of the man who wrote WALTZING MATILDA…the greatest national anthem there ever was*, because it was not full of swagger, but rather full of swag**.)
    I would tell the manager that he MUST always play with two up front, and one must be really good in the air.
    Get the ball to them via goalkeeper, central defenders and wingers.
    Don’t try tiki-taka with players who are normal mortals.
    Only one of our current so called midfield players has those gifts: the chronically neglected Lee Tomlin.
    About 18 months back, the always thoughtful AMO suggested in these pages that City should sign the boy Matt Smith. Did you see the transformation he brought to the game yesterday? That Wolves manager (whose name I am too tired to google, but has a three name moniker that every time I hear it, makes me want to cross myself and accept the communion host/wafer that he inserts into my moith) must be thankful that he does not meet Matt’s kind every week.
    Certainly Cardiff have three strikers who cannot even remotely jump in the Carroll/Smith/Toshack/ way. Of our three, Bogle is just about the best, but lacks the skills of Zahore and Ward on the deck.

    Thanks Paul for a typically thoughtful and well explained piece. But I promise you that whether we have two or THIRTY two players in midfield, is kinda not the point.
    The point is we must attack…attack…attack.
    I would think outside the square, and put the street defecator at centre forward, with Zahore running off him.
    And Morrison would be our target man…and very good one he would make.
    Finally, I leave you with this.
    I am an ABMU man*** till I die.
    I was so disappointed that the Spurs defence eventually was breached just a few minutes from the end. But what a great goal…!!

    De Gea takes a free kick one yard inside his penalty area. He deliberately aims for the head of Lukaku, ten yards into the opposition half. He heads on to Martial, who with his first touch, strokes the ball into the net.
    Goal…!! Took just four seconds and two passes …from one penalty area to the back of the opposition’s net.
    Truly a thing of beauty. Outfootballing the tiki-taka “little triangles” brigade.

    The tragedy is of course that these tiki-taka people have won the propaganda war, and have convinced so many of my very intelligent brethren that if you want the Beautiful Game, then this is how it is played.
    No sir.

    And they pour scorn on critics like me who think their emperor has embraced naturism, by calling us “Route One merchants”.
    Again, no sir. Pure name-calling. ‘Twas ever thus.

    Harry Kirtley was a Glenn Hoddle type. He was not afraid to play long passes to his wingers, turning defence into attack, or long passes that threaded the needle, to Trevor Ford.

    But Harry always played his passes …FORWARD.

    *It was the unofficial anthem for a great many years, although our British anthem was officially theirs too. Some eejits thought that Banjo’s gem lacked national swagger, and so replaced it with a perfectly pleasant near century-old song, that said how great Australia was, and used quaint old fashioned words like “girt” (by sea).
    They had not the gumption to realise that the very USP of ‘Matilda’ was it was NOT like everyone else’s anthem viz., songs that were saying how great a king was, or a people were, or a language was, or a landscape was. Au contraire. This anthem was about a swagman (tramp). A wonderfully self deprecating choice for anthem, and one totally lacking in jingoism.

    **the jolly swagman carried his belongings in his kerchief (or more usually a sack) on the end of a pole. This was called his “swag”.


  8. Richard Holt says:

    Thanks for write-up Paul.
    When I first bought a season ticket on my retirement 7 years ago I had in my mind that I would be travelling up to Cardiff more or less on a fortnightly basis with home games being played just about every other Saturday with the occasional Tuesday night thrown in. I was of course naively remembering a bygone time when fixtures were broadly organised in such a manner. These days and this season in particular it seems that most home games come along in two-game packages with a three or four day gap between the games and then a considerable gap before the next match. With a long round trip for each match I usually find myself having to make a decision as to which game I choose to go to when these ‘double-headers’ occur. Sometimes I get it right (eg Villa / Sheff Utd) – often not ( eg Leeds/ Derby). This week end was a more difficult choice and it was Friday night before I finally made up my mind to opt for the Ipswich game on Tuesday. Will I have got it right ? Well I hope so because if I haven’t, then judging from all the reports on Saturday’s game, it will have to be a pretty dreary performance from us on Tuesday for me to drive home on Tuesday thinking I’ve got this one wrong as well.
    Having such a fantastic start as we had this season is great but it does mean that our currently healthy league position isn’t a reflection of our current form. Since the end of the first international break we’ve played nine league games of which we’ve won three, drawn four and lost two – very much mid-table form and two of our three wins came courtesy of late penalties. Most concerning is our lack of goals during this period – only six from open play – three of which came in one game compared to 10 in our first five games. If our current goal drought is extended into the Ipswich game then this will be one of our most barren goal-scoring spells since we returned to this level in 2003. There was a period at the beginning of the 2004/5 season when an Alan Lee penalty in a 2-1 defeat at Wigan was our only score in a five game run and there was Russell Slade’s magical side of this time two years ago when five consecutive games gave just an own goal from Middlesbro’s George Friend. The 0-0 with Bristol City was a particular highlight of that run I seem to remember.
    Of course defensively we are pretty secure but clearly getting back to being a potent attacking force or not is going to basically decide how this season pans out from now on. Key to that I think is Kenneth Zohore. Yes there are issues in mid-field. Gunnarson was clearly missed and like many I don’t know why Damour is being overlooked. I also feel that our confidence and cohesion in this department has dipped since Bryson has joined the mix although he hasn’t played particularly badly himself. But getting Zohore playing as he was back in August would generate that pace throughout our front line which made us look such a good side going forward at the start of the season
    I realise that’s easier said than done and anyway it seems it’ll be mid-November before Zohore plays at all. In the meantime we’ve got a tricky looking fixture against Ipswich and a slightly ominous looking one at Bristol City. This time next week the similarities to 2006 may be looking very stark but you never know. Ipswich and Bristol may not be ‘parking the bus’ like other recent opponents and that may be all we need to get the goals flowing again. I won’t hold my breath though.

  9. MIKE HOPE says:

    These days we see stats of almost of everything that happens during a football match but I haven’t yet seen an apportionment of the time the ball spends on the grass and the time in the air.
    If such stats were available I suspect that our game against Millwall would have set some sort of record for making groundsmen redundant.
    If we are going to play regularly with five at the back and two wingers it leaves us with just two midfielders to support the striker which makes it impossible to have the midfield control that TOBW rightly craves.
    I think that the three centre back system works best with wing backs whose strength lies in their ability to attack i.e in lieu of orthodox wingers.We seem to have such a player in Patterson , can NML be converted?
    This would allow us to have three central midfielders plus Tomlin or perhaps Hoillet supporting the striker.Not bad as a plan B or C?.

  10. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Morning everyone, just some quick comments to each of you on some of the points you raise.
    1. Barry, nothing to add to what you say really – I agree with it all!
    2. Paul, I can’t agree with you in one way because I maintain that the ref was poor for Millwall as well as us, but, as the team that had more of the ball and did most of the attacking, I feel the point I’ve seen made elsewhere that we were always likely to suffer more at the hands of an official who consistently favoured the defending team has to be a fair one.
    3. BJA, I may be wrong, but my understanding is that, as soon as Marshall opted to bounce the ball against Chelsea, he was deemed to not be in possession of it, while Archer was considered to be still in possession of the ball as he shaped to kick it clear. Leaving what happened to Marshall aside for now, I find it ludicrous that a goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball when it’s in the air a yard in front of him, but I have some sympathy with the lawmakers because they clearly don’t want to see the sort of things that would become the norm if goals like the one Tomlin “scored” on Saturday started to be allowed.
    4. Anthony, Bennett was withdrawn more as a precaution apparently, so it might be that he’ll be available tomorrow. If he is out, then I can see Peltier playing at left back if we go back to a back four and I daresay he’ll play if we stick with a back three as well. However, for me, he’s not really up to the wing back role if the remit is to be as much of an attacker as you are a defender and that’s definitely what he should be when we play at home.
    5. Jeff, much as I admire some aspects of Bryson’s game, I think you’re probably right in what you say about him – I’m not saying he is wholly responsible for any decline we’ve seen, but it seems to me that our midfield was performing better before he arrived.
    6. Russell, we’ve had forty three goal attempts in our last four matches. That’s far more than I was expecting, but only nine of them have been on target – Warnock has been diverting questions about our style, or lack of it, by saying “but look at all of the shots we’re having”, but that’s becoming a harder line to maintain in light of those stats.
    7. Mr Ghost, we’re never going to agree about playing styles, but I think you’re right about tiki-taka being played by “normal mortals” – it’s when the less talented try to play like Barcelona 2011 that you get the backwards and sideways passing you despise. However, I disagree with your inference that more midfield players automatically equals defensive football – we were a much more potent attacking team with three central midfielders than we have been in recent weeks when we have had two.
    8. Richard, the way fixtures are allocated has been a problem for years, but this season it’s worse than ever. To have just three home fixtures in two months is bad enough, but to get two of them falling within three days of each other is daft – I don’t like it as a local, but for long distance supporters like you it’s completely thoughtless – however, we are talking people who, it seems arrange midweek fixtures with huge distances involved for long distance supporters and away fans in the hope that they are discouraged from travelling!
    9. Mike, three centrebacks with proper wing backs and two up front can be an attacking formation, but I don’t recall us ever setting up like that in the times we’ve used it – the sort of selection you suggests seems the next best thing to me (I reckon Mendez-Laing could do a decent job at left wing back in a home game where he’s less likely to be tested defensively.

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