Sunday, 21 February 2010
Clarke Has Resumed Control Over Selection And Tactics.
A debate is raging on another article about the merits or otherwise of 4-4-2 and 4-4-3. What is indisputable is that when we played 4-3-3 last season, we struggled and found ourselves in the bottom four, with relegation looking a real possibility, despite being in the top 6 when Zola assumed control. Playing 4-3-3 we slumped to seventeenth in the table and questions started to be asked about Zola's suitability to manage a Premiership side. Then we changed to 4-4-2 and a string of results saw us pull away from trouble.
During this period, Zola lost patience with Etherington and dropped him, before selling him to Stoke. He couldn't understand why the left footed Etherington was uncomfortable on the right side of a 4-3-3 formation. Rather than play Etherington in his correct position, Zola dropped him and shipped him out. Since then, Etherington has starred in a Stoke team who are 7 points ahead of us in the table and has been mentioned as an outside bet for the England team. Stoke picked him up for £2.1m in what must be one of the bargains of the last few seasons.
This season, Stanislas and Collison have suffered in a similar way to Etherington. Played either on the wrong flank or as part of a 4-3-3 formation, they have looked increasingly less effective, probably, in large part, down to loss of confidence. Even Hines was forced into the 4-3-3 corset, rather than allowed to sit on the shoulder of Cole / Franco. Zola, meanwhile, buggered around with Jimenez, a player patently unsuited to the Prem but who happened to be the right shaped piece of the jigsaw from Zola's point of view. The trouble is, Zola was building the wrong bleeding jigsaw, just as last season! Remember how Jimenez was preferred against Everton instead of Diamanti? What happened? After wasting 60 minutes, Zola had to accept he was wrong and replace the less than hot Chilean! Remember what happened when we went from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 against Burnley? 5-0 became 5-3! I could go on!
So what has now happened? Well, as with last season, Clarke has won the tactical argument. During the 4-3-3 experiment, a number of people commented on how Clarke was no longer at Zola's shoulder during games. The Scot seemed to stay on his arse all game, keeping his own counsel. Zola was in the spotlight, looking anxious, looking devoid of ideas. That hasn't been the case so much recently. Clarke is back in the spotlight, back directing affairs from the dugout, back, it seems to me, in control of who plays where and how.
Clarke is a safety first coach. When Zola was allowed his head, we shipped goals all over the place; now Clarke is back in control, we are looking much more watertight. Remember those 0-0 draws at Liverpool and Chelsea last season? Those points were secured with defensive banks of four, those points were squeezed out by the tight arsed Scot who said "bugger 4-3-3, lets play 4-4-2 and pull Bellamy or Di Michele back into midfield when we don't have possession".
I expect to see something similar at Old Trafford on Tuesday, with Franco coming deep if he plays to make up a midfield 5, which becomes a conventional 4-4-2 when we have the ball. Clarke is back in control of tactics and that is why things are suddenly looking more optimistic!
Posted by Hammersfan at 15:13