Thursday, 25 February 2010
The Lessons To Be Learned From Old Trafford.
In my match report, I declined to give players individual ratings because I said to do so would be unfair. Cole looked very average but the supply he received was awful. Spector was murdered second half but the protection he received was all but non existent. Once we were behind, there was only one team in it and we were lucky to come away with just a dent to our goal difference. Had Valencia been so inclined, he could have opened us up to a tonking of the order of Lennon's destruction of Wigan.
So what lessons should we learn? Well the problem remains one of balance in midfield and up front. Without Parker, there was no forward drive from the middle of the park. When we did try to get up in support of the strikers, we became stretched and it was easy for the Mancs to break and score. Think back to the fixture between us at Upton Park and we saw the same thing, looking comfortable when we were not trying to go forward, but once we were behind and trying to get back on level terms, looking as secure at the back as a Liverpool teenager's hymen, and still utterly impotent up front. Why?
A large part of the problem was Franco. The guy has talent but no pace so United were able to sit tight on our two strikers, knowing that there was zero possibility of a "knock through" and a pacey striker outstripping their defence. I was thinking of our performance at Liverpool last season as I watched the game, remembering how Bellamy was a constant threat to the Liverpool back line because of his pace. The score was 0-0 but, ironically, that was in large part down to the efforts of Bellamy because the Liverpool backline and midfield always had to be aware of an attacking threat and so could not over commit. At half time on Tuesday, however, Ferguson probably said "Play as high as you like, there's no danger of them running in behind you." That meant Valencia could play as high as Rooney, which ensured he was one on one with Spector as soon as he received the ball. The consequences of that were frightening! When Mido came on, our goal threat was, if anything, lessened because, in his desperation to get involved, he kept coming so deep to look for the ball. At one point, he looked as if he was playing as an axillary right back!
The lack of creativity in midfield was the other problem. Diamanti had a very bad day at the office and without him and Parker, the midfield offers nothing as an offensive unit. I know Behrami scored on Saturday but goals from him are once in ten blue moon events. Kovac is impressing when he does the simple things, but 99% of the passes he plays are square so he needs somebody alongside him who looks to get the ball forward quickly. And sadly, Noble looks as creative as carbon paper. Either he is in a prolonged dip in form or he is not the player we all hoped he might be.
So, what did we learn? Probably nothing that we did not already know. It boils down to:
1) We are not good enough. Yes we can beat poor and mediocre teams but put us up against the likes of Manchester United, or even Spurs, and we look woefully inadequate.
2) Tomkins will play for England one day but is not yet ready to be a first choice centre back in the Prem.
3) We desperately need specialised cover for left back.
4) We also desperately need a pacey player to play off of Cole. Ilan must be the best alternative of those currently on the books surely?
5) Noble needs to spend some time out of the spotlight, trying to rebuild his game.
6) Behrami is a great dynamo but offers very little in terms of creative inspiration.
7) Diamanti, at the moment, is a flat track bully like Graeme Hick. Put him up against dross and he looks brilliant, but against the best, he looks innocuous in open play.
8) The team is no better than mid table quality. European aspirations are unrealistic without a major overhaul of the squad.
9) Given the financial problems, to progress we have to accept the sale of players in order to free up funds for squad restructuring. If we go into next season with a broadly similar squad, we will struggle again.
I think Zola will go in the summer. And I expect Upson, Parker, Green and Behrami to depart too. How the proceeds are invested will decide whether we are destined to kick on, or slide even further backwards.
Posted by Hammersfan at 17:41