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Speed and Width

I was interested to hear Gordon Strachan's comments on our current formation during the Anzhi game.

He suggested that where we had previously bombed down the wings and crossed the ball we were now trying to play through the centre. This had also involved a change of pace, where before Bale or Lennon would break quickly, stretching the game, we were now moving forward and back as a unit. This was giving us an advantage defensively with less space between players for the opposition but hurting us offensively, particularly because Soldado was not getting the crosses he needed to score from, he felt Defoe was actually more comfortable with the passes through the middle.

Thinking about it this makes a lot of sense. There has been a definite slowing of the build up this year and while Townsend, Chadli and Lamela are all wingers they are also all playing on the wrong side, cutting in rather than overlapping, Siggurdson of course prefers to cut in whichever side he plays. This leaves the full backs as the only genuine width, when Naughton has played on the left there has been no width that side at all.

While a strong defence is a definite plus our lack of goals in the league is a concern. It makes me wonder if we have the balance right, both in terms of pace and width. Barcelona have passed their way through teams for years, but part of that was the high tempo they played at, having Messi on the end of the moves hasn't hurt either. With a much slower tempo and a striker who prefers balls in from wide I'm not sure how effective our current system can be against well drilled defences.

I do wonder whether trying to speed up the play a bit and including at least one wide player playing on his natural wing would be an improvement. Alternatively, if Strachan is right about the strikers, maybe we should be starting Defoe in the league. But paying £26m for a p! layer and then failing to set up your team to harness his talents seems crazy management.

Written by jod

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The journalist

Writer: jod Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday October 4 2013

Time: 7:58PM

Your Comments

jod, I thought Strachan was talking sense. The tactic used is, I believe, to open up space for our wing-backs to utilise but, it's not quite working yet...I would love to see some good old fashioned wing-play myself.
I can't wait to see Lennon back and how he might fit in to the scheme. We're a work in progress and I'm sure it won't be long before the team starts to click and we start banging in more goals. (From open play).
Jod..good article, but the last sentence is a bit tabloid. Can i just check what you mean by that last sentence. Do you mean if we had paid £5M for Soldado everything would be OK and mangemant aren't crazy? Or are you saying we aren't playing to Soldados strengths, full stop. What has the £26M tag got to do with how we form the team? Its all down to form and how AVB calls it, isn't it?
Lennon will make a difference... Townsend coming on if needed later in a game!
I don't agree with him as regards Defoe. Bale and Lennon, after 10 games last season, were doing exactly that, bombing down the wings and firing in the crosses. I believe they were both in the top 3 in chances created yet had one assist between them (Lennon - a cutback). After that, Bale became the swashbuckling player who started to dominate games, but, he no longer was throwing in crosses.

Where I do agree, wholeheartedly, is that our wingers (all of them thus far) cut in way too frequently and this is largely caused by them being on their off wings. When Lennon comes back, he will likely solve this on the right (assuming he plays and Townsend or Lamela don't knock him to the bench). As for the left, I'd like to see Townsend and Chadli fight it out. Cutting to the middle is great when time is tight and we just need to make something happen. As a strategy, it is poor, unless we are ging 4-3-3 (where players can flit in and out and there is a natural spacing, front to back). Get the crosses coming in, Soldado and Eriksen will have room to do what they do and Paulinho will become better than Lampard. We need to open up the middle, not congest it. We are currently shooting ourselves in the foot. That said, defence is toight. COYS
darkenvai,I do think that will start to happen when the new players are bedded in. All those players coming from different set-ups, tactics, teams,countries, has to take time to get going. I think AVB is doing a great job, easing us through a major transition, slowly but surely. We have to be solid as an interchangeable unit before we move up a gear. I'm looking forward to our progress.
I didn't see last night's game but if we go away to an away game in Russia on a Thursday night and sacrifice a bit of offensive flair for defensive strength then good on us. It's a refreshing change from the tactical ineptitude we saw for years under Harry. Saying that, Strachan might have a point as we are work in progress with a bunch of new players. That is offset against playing that way against Cardiff and creating 29 chances. It is also offset against the fact we scored a goal last night with the full-back getting wide and getting a cross in. So personally I'm not sure about Strachan's comments yet but loving the fact we are now defensively strong. That is the foundation for every great side.
The teams set up is to tight to the middle at the moment,but as it is working in helping the defence it is choking solado.avb is still working on the setup as he prob always is.think he will get it to a winning team,worried lack of goals,style of play,miss the flying winger,wingers.its looking good.coys.
Soldado is a vast improvement on Drfoe. I still read daily how Defoe deserves his chance. When we are 4-1-1, having played 2 of the top 4 sides, we are okay. The goals will come, keep the faith, AVB will get it right.
I do think that the way the way AVB wants us to play with the wingers coming inside, the width has to come from the fullbacks. Although I'm still not sure of him Rose is key to the width from the left side. Him being out has left us with no one else capable of filling in for him. This is why I still find it a joke we did not bring in another top attacking left back, Shaw would have been perfect for this. Also I think that Walker has taken such a battering about his defensive shortcomings he is not doing what he is good at and bombing forward. I still do not rate Siggy and would rather see Townsend on the left side and Lamela on the right, at least until Lennon comes back. Also on Sunday I would start Defoe in front of Soldado. He had a blinder at the lane against them last year and seems to enjoy playing against them.
Agree with Dark and RAF Yid. The system is working. We are 2 points better than last season and on a similar team/location basis we are 8 points better than last year. I am always amazed at how we can find things to change without really knowing why they're done the way they're done in the first place. We have created umpteen chances but scored only 6. However we've let in only 2. A some stage the goals will go in for us and we will maul a few teams.
Not panicking yet about Soldados lack of goals, but might start when Lennon is fit and playing most game. COYS
Keep the faith with Soldado, the movement is there, feed him and the goals will come!
Chris he is a troll so just ignore him. He is not a good one a that either. COYS!
In fairness starch an has only watched two Europa matches and neither had rosé playing - apart from first 20 minutes against Tromso when he was our best attacking threat before going off injured. s someone else has said, we have created lots of chances, so not as concerned as some and players are still bedding in - more will come once eriksen, Paulinho, Dembele play together more. They will create, Soldado will convert.
jacobslad - What I meant was that if you pay that amount for a player you assume he's meant to be first choice, therefore you assume you already know how he will fit into the team.
tophobunty1........ I agree re us being slower on the attack but I think it's just a matter of a little time. Let the players get used to the system and how/where each other plays then they can build up the speed that the team play at.
Personally I would like to see some wing play and look forward to Lennon coming back to see if he makes a difference. May be he will be the one to take responsibility of being the provider, the outlet on the break now Bale has gone.

I think Lamela can fight it out with eriksen this season as he showed Thursday he prefers to be central and Townsend and Chadli to fight it out on the left and have Lamela or Townsend go to the right if Lennon needs to come of and then Siggy and Holtby to come on if needed but as it is Siggy is scoring playing from the left and it will be difficult to move him for Townsend if Lennon takes the right wing. I guess we have options and players that can mix it up but as it stands now if all players are fit my line up would be as follows: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen and Rose. Paulinho and Sandro, Lennon, Eriksen and Townsend with Soldado/Defoe (like to see how Soldado does first with this line up but if not effective then give Defoe a chance with this line up).

Having said that Capoue looks tasty, Dembele has improved and Siggy has scored and Holtby has improved. So lots to consider but I really want some speed on the pitch and wing play to see if that makes a difference to our ability to score goals.

As players bed in the line up may change for example, how good will Vlad become and will Lamela settle and become the next Bale and will Chadli find confidence now he has scored a couple and will Kaboul regain his fitness. So who knows but for now that is my line up if players are fit.
Incidentally I think lots of fans and punters are saying the same regarding our narrow play and about why Soldado is not getting goals so I am sure AVB is seeing the same however, lennon out so Townsend is first choice on left and he is still learning. lamela I am not sure is a winger and even if he was he hasn't settled yet and like Chadli is playing safe. Chadli is a strange one as he seems similar to Siggy but may be I am missing something. I think the only two players that have shown wing play at speed is Townsend and Lennon one of these injured the other covering him which isn't his natural side and is still learning his trade so I think AVB knows of the problems and wouldn't surprise me if we don't see a pacey winger coming in next as well as a LB and a RB both pacey. I would expect to see Fryers go out on loan and Naughton either sold or loaned out as well. AVB will want pacey full backs to compete with Walker and Rose imo and another winger and then we have the balance. If Ade comes good we will be ok up top if he doesn't then he will be sold and another striker will join us. At the moment we have great depth in the centre and versatile players that can play behind the striker to cover eriksen in Lamela, Chadli, Siggy and Holtby but little cover for the wings and full backs.
WorldPeace, that's a good looking line-up. The beauty of it is, that 10 of us could pick 10 variations and, all looking good. Definitely couldn't say that last season.
Would like to see when Rose is Injured Townsend on the left. Not two right footers (Siggi & Naughton )

Maybe even Lamela on the left ! COYS
The width in the system comes from the full backs with the holding midfielders covering their breaks forward. This is why Walker is consistently picked over Naughton at RB. He can burst forward at pace and cross from the right. Rose can do this from the left. The trouble is we don't really have suitable cover for this approach on either side. Hopefully Fryers will come good at LB, he looked decent if not spectacular on Thursday and he needs to keep getting cup games to improve. I don't believe Naughton has got what it takes to really challenge Walker for RB. This is an area of the squad that needs strengthening. I think once Rose comes back we will play with more width again.
WorldPeace I'm not sure I agree about Townsend not being in his natural position on the right. Inverted wingers a quite common nowadays and I think AVB sees him as a RW, cutting in and shooting on his left foot with Walker making the overlapping runs to put in crosses.
Last week AVB, responding to a question on Lamela’s scarce appearances in the EPL, said he was taking time to adapt to the English game but also that Routledge was playing well and therefore further limiting his options. If that’s where he views Lamela’s natural position, where does that leave Lennon?
*Of course, I meant Townsend not Routledge.
just putting this out there, after seeing pool yesterday... wouldnt a 3 -5 -2 with 2 wing backs suit this team pretty well??? gk LLoris 2 ball playing cbs kaboom/vlad and jan, with dawson in the mid Wb - rose/townsend walker/lennon holding sandro/kapow box to box - paulinho or dembele AM - eriksen/holtby fw - soldado/defoe, lamela/ade

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