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Parma Ham's gone mouldy

Parma's Tactics Masterclass 13

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''Lessons in Italian''

Last night''s game with Wigan threw up so many pattern of play scenarios, tactical approaches and game-management decisions that clearly - and repeatedly - demonstrated that fundamental Italian philosophies, drilled into every Italian player and coach from a young age, are yet to permeate the mindset of English Championship players when tired or under pressure.

Through this prism it also foreshadowed the strengths and weaknesses of this Norwich side, a clear microcosm of what has been, is - and will be - unless actively amended.

Norwich dominated the first half. Naturally the early goals - and the nature of the first particularly - deflated the opposition team (and fans).

There were however some very clear tactical structures and patterns in place that were noticeable. Some were very effective, some much less so.

One very important tactical benefit was the fluidity and positioning of Russell Martin. Because Martin is comfortable at right back - and indeed stepping into defensive midfield areas and starting passing play - he splits noticeably wider than Bennett does for example.

From the outset Martin splitting wider, taking responsibility to cover more space, allowed Pinto''s starting position to be around 20 yards higher than Olsson''s starting position on the other side.

This clearly suits Pinto''s strengths, though it also clearly allowed for a back three in defence in good possession, with a more defined back four without the ball.

It can be noted - something much favoured on the continent - that the defensive midfielder is often the one tasked with sitting between the split centre backs, allowing both full backs to maintain high position.

Unfortunately Tettey does not always show the discipline required here. He does it sometimes - and indeed well - but he has wandering, puppy-ball-chasing tendencies and a tic weakness that sees him instinctively move forward a few yards after passing (or indeed tackling and other actions) when he should (Italian: MUST) stand still. He leaves space behind if the ball is lost either by him or in the next phase. This cost Norwich regularly last night (despite him looking busy and - often positively - being involved.

This kind of nuance is the essence between doing something that looks good, or something that is tactically good. Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something (that perhaps somebody else should do).

There is much to like about Dorrans, though he missed an important curtain call last night. When Alex Neil withdrew Tettey, he de-facto entrusted Dorrans with the Pirlo ''Generalissimo'' role, whereby the deep defensive midfielder, rather than a Rottweiler, becomes a deep passing fulcrum dictating tempo and retaining control of play via increased possession. Dorrans simply didn''t demand the ball enough, move enough, create enough angles or get involved enough second half to claim the throne that he craves.

He was noted helped by Howson being seemingly unclear if his true role or position throughout the game. He flirted about tidily, though it appeared others where unclear where he would be and when. I have no problem with the idea of him tucking in centre right, with Pinto de-facto outside, though second half - and more advanced - I was thoroughly unconvinced by his defensive positional contribution. Simply looking good when you get it and mostly drifting forward - particularly when a front four of Jerome, Pritchard, Wes and Murphy are on the field - looked far too open and Ill-disciplined. Poor game management. Poor game management not to adjust role in game, both from player and Manager.

Pritchard looks to be a find, a proper footballer. There were elements of Beckham to his game. A tidy, ball-retaining player who always provides an option, gives you something going forward, though is diligently defensively. He could play in Italy tomorrow.

Jerome had a very good game, showing both why he is favoured by the manager and also why he may not score high volumes of goals at higher levels. His work rate is above and beyond what most strikers would offer.

Strikers are judged on goals, so they make sure they get them. They save energy for the key few yards required to get across the defender to the front post to reach and toe-in a whipped cross, they save something for a burst clear and a sharp mind to brake-test a defender for a penalty.

They do not run endless channels, chase lost causes and poorly-conceived long balls out of defence. They do not endlessly split into wide areas and go into corners. Jerome does. And he just did for 90 minutes. Again.

Not quite using your Porsche to plough fields....but oh his hamstrings...(for example)..

Norwich''s overall game management from early second half onwards was woeful. 2-0 is not a dangerous score line in Italy. You have won. Would you be safer at 1-0? A little intelligence and professionalism is all that is required.

Attacking leads to defending and defending leads to attacking.

Wigan''s goal came from a rangy forward run by Mulumbu, brought on to shore things up. Mulumbu admittedly made a good run - and it was a tired Jerome that actually overshot his own support run that caused the error, plus the massive lack of structure and midfield void on the turnover that nobody else took responsibility for - but nevertheless why on earth take such risks?

The English way is to attack and try to score goals at all times. At the top level this is flawed.

Your attacking should always be done in the context of the game situation and based on the aim of moving your opponent out of shape.

Opponents are not out of shape when they are defending, they are out of shape when they are attacking.

An inferior side at 2-0 down is a dream scenario. Sit back, keep the ball, go sideways, backwards, make them run, they are mentally and physically tired, they have to score, they open up, you attack, you score.

Bennett''s late free kick clipped mindlessly 20 yards forward, in the air, to an isolated, tired, outnumbered Jerome, with the opposition overloaded and ready to counter was simply stupidity. Klose stood behind him 10 yards unmarked (and said nothing).

This is both poor football, poor thinking and technically weak. The set piece also highlighted the chronic quietness of the side. Something that may well see Martin selected in that criteria alone.

The Lack of tactical intelligence saw 4 x end-to-end patterns in the last 10 minutes of the game. When you are ahead, who does such openness favour?

Against Poor opposition, there were 3 major saves from goalkeeper late on. With wide open spaces caused by unnecessarily open attacking the cause. You don''t have to win when you''ve already won.

Other Coaches are scared by the team that can score two early goals and ruthlessly play out a 2-0 win, not the occasional big score line.

Well Italian coaches anyway.

Parma

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Well, there''s a reason why Italian football is typically boring to watch and i''m not sure we should be emulating too much of what they do, however:
1) Agree with you about Tettey. He had a good game but positional discipline is always a slight weak point of his
2) Thought Dorrans was our best player for the majority of the match. 
3) I much prefer us with Martin at CB. Not least because he massively struggled at right back, but also because it meant Bennett was at CB and would more than likely give the ball away cheaply with pointless long balls (the free kick you mentioned is a good example).
4) I think game management wise we struggled however when two of your subs are due to injury (and this seems to be happening in almost every game this season!!) it''s a bit hard to judge. Jacob was done by 70 minutes, but we couldn''t really take him off. Same for Jerome, and probably Dorrans who hasn''t played much football.
Despite that, 3 good points and a very good workout for the team!

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hogesar wrote: "Well, there''s a reason why Italian football is typically boring to watch

and i''m not sure we should be emulating too much of what they do".Boringness is in the eye of the beholder and what you see dependent on your understanding.

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Parma wrote: "Through this prism it also foreshadowed the strengths and weaknesses of

this Norwich side, a clear microcosm of what has been, is - and will be -

unless actively amended".Alas poor Hughton! He knew it well. The depressing thing is that two seasons and two managers later little or nothing has changed, either on the pitch or in the stands.

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Rudd gullit was on Sunday brunch this week, they asked him what he thought was wrong with the English team. He said were not playing like an English team and are trying to play in a different way, because someone said the English way of two strikers and wingers doesn''t work anymore. He basically said we should try to go back that way because it''s who we are.

Play to your strengths not a system, were not doing that we''ve had a muddled approach for ages now, maybe the way ahead is looking back

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Must confess Parma I have totally disagreed with most of your recent stuff but I found myself nodding in total agreement with all of this.

I thought Norwich were absolutely crazy to bring on Pritchard for Tettey instead of a like for like player in Mulumbu. We were 2-0 up and cruising. I didn''t see the need to open the game up and potentially present Wigan with a route back into it. There were plenty of chances to catch Wigan on the break without having to be overly expansive.

We''ve seen in the Newcastle and Liverpool games last season that a midfield of Howson and Dorrans whilst technically gifted, is very exposed and wide open. There is also a clear inability of the pair to track midfield runners and be alert to danger. Whether that be Wjinaldum back in November, Henderson in January or Gomez yesterday.

It is perhaps ironic that the goal was caused by Mulumbu (despite playing as holding midfielder) bombing forward and leaving the midfield exposed. However, Wigan had gain much needed momentum and belief long before that. Something which a very quiet and stodgy 25 minutes would have largely knocked out of them by that time.

It was nearly a self inflicted wound and a suprising one, because Neil has seen the Dorrans and Howson midfield axis leak a lot of goals before - albeit against better quality opposition.

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It''s odd, as one of the things that impressed me so much about our Wembley performance, after the two early goals, was Neil''s game management. I never felt Boro would get back into the game in that second half.

So he obviously knows how to see out a game...

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Spot on Fuzzar. At Wembley we cruised home from 2-0 and when Boro threatened to get back into it, AN changed things to stop that happening. So contrary to the OP''s view, AN and Norwich can do that, the question is why have we failed to do so in the last couple of games, being rather fortunate to get the win in both games.

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We''re at our best when we''re confident. We''ve definitely got a team of players that need an arm round the shoulder and constant support from fans. It might be why AN let''s them take risks and enjoy the game, he probably doesn''t want us to get bored, jaded and switch off because the players aren''t enjoying it.

I don''t think with this core of players a Pulis type manager would work. We attempted safe football under Hughton, it wasn''t great to watch but certainly wasn''t meant to be Pulis like anti-football and look at how the players reacted to that...

They did not like being told to play that way at all. The transfer requests and no shows at time backed up most of the rumours.

The leaders in the dressing room Martin, Howson and particularly Hoolahan are football purists. Hoolahan as a kid never went anywhere without a ball at his feet, I think if you tell this group to defend and play the percentages they stop believing in themselves and the manager.

This is fundamentally flawed at the top level and will be one of the reasons if we go up it''ll be on 80-ish points because we will drop points at times. But, I mean, there are worse things for football fans to be upset about than having a team that always wants to push a 2-0 into a 6-2, how we all craved this in 2013!

...Or AN could have simply trying to thrash Wigan after our good start to lift the mood around the place.

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But it''s not just the last couple of games ITC. For

example, last season there were several cases when we got ourselves

ahead and signally failed to maintain our grip on the game. Pointing to

one example where we did doesn''t wash when set against many more

examples of where we could have but didn''t. It is an endemic failing

manifest over several seasons and seemingly independent of changes in

personnel.

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Well WCC I think under AN in his first season we were capable of comfortably seeing out games from a 2-0 score line. The playoff final was the perfect example but the home games vs the scummers and Shef Wed also come immediately to mind as examples where we got to 2-0 and sat comfortably in control for the rest of the game. I can''t remember examples under AN that season when we failed to hold on to a 2 goal lead without conceding a goal and ending up uncomfortably hanging by a thread as we did last night and, to a lesser degree, Saturday. So I think it''s your assertion that this is an endemic problem which won''t wash.

When we were promoted obviously the competition was tougher but I remember particularly the home games against Vilka, Soton and Swansea when we played a very controlled game after taking the lead and saw out the games comfortably.

After Christmas of course it all changed with the failure to get a point after leading 3-1 against Liverpool, letting W Hsm get a point from 2-0, and squeaking out a win against Newcastle. A pattern which has continued this season, albeit with the opposition not as good.

My question to everyone is: what changed? What do we need todo to get back to that earlier AN mentality of being able to control games and see them out?

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Also if we look back to Hughton''s first season, he certainly implemented the sort of approach outlined by the OP. You could see the players were under strict instructions to keep our defensive shape even when we were attacking, so fullbacks had no licence to go up field and attacks came down to 3-4 City players trying to score against often 2 banks of 4 defenders (or set pieces). I remember the Reading game away as the nadir of this approach - we set out to defend a point and created hardly anything in attack (neither did they). One of the most tedious 90 minutes of my life. I certainly wouldn''t want to go back to that to that.

The appeal of AN in his first season for me was that he was able to play a more expansive game while still being able to tighten up and see out games when necessary. And I''d like to know how we should get back to that, please.

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[quote]Lessons in Italian''

Last night''s game with Wigan threw up so many pattern of play scenarios, tactical approaches and game-management decisions that clearly - and repeatedly - demonstrated that fundamental Italian philosophies, drilled into every Italian player and coach from a young age, are yet to permeate the mindset of English Championship players when tired or under pressure.

Through this prism it also foreshadowed the strengths and weaknesses of this Norwich side, a clear microcosm of what has been, is - and will be - unless actively amended.

Norwich dominated the first half. Naturally the early goals - and the nature of the first particularly - deflated the opposition team (and fans).

There were however some very clear tactical structures and patterns in place that were noticeable. Some were very effective, some much less so.

One very important tactical benefit was the fluidity and positioning of Russell Martin. Because Martin is comfortable at right back - and indeed stepping into defensive midfield areas and starting passing play - he splits noticeably wider than Bennett does for example.

From the outset Martin splitting wider, taking responsibility to cover more space, allowed Pinto''s starting position to be around 20 yards higher than Olsson''s starting position on the other side.

This clearly suits Pinto''s strengths, though it also clearly allowed for a back three in defence in good possession, with a more defined back four without the ball.

It can be noted - something much favoured on the continent - that the defensive midfielder is often the one tasked with sitting between the split centre backs, allowing both full backs to maintain high position.

Unfortunately Tettey does not always show the discipline required here. He does it sometimes - and indeed well - but he has wandering, puppy-ball-chasing tendencies and a tic weakness that sees him instinctively move forward a few yards after passing (or indeed tackling and other actions) when he should (Italian: MUST) stand still. He leaves space behind if the ball is lost either by him or in the next phase. This cost Norwich regularly last night (despite him looking busy and - often positively - being involved.

This kind of nuance is the essence between doing something that looks good, or something that is tactically good. Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something (that perhaps somebody else should do).

There is much to like about Dorrans, though he missed an important curtain call last night. When Alex Neil withdrew Tettey, he de-facto entrusted Dorrans with the Pirlo ''Generalissimo'' role, whereby the deep defensive midfielder, rather than a Rottweiler, becomes a deep passing fulcrum dictating tempo and retaining control of play via increased possession. Dorrans simply didn''t demand the ball enough, move enough, create enough angles or get involved enough second half to claim the throne that he craves.

He was noted helped by Howson being seemingly unclear if his true role or position throughout the game. He flirted about tidily, though it appeared others where unclear where he would be and when. I have no problem with the idea of him tucking in centre right, with Pinto de-facto outside, though second half - and more advanced - I was thoroughly unconvinced by his defensive positional contribution. Simply looking good when you get it and mostly drifting forward - particularly when a front four of Jerome, Pritchard, Wes and Murphy are on the field - looked far too open and Ill-disciplined. Poor game management. Poor game management not to adjust role in game, both from player and Manager.

Pritchard looks to be a find, a proper footballer. There were elements of Beckham to his game. A tidy, ball-retaining player who always provides an option, gives you something going forward, though is diligently defensively. He could play in Italy tomorrow.

Jerome had a very good game, showing both why he is favoured by the manager and also why he may not score high volumes of goals at higher levels. His work rate is above and beyond what most strikers would offer.

Strikers are judged on goals, so they make sure they get them. They save energy for the key few yards required to get across the defender to the front post to reach and toe-in a whipped cross, they save something for a burst clear and a sharp mind to brake-test a defender for a penalty.

They do not run endless channels, chase lost causes and poorly-conceived long balls out of defence. They do not endlessly split into wide areas and go into corners. Jerome does. And he just did for 90 minutes. Again.

Not quite using your Porsche to plough fields....but oh his hamstrings...(for example)..

Norwich''s overall game management from early second half onwards was woeful. 2-0 is not a dangerous score line in Italy. You have won. Would you be safer at 1-0? A little intelligence and professionalism is all that is required.

Attacking leads to defending and defending leads to attacking.

Wigan''s goal came from a rangy forward run by Mulumbu, brought on to shore things up. Mulumbu admittedly made a good run - and it was a tired Jerome that actually overshot his own support run that caused the error, plus the massive lack of structure and midfield void on the turnover that nobody else took responsibility for - but nevertheless why on earth take such risks?

The English way is to attack and try to score goals at all times. At the top level this is flawed.

Your attacking should always be done in the context of the game situation and based on the aim of moving your opponent out of shape.

Opponents are not out of shape when they are defending, they are out of shape when they are attacking.

An inferior side at 2-0 down is a dream scenario. Sit back, keep the ball, go sideways, backwards, make them run, they are mentally and physically tired, they have to score, they open up, you attack, you score.

Bennett''s late free kick clipped mindlessly 20 yards forward, in the air, to an isolated, tired, outnumbered Jerome, with the opposition overloaded and ready to counter was simply stupidity. Klose stood behind him 10 yards unmarked (and said nothing).

This is both poor football, poor thinking and technically weak. The set piece also highlighted the chronic quietness of the side. Something that may well see Martin selected in that criteria alone.

The Lack of tactical intelligence saw 4 x end-to-end patterns in the last 10 minutes of the game. When you are ahead, who does such openness favour?

Against Poor opposition, there were 3 major saves from goalkeeper late on. With wide open spaces caused by unnecessarily open attacking the cause. You don''t have to win when you''ve already won.

Other Coaches are scared by the team that can score two early goals and ruthlessly play out a 2-0 win, not the occasional big score line.

Well Italian coaches anyway.

Parma[/quote]Granted, Neil''s tactics & formation/s aren''t much of a spectacle and

not the ''Norwich way'' of entertaining football we''ve witnessed before

Hughton arrived at the club, but I''m looking at this Division and coming

to the conclusion that the only sides thus far we have to be concerned

about are Newcastle, Villa less so and the likes of our bogey''s in

Fulham & Barnsley.That said, Neil really has to ditch the

4-2-3-1 -- we''re not defensively suited to it through a lack of two

creative DM''s that form the double pivot and we simply don''t have the

brains to carry it off for the duration of the season - we are neither

Barcelona or Borussia Dortmund and neither do we possess their top

levels of coaching where players skills are honed from a young age --

more''s the pity.What we do have is one of the strongest squads

in the Division and despite our decent start to the season it will have

to be utilised better for future fixtures in order to prevent us from

getting found out and for the sake of enterprising football.

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I enjoyed that Parma and it was good to meet up with you briefly before the game.
For those who are comparing these tactics with Chris Hughton I don''t really see the comparison. It seems to me Alex Neil''s game plan has always been to have the fullbacks pushing really deep into enemy territory when we attack. This seems to work better with Martin at CB rather than Bennett for reasons given in the op. Hughton used fullbacks on a much tighter reign.So on reflection it was the loss of Pinto that really made the second half difference last night. 
A positive for me in the last two games has been the form of Olsson who looks an even better player in this system than he did in our promotion season. Happy days for us because I had been of the opinion Brady would be first choice LB. 

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Buonasera Nutella, piacere mio..

As your rightly state the tactics employed aren''t negative, nor is the analysis of the tactical issues.

Any good manager dreams of the scenario of 3 points with plenty to work on. It is in many ways an ideal position.

Parma

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Lovely opening post, thank you.

Worthington knew how to do what you have described. In our championship winning season, we would regularly take a two goal lead and then change our game plan to be short on entertainment but all about controlling the game and throttling the opposition.

Ironically I suspect this approach, though perhaps appreciated by the cognoscenti, led to a lack of patience and frustration in the stands because we didn''t try to win 5-0. It seems sometimes a manager can win but cannot win.

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[quote user="Ricky Spanish"]The leaders in the dressing room Martin, Howson and particularly Hoolahan are football purists. Hoolahan as a kid never went anywhere without a ball at his feet, I think if you tell this group to defend and play the percentages they stop believing in themselves and the manager.

This is fundamentally flawed at the top level and will be one of the reasons if we go up it''ll be on 80-ish points because we will drop points at times. But, I mean, there are worse things for football fans to be upset about than having a team that always wants to push a 2-0 into a 6-2, how we all craved this in 2013!

...Or AN could have simply trying to thrash Wigan after our good start to lift the mood around the place.[/quote]Which is precisely why Lambert''s more "Gung-ho" approach often worked wonders for us, but was also starting to struggle a bit towards the end of his tenure as opposing teams knew he was likely to go all-out towards the end of games to chase a result and this would in-turn give them the ideal chance to counter and possibly put the game to bed.I''m one of those fans that would rather win 5-4 than 1-0 as I want to be entertained, I want to see skillful dribbling, inch perfect passes, creativity and a hint of showboating, along with great team play, that''s played at a fast pace and is just simply great, attractive football to watch, and that''s exactly what the likes of Lambert, Stringer and Walker gave us (there were also the odd times under Worthy as well tbh), but I can''t stand this horrible ''park the bus'' approach that seems so prevalent these days, and the idea of scoring early then shutting up shop for the next 70-80 minutes makes me utterly shudder at the thought.We have easily the best, and most attack minded midfield options in the league IMHO, and we should be looking to utilise that as much as possible and let the opposition spend their time worrying about how the hell to defend against us - rather than us against them.

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Great piece that struck a chord with me.

Players lack of personal responsibility for positional discipline, tactical awareness &game management has long been my bug bear.

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As is so often the case, nuanced points become swiftly polemicised as either one extreme or the other.

The choice is not ''hung ho'' or ''park the bus''. It is neither, both and sometimes one or the other. It may start as one and become the other and it may do this from i minute to the next in the same game against the same opposition.

It may also be that by defending you score more goals and by attacking you concede more goals. And vice versa.

The only question for players and managers to answer is when and why.

Anyone who comes up with the answer that it should always be approached one way, with one set of defined tactics and with a one-size-fits-all perfect solution has never been involved in professional football.

The quick, slow, quick, quick, slow rhythm of good-level continental football has a purpose. Just like the patterns of a chess game, there are times to attack and times to defend. Times to make a real (or fake) isolated attack, times to overload area and force mistakes, times to retain pawn structure and overtly block.

This is neither defensive, nor attacking. It is using the educated, intelligent in-game analysis of the current match situation and deciding what action to take, what run to make (or not), when to press, when to leave station and make a support run, which positions are so tactically key that they must be covered (by someone) at all times, regardless whether attacking or defending (often what is referred to as ''pivot'' positions).

As we discussed in 12, it is the educated intelligence aspect of the game and the player that makes these decisions possible under pressure and when tired.

It is not about attacking, defending, running or kicking. It''s about thinking.

Parma

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Thanks Parma - very interesting.It frustrates me that our holding midfielders are more disciplined, because we have the type of player that could rip teams apart if we were prepared to just counter-attack once we have a lead. I am convinced that we would score more goals/ create more chances etc if we adopted such an approach.

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Some interesting comments, but my point was that in AN''s first season, and for periods up to Christmas last season, AN and our team showed they were fully capable of keeping it tight and controlling a game when we had a 2 goal lead (I''ve mentioned some examples), and in fact over that period I can''t remember any games when we had a 2 goal lead which we didn''t keep for a win (I haven''t checked so I may have missed some, but off the top of my head I can''t remember any).

 

However, from the start of 2016, I can easily think of games when we were 2 goals up and we lost control to let the other team back in, or ended up holding on rather desperately to a single goal margin at the end of the game.  Liverpool, West Ham, Newcastle, and the last couple of games are all obvious examples. 

 

So my question, which no one has tried to answer yet on this thread, is what has gone wrong, and what do AN and the team need to change to get back to how we were ?

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In an ideal situation, with the right manager and the right players to acheive it then you''re absolutely right Parma, but very few sides at this level (and not even that many in the prem) have the discipline, overall quality of player and strength of manager to make it happen consistently which is why the approaches tend to be more broad swathe rather than correctly focused, hence the polarisation and tendency to focus on extremes such as ''parking the bus'' or ''gung-ho'' play etc.I personally don''t feel that we have enough overall quality in the side to acheive the balanced and tactically ideal approach that all top sides strive for, but this isn''t an attack on our players or club, because I genuinely think very few sides actually have this, and despite this, even fewer of them can actually translate that talent into those performances week-in, week-out. You only had to look at Man Utd when Van Gaal took over to see that even with a squad of excellent players, if they aren''t organised correctly and played in the most suitable way, you won''t get the best out of them.This is the crux of my issue with AN at times, he simply doesn''t seem able to get the best out of the players anymore (at least with any consistency anyway), we''ve lost that drive and edge that we (and he) showed in the previous Champs season. Again, that''s not to say that he''s an awful manager, or we have bad players, but we need to see MORE from each of them on a regular basis, hopefully whilst offering a brand of football that is both effective - but attractive to watch also.I''m also not a proponent of the ''the result is what matters'' school of thought, which sadly smacks of the monetisation and commercialisation of football, rather than the entertainment spectactle and social outlet that I think it should still be, and if for example we sacked AN tomorrow and brought in say Tony Pulis who then sets out to have us play his trademarked brand of overly physical hoofball, then I wouldn''t give a damn if it was getting us 1-0 wins, as I''d be too disgusted in the football on display to give a $hit anymore. I''d rather be a yo-yo club playing decent football, than a premiership stalwart playing that $hite each week, but I''m probable in the minority on that score...

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Bravo Badger, in the context of Tuesday''s game 2-0 up after 10 minutes that is good analysis.

We nearly lost because we overly attacked and repeatedly compromised our shape to a high degree, tactically favouring the opposition with our approach.

Our pivots moved out of their key pivot positions and were not directly replaced by others. 4-1-4-1 became 4-0-6 on the counter from high up the pitch (often one of the four was not even one of the full backs).

Playing deeper, retaining possession, making the opposition chase shadows for 20 mins after being 2-0 down does allow for more goals as they become disillusioned and ragged. Defending is attacking in this way.

We could have scored more by retaining structure (''defending'') and maintaining ''passive'' possession (forward if retention assured, backwards if not).

The opposition are the. forced to come out of their shape, and our proven quality - we were 2-0 up and in control after all - picks off the inferior opposition as they strive (beyond their abilities and against their original tactical intentions) to pick their way through our structure by then opening up their own.

This is not some utopian Barca-lite dream, it is basic tactical awareness.

Parma

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I think the play-off final perfectly demonstrated how to win a game after taking an early lead.

I sometimes think an early goal can be pretty useless, as It gives the opposition time to regroup & find a way back into the game. The scoring team meanwhile tend to think more & more about settling for containment & the discipline goes - exactly what we avoided doing in that final. If the team behind then hold out & score in the last 15 mins or so, the psychological advantage is all theirs, & they''ll often go on to win.

It''s really all about control & dictating the pace of the game - something we should be able to do with ease., as we have good passing players skilled at retaining the ball when required. Changing the pace of the game frustrates the opposition & keeps them guessing. Knowing hoe & when to do this is key. We''re not quite there yet.

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Ron, you say "We''re not quite there yet". Wouldn''t you have expected us to be there by now? ICF seems to think we had it but have lost it, but is "basic tactical awareness" and the ability to adjust your play as a team in the light of the game situation at the time really something a team can possess at one moment and lose the next? I''m with Parma (as I understand him) on this, it''s something we have lacked, lack now, and will continue to lack unless something is done about it, though quite what he has in mind in that respect I''m unsure -- maybe getting those who have the best tactical awareness to take greater responsibility during the game by talking, reminding, reprimanding, all of which at the moment seems to be left to AN on the touchline (except for Naismith who took a right bashing on here for giving Murphy the benefit of his advice). 

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wcc, we had it in Spades in the play-off final, so something''s been lost somewhere. Perhaps we got there by pure luck? If so it''s a shame AN hasn''t looked at it more closely & tried to develop our awareness. But again, perhaps it was just the way M''boro played on the day which suited our style on the day. It''s a funny old game.

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