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BroadstairsR

Substitutions.

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Such is the nearly constant criticism of Alex Neil''s use substitutes on this forum that I thought I would investigate the extent to which this is justified.

From the famous withdrawal of Tettey at Newcastle last season, through like for like and last minute substitutions and on to the inexplicable use of Naismith against Fulham on Tuesday night it seems that wee Alex is not very adept at this crucial managerial art.

The yardstick of Paul Lambert is often put forward and that is surely a hard act to follow, and where the Messiah was often insightful and bold in his use of the bench Wee Alex seems conservative and somewhat clueless.

There were many examples of Lambert''s clever/game changing substitutions whilst he was at Carrow Road, but the best example for me was whilst he was at Villa. In a televised game against West Brom his side went in at half time three goals goals adrift. PL brought on three attacking substitutes and salvaged a point. Now my details might now be adrift, but get the point, as I seem to remember Villa did.

Applying the Lambert principle last night, what would others have done about a situation of having a two goal lead but with a decent Fulham team getting braver and bound to come out of the blocks on the front foot after the interval ... or perhaps taking the scenario forward to when they scored their first?

Three substitutions? How about an attacking wing back off, say Pinto for Martin with Bennett coming in. How about Thompson for Hoolahan to add a bit of defensive weight into the midfield and what about Pritchard for Murphy to add busy and equal threat on the break whilst a bit more defensiveness as well.

That''s bold, but would it have been more disastrous?

A difficult business this use of substitutes. A difficult business being a manager in the Championship. Is it clever thinking on your feet, risk-taking or just pure and simple Lambert-like intuition?

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If only Alex knew what he was doing we might be in a much better positon than where we are now.

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"If only Alex knew what he was doing we might be in a much better position than we are now."

Still in the Premier League you mean?

The fact that we are doing rather well doesn''t exclude us from the right to be critical of actions we perceive, for right or wrong, to be costing us points.

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I rather liked seeing substitute Josh Murphy wrap up the points against Cardiff with a brilliant goal.

I rather liked seeing substitute Josh Murphy set up the killer goal against Rotherham by skinning the full back and delivering an inch perfect cross which was converted by fellow substitute Stephen Naismith.

I rather liked seeing substitute Josh Murphy set up the killer goal against Burton with a lovely pass to Ivo Pinto.

I liked seeing substitute Ryan Bennett make sure of all three points away at Wolves with a crucial defensive header in the dying moments of the match.

Needless to say - in the twisted and perverse alternative universe that some posters on here inhabit those things never actually happened.

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".....in the twisted and perverse alternative that some posters on here inhabit .... "

Nah! Luton Airport.

An oft used criticism of Alex Neil on here has been that he has not always used the substitute option to the best effect.

Clearly you disagree and have good, if over-selective, examples to back up your view.

Perhaps you are right or may be AN is learning.

I hope both those suppositions are correct.

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Broadstairs - some of Neil''s substitutions have worked out and some of them haven''t.

The only reason I drew attention to some of those that have is in the interests of having a balanced debate.

The ''alternative universe'' comment wasn''t really aimed at you, but to some of the swivel eyed loons on here who only ever seem to criticise.

However, in your opening post you did start off by saying you would investigate Neil''s use of substitutes and the only ACTUAL substitution of Neil''s you mentioned was taking off Tettey at Newcastle. (And I''ll happily concede that didn''t work out too well).

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Fair do''s and although I haven''t the memory to dig up examples it is a fair comment to make that, by and large, last season with so many like-for-like and delayed substitutions the norm the manger''s use of the bench hardly ever did us any favours points wise.

You mention Bennett''s header securing the points at Wolves, but let''s not forget the cock-up that was Newcastle the last time around and I believe that Bennett was involved in that.

I did find the introduction of Naismith inexplicable on Tuesday night and would have thought that Pritchard was better suited to the situation. Even Thompson''s introduction at the time might have served us better.

I don''t really know how well Naismith did, but overall his introduction was not for the better.

I agree some of AN''s substitutions are enough to allay criticism in extremis of his use of them, but he''s no Paul Lambert ... yet.

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The reason he made the Naismith change rather than Pritchard was because he expected him to have a more of a physical presence.

I dont think his substitutions are the main issue rather than the in game tactics.

After the game he said he could see it coming. well why didn''t he do something about it? or are the players not capable of following instructions during play?

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Interesting thread. I think AN is still learning as a manager, he''s still learning how to influence games and get the desired result. We seem to regularly hit a second half slump (Wigan, Cardiff, Fulham...) and he doesn''t seem to know what to change to deal with it.

Hoolahan for Naismith isn''t really an issue, it is fairly like for like. Bringing on someone like Thompson instead, however, might have been a wiser decision to sure up the midfield which was getting a bit overrun by Fulham, and null any attacks - especially as he went two up top after conceding again. I think AN tried to keep an attacking focus, he made that clear in his after match presser, saying that he told the team to continue attacking at half time.

This essentially comes full circle with another thread the other day that Ricardo was posting in. We NEED to learn to close out games, and stop conceding. Whether the issue is the subs, lack of formation changes and adaptability, whatever it is needs to change otherwise games like Fulham will happen more often - we got a bit lucky against Wigan and Cardiff at the least

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Agree with that Skip. It''s not the substitutions that are the issue for me.

For me it''s more about adapting our play to suit the situation of the game. We don''t need to replace Pinto and Olson to stop them bombing forward when we are two up. We can look to slow the game and take less risks without needing to change the guys on the pitch. I know it''s not popular but maybe going long now and again, giving away free-kicks in non-dangerous area of the pitch to break the rhythm of the game. Middlesborough did it to us the season we went up via the play-offs. They riled the crowd, frustrated the players and won the game.

I don''t know if that''s down to the manager or if the players on the pitch need to be more savvy to be honest but it''s something we don''t seem to be good at IMO.

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[quote user="Hairy Canary"]Agree with that Skip. It''s not the substitutions that are the issue for me. For me it''s more about adapting our play to suit the situation of the game. We don''t need to replace Pinto and Olson to stop them bombing forward when we are two up. We can look to slow the game and take less risks without needing to change the guys on the pitch. I know it''s not popular but maybe going long now and again, giving away free-kicks in non-dangerous area of the pitch to break the rhythm of the game. Middlesborough did it to us the season we went up via the play-offs. They riled the crowd, frustrated the players and won the game. I don''t know if that''s down to the manager or if the players on the pitch need to be more savvy to be honest but it''s something we don''t seem to be good at IMO.[/quote]

 

For me it''s both that are the problem.  If you look at the playoff final, as a team we did an excellent job of controlling the game after going 2-0 up.  In the second half, Boro were starting to come back into the game, and AN made a double substitution about 75 minutes, replacing our main striker (Grabban for Jerome - like for like) and putting on Dorrans for Hoolahan.  This gave us a fresh player up front to chase things down, and tightened up in midfield without being overly defensive.  It was effective to snuff out any resurgence by Boro, and we comfortably saw out the game.

 

So what frustrated me on Tuesday was that we were 2-0 up against a team nowhere nearly as good as Boro, but we were unable to control the game in the second half.  What we should be doing is playing more composed football, with the fullbacks and midfielders choosing their moments to attack so we''re not over committing, and put on a fresh player up front or on the wing to give us an outlet - Josh Murphy is indeed ideal for this sort of substitution because he can use the space you get at that time of the game to devastating effect, as has been pointed out.  I''m not convinced by Naismith as a replacement for Wes in that situation because I don''t think he contributes enough when we haven''t got the ball.

 

The problem with the Bennett substitution against Newcastle was that he replaced Jacob Murphy, who''d been our major attacking outlet, so the final 25 minutes ended up being defense vs attack - we just weren''t able to keep hold of the ball because our main outlet had gone.  Yes we could have held out those last 90 seconds... but equally they could have got an equaliser much earlier.

 

So what we need is a combination of training/coaching for what to do when we''ve gone ahead, and better use of subs by AN.  When we''re in front, we need to control the ball, be careful about over-committing, while not going to the other extreme of sitting back, starting to defend well into our half and inviting the other side to come on to us.  We were worried this season about other teams trying to park the bus... actually it hasn''t happened as much as we expected, partly because we''ve been good at opening teams up and getting the first goal.  But when teams are behind and are forced to attack, we should look at it as a chance to use the space they will leave open for our counter-attacks.

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Totally agree that Lambert''s substitutions very often changed the game, winning games that we were drawing and drawing games that we were losing. But was that as a result of picking the wrong team to start with? We also scored loads of goals in the last few minutes of games-was that down to fitness, team spirit, the manager or what?

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Good point Mr A, I was just thinking exactly the same thing. Lambert was great at making changes when we''d gone behind.  I remember the away game at Villa when Holt put us ahead and someone made the comment that we didn''t have a plan for what to do next, only for when we''d conceded first.

 

And Lambert was by no means perfect either - remember the game against Sunderland at home when we were leading and he used his 3rd substitution, then Vaughan was injured and we ended up playing 10 minutes with 10 men.  He did learn though - I noticed he never used his 3rd sub that early in a game we were winning after that.

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The games I''ve seen, I''ve never witnessed AN make a substitution without a confab with Irvine and McAvoy. The final decision no doubt is AN''s but he certainly sounds out the others. 

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Broady reckoned he''d investigated this but that seems to be limited to a game at Newcastle last year and a random Villa substitution from way before that. What are the findings for Neil in the Championship?

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Didn''t realise that the Pie Man McAvoy was still at CR thought he was cheffing at 5 Guys

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Naismith wasn''t an inexplicable substitution at all.

I''m one of his harshest critics but it was the right change at that time. We were being totally overrun by Fulham''s pressing and energy in midfield. We needed to shore things up in midfield and there was no replacement for Dorrans or Tettey available. Some of Thompson ''s cameos from the bench have been quite ropey.

So the logical change was to withdraw Hoolahan (who looked shattered) and add some more steel through Naismith. Whilst Fulham did score when he was on the pitch we did then spend a lot of the rest of the game attacking and pushing for the win. When a Fulham win had looked on the cards.

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"Broady reckons he''d investigated this .... What evidence is there for Neil in the Championship."

Fair enough, and I certainly haven''t kept a catalogue of our substitutions this season.

It is correct to say, however that the reflections on this forum from last season reveal a generally critical view of Neil''s use of the bench and that his substitutions failed to save a situation or gain any points.

There may have been an exception to this as has been pointed out there have been in the Championship this season.

This point resurrected itself following Tuesday night, but some are able to justify this despite the use of Naismith having no positive effect in the end, although it possibly could have.

There are two sides in a game after all.

Perhaps it is unfair to compare AN with Paul Lambert. Perhaps a lack of faith in Neil''s use of the bench has become a misconception.

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