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Mason 47

Black Box Thinking

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Stuart Webber has mentioned on a couple of occasions that he's a proponent of Matthew Syed's (IMO) excellent works. I've had a read through during quarantine myself; so in the clarity of the morning after, what can we learn from the post-mortem of yesterdays murder of an entire football team?

I've seen a lot of talk about how the change in shape was a major factor in our poor performance yesterday, but I disagree. In spirit it is hardly removed from the 4-2-3-1 we normally play, as the player in #10 has never contributed much defensively anyway (save for Kenny in the few games he had there). I think given the situation, most managers would have tried a little tweak to try and spark some inspiration and if Drmic hadn't fluffed his lines in the first half the conversation about formation would be very different I imagine.

Our main problem is the panicky, break-neck pace we seem determined to play at. In the Championship, playing against Bolton, we could get from box to box in 3 passes and look good doing it; teams at this level simply won't allow you to do so and yet it is a trap we constantly fall into. Upon winning the ball, our midfield and fullbacks charge forward like an under 9's side leaving us looking something like this (using yesterday as an example):-

                  Pukki     Drmic Buendia

Cantwell             McLean     Aarons

                   Trybull (with ball)

        Godfrey            Klose

It doesn't take a continental coaching badge to see that we're giving ourselves a very small chance to break the press with a killer pass, and a huge chance that we're going to be left with a 4 or 5 on 3 in the counter- which happened endlessly yesterday. On the odd occasion the ball did find a way through, often possession was lost by a half-hearted leg-dangly attempt at an instant turn by Cantwell or Buendia. I'm not sure where the patience in our play has gone, but we need it back desperately. We are trying to beat Premier League sides at a running game and we simply aren't equipped for it.

Along with these issues, after the 15 minute mark we looked spent. It is unfair to expect these players to be A1 in the first game back, but it also wouldn't be unfair to expect them to play like they don't have the theme to Magic Roundabout playing on repeat in their heads. Southampton also had a number of players making silly errors in possession, the difference being that they were making them 90 yards from Alex McCarthy and clicked out of their funk midway through the first half. Off the top of my head I can recall three occasions where one of ours was in the position to challenge for the ball, should have challenged for the ball, and effectively shrugged as the opposition drifted by- most worryingly, two of those instances were Godfrey in our own box (one of which was Redmonds unforgivably easy strike).

My main concern at this point is that we just haven't learned. It is one thing to play with no fear, but a whole different thing entirely to play like you can't be hurt- you can read every book in the world that tells you to punch a shark in the nose and it'll retreat, but that doesn't mean a shark will give you that chance in the ocean. We need to get real, and fast, if we have any hope at all of staying up now.

I can accept not being good enough, but I can't accept not trying hard enough. It's the bare minimum we should expect.

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I really agree with the point about the fullbacks pushing forward far too quick and early. So many times yesterday there was absolutely no shape to the defence as We lost the ball in midfield and Southampton broke forward. It was often or maybe 3 defenders against 5 of them.

Our best defensive performance was against Man City where the full backs didn’t bomb on and we kept a tight and structures back line. For this reason I also think we look far more solid at the back with Byram as he is more disciplined and experienced.

aarons and Lewis have a lot of talent but also have a lot to learn. They’d probably excel in a good, confident team but don’t suit are current position where we need to stay strong and fight for results 

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