93 minutes of frustration yesterday!
First I must join the chorus of appraisals for Collins and Upson (and Neill!) but apart from that, what sticks in my mind is that there are at least 2 fundamental problems with the game we played yesterday.
First : The midfield lacks a passer that possess the ability to play the ball to someone that is not already covered.
Parker receives the ball and mostly dwells on it until the enemy midfielder is all over him and he needs to just “get rid of it”, resulting in a 5 yard pass. The poor fellow on the other end of that pass is then, for obvious reasons, not more than a couple of yards away from quite a few enemies, in addition to the one marking him, giving him no time.
For a couple of games I was blaming our 3 man midfield for not being able to get some width in the play. I still think that was one reason, but the lack of ability to open the game is apparent also in a 442 setting.
It was even more obvious yesterday since as soon as Sunderland gained possession they immediately played it away from that central congested area which allowed them to get possession of the ball in our half of the pitch. Thankfully they failed to convert it into anything useful…
This problem is of course intertwined with lack of passing opportunities presented by his team mates, but still.
Second: I wrote in a recent post that most defenders and midfielders know how to strip the ball from Cole. Apart from the fact that they really didn’t have to do that yesterday, since he lost it more or less on his own most of the time, it turned out to be true again.
Cole is over-used in these games. It seems like that the first thought of many players is “feed the Cole” but unfortunately he will not score, or deliver the ball to someone in motion, or keep it up long enough to let the team advance.
Bellamy was more or less invisible yesterday, and even though all players have to answer for their own shortcomings, he was not given much to work with. How many balls delivered behind the back 4 for him to chase did you see? I cannot remember more than one!
No, the presence of a below par target player ruins our and Bellamy’s game. If Sunderland had been any better in front of goal or if Collins/Upson had not been brilliant, this would have been called the catastrophe it was. We were saved by their incompetence.