It seems like we are extremely fragile at the moment. Not in the sense that we get injured, no, the Collins injury is normal for any club during this period of the season.
What I mean is that as soon as the starting lineup that turned out that winning streak is altered the machinery breaks down.

Yesterday Tomkins played in the center of defense. He is a good player and may turn out to be a great player and can certainly not be held responsible for the collapse of our defense. I think that what we saw yesterday, however, emphasizes the importance of Collins, or maybe the vital importance of a rock-solid pair of center backs.
The games Collins and Upson has played together has been a fine-tuning process and we have seen them getting better by the game.
Tomkins in the team creates 2 problems. One is of course that we field a lesser player, but the disruption of the center back harmony and the effect it has on Upson (who seems to be too aware of his young apprentice to be at his best) is a bigger problem.

This is amplified by the style of Ilunga and lack of speed of Neill. Both these “traits” require the other defenders to adapt.
When Ilunga is missing, after his attacking adventures, the central defenders, with the help of the defensive minded midfielders, need to fill his abandoned area. It takes a fine tuned defensive machine to avoid confusion and un-covered areas in the box in those situations.
Ilunga, one of my favorite players, abandoned his defensive duties and left it to be solved partly by a 19 year old, far too often last night!
The problem on the other side is of a more “structural” type. Neill just isn’t quick enough to keep up. Collins and Behrami have bailed him out a number of times, or rather they adapt their game to his lack of speed. Tomkins should not really have to cover for the shortcomings of our captain, but should (at worst) be left to take responsibility for his own game.

The midfield is also affected by the insecurity a new young player in a vital position creates. Kovacs with his defensive qualities was, I believe, fielded to cover for the loss of Collins. It seems however that this change also disrupted the game of the midfielders. On the left we had, I’m not sure, Parker? Or Ilunga maybe? The mid-field had no width what so ever (even though I am reluctant to bring this up as the pundit kept nagging about it until I screamed!) However, it meant that Neill was left without a midfielder in front of him - good luck with that...

The defense need to go back to basics, as it did to halt the last run of bad results! It will also be the best way to break in Tomkins.


Prince H said...

I do agree with you partly.
I think that our midfield were much more affected by the changes than the defense yesterday.
Collins may be one of our best players, but remember that we let two goals in against Bolton in exactly the same manner as we did yesterday. And then Collins was on the field (he was hurt later).

Apart form the not so happy (but not easy) moment at their second goal Tomkins did it better yesterday than Upson. He was quicker and covered very well (mainly for Neill, it was Upson who should cover for Ilunga which he did with different success).
Upson is a former captain and a national team player. I'd expect him to rule the box and "his" defence. And to be able to play with different players. He has not been at his top lately, and I can't say it's becuase he has not had Collins by his side for 1,5 game.
Kovac had a bad start but played better later, but the midfield as a unit did not find the way to do it. Neither in attack or in defense. Neither Noble or Behrami seems to be in top shape, but I do also think that Zola did some mistakes. We started with four central midfielders, all of them better defensivly and they had hard times to decide where to be on the field. As the commentater said again and again we had do width at all. For me it was hard to discover any depth either.
The midfield have been the key lately, the flowing of play. The way the players change patterns and now how to cover for each other. But to succeed you have to have players like Behrami on top.
This is something Zola really must find the answer to now. Noble has to be rested and I would try Savio on the left and Collsion in the middle of the park. But whoever will play, the system is vital.
If he plays with Tomkins or not against ManC is a minor problem for me. And even if young, the CB is always an exposed role in the team. Tomkins has to cope with that. I think he can. Otherwise we have Kovac.

Joppe - said...

I agree with you partly, but my point was how the shere presence of Tomkins, or rather the knowledge that Upson/Collins were not there, altered the team.
I'm not talking about the goals. I can live with those. This game we played horribly and that's the problem, not the goals per se.

Of course Upson should cover for Ilunga, but what does Tomkins have to do then? - cover for Upson! So when Ilunga abandons the defense he is, in fact, making Tomkins game much more difficult. That was my point.

The midfielders were bad - individually - yes, but when you make Parker the left sided midfielder you know you will have 3 players stumbling on each other with unclear roles and few passing alternatives.

Parker was one of our better players as the game was played, but if he was asked to play to the left one can argue that he was pretty lousy doing that.

Kovacs in the knee of the defenders - as we saw Parker during the last bad run, is as I see it a problem that starts with Collins missing.

Hakan said...

I didn't see the game against Boro but I think that the problems both Joppe and Prince H describe are to an extent fairly typical for a team in WH's position. A new manager is trying to build a new system and this inevitably takes time. During this period it's vital to initially cement the system with the first XI, especially if there's a threat of relegation. Any kind of rotation policy is difficult under these circumstances. This means that problems often occur when squad players who are less prepared and used to the system have to play because of injuries. The problem is aggravated if the quality of the bench is hampered by injuries and limited financial resources.