The goals on Saturday were down to individual mistakes, no doubt about it, but under Hodgson they probably wouldn’t have happened.
By committing men forward Hughes is making life much more interesting for supporters, but is leaving his defence a bit exposed.
For the first goal we can see that Stephen Kelly’s been caught well upfield. Fine, these things happen, but surely someone should have been filling in for him? If not the wide player, then one of Etuhu or Murphy should have been guarding the back door, ready to slide over as required. Granted, we had the ball until Paintsil mislaid it, but that never stopped Roy from building that solid base, even in possession. Any single midfielder along that black line would have given John a better pass, and also been able to slow down the subsequent attack.
Next, for the second goal, we see much the same thing. There’s a massive gap between defence and midfield. Here we see the early stages of the move, Blackpool attacking all that green with no Fulham midfielder in place to slow them down.
On he goes, and eventually Hughes and Hangeland, missing the protection they’re used to, get caught in no-man’s land, playing an off-side trap that Paintsil’s not going along with, but still miles from the player in possession (and the player on the end of the through-ball). Frankly it’s a mess, and the sort of thing Roy worked hard to stamp out when he was in charge. It came at the expense of attacking gumption, of course, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing that this is happening (more a by-product of opening up), but nevertheless, it does showcase how much harder life is going to be for our defenders this season. Perhaps, though, it’s a transitional thing, while the players get used to their new freedom.
But it does pose an obvious question: are our defenders good enough to play without Roy’s team defence setup? Too early to tell. We’d assume that Hangeland and Hughes will do fine, but Paintsil’s issues could be just a bad day at the office, or the signs of a player whose life-jacket (two banks of four at all times) has been taken away.
Too harsh, I know, but it bears watching.
The gap between defence and midfield seems to have been there all game. I have, I’m afraid, no idea who David Vaughan andElliott Grandin might be, but it looks like they got a lot of time and space out there yesterday:
These chalkboards don’t necessarily mean anything, and against better teams Hughes will surely tighten up here, but that’s a lot of passing going on in an area where we never used to allow much passing to happen.
On the plus-side, lovely to see Dembele influential again. He looks some player, and win, lose or draw, will brighten many games between now and whenever Arsenal try to buy him.