AVB’s Mistakes Have Proven CostlyBy: Robert Reed | March 18th, 2013
Oh no. This is déja vu all over again.
I will admit that I didn’t expect to be in this situation. Chelsea have effortlessly sailed passed us with a cheery wave and now sit one point ahead with a game in hand. Meanwhile Arsenal, doubtless at the start of their usual strong finish, sit four points behind us; also with a game in hand.
A week is a long time in football. Last Sunday morning we were comfortably third, we had just destroyed Inter Milan and were looking forward to a game against Liverpool which could cement us in the Champions League places. What happened?
Well, in my humble opinion AVB’s inexperience is responsible. I am not turning on the manager I have supported from the moment he walked through the door, and would swap him for no one, but nevertheless I believe he has made some serious errors in the last week or so which have cost us. Fatigue is certainly taking it’s toll on the squad also, but these decisions have not helped.
With the game won against Inter Milan and a big game against Liverpool on the horizon, AVB asked Lennon and Bale if they wanted to come off. Why? What manager does that? The commentators were all remarking how extraordinary it was. Surely he should have hooked one or both of them and saved them for the weekend if he thought it was the right thing to do. Players are like big kids, they want to play every minute especially if the team is winning so he should have known their viewpoint. As it was he left them both in play and Lennon picked up what has become a very costly injury.
Selections Against Liverpool
How AVB decided to deal with Lennon’s omission was rather bizarre. Instead of seamlessly replacing Lennon with Holtby, Sigurdsson or Walker, he decided to place our best creative central midfielder on the right wing. That is a massive no no surely; if an area of the team is weakened by injury you do not take from another part of it to do a patch up job, thus weakening two areas. This resulted in an unbalanced team with Dembele cutting inside all the time because he can’t cross for toffee. To make matters worse he didn’t opt for the passing influence of Tom Huddlestone or the creative spark of Tom Carroll in the centre, but the very Scott Parker like Livermore to play alongside…Scott Parker. In recent seasons all our attacking threat has come from pace down the wings and a creative influence from deep midfield, now completely nullified by this formation. Against Liverpool we dominated possession but had no cutting edge anywhere to play that killer ball. Two goals from set pieces said it all.
Selections In Europe
In the return leg against Inter Milan I fully expected a different midfield from the Liverpool game, but it was not. Dembele remained on the right but now, defending a lead away from home, we suddenly had two up front. It is bad enough that we have to play one of our lousy strikers let alone two. Instead of flooding the midfield, attempting to close the game down and playing for a draw or a bearable loss we went all out to score an away goal and ended up being completely overrun. As a result we ended up playing extra time and thoroughly knackering everyone again before the weekend’s game, even having to bring on Lennon for a game he should have sat out.
Selections Against Fulham
When I saw who was in the team to play Fulham I was confused; we seemed to have too many defenders. One of them wasn’t even Walker who could play wide right in Lennon’s absence, so all I could fathom was that as we had lost our right midfielder we were now playing Ekotto on the left wing. We have probably the best left winger in the world in the team and a full back was playing in that position, because our right winger was injured. Crazy. Vertonghen, who has been absolutely outstanding at centre back in recent games, was shuffled out to left fullback and Sigurdsson played right wing; showing that he could have been playing there the whole time.
It is true that Bale has been phenomenal in that number ten role but against Fulham, rather than moving Ekotto and Vertonghen (again weakening one part of the team to patch up another) we should have played him on the wing leaving our defence untouched. Bale didn’t play against Inter, meaning his energy and those long runs from deep could have killed Fulham. Dempsey could have played as second striker, fired up to score against his old club.
What the hell is going on with Lewis Holtby? All that fuss about signing him in January rather than the summer and then AVB won’t play him, disfiguring the team rather than doing so. He is fit and can play anywhere across the midfield so what is the problem? He won’t hit any kind of form unless he plays. Sigurdsson was in terrible form until he got a few games and now he is doing well. I agree that the initial ‘new Van der Vaart’ comparisons were fanciful, but doesn’t AVB rate him at all? I don’t understand the Holtby situation.
It is true that AVB hasn’t exactly been given the tools to do the job, but I am keeping my powder dry for the end of the season to lay into Levy if we fail to get in the top four. Since my despair at the failure to sign a striker in January, even on loan, neither of our forwards has scored a goal in the league. I even heard a statistic during the Inter game that since either of our strikers had scored the rest of the team had scored twenty something goals between them. It has been a great achievement from our manager to get regular good results with strikers who don’t score goals.
Like I said though, I’ll hold fire on all that as the last three games have been disastrous as a direct result of AVB’s decisions, and I bow to nobody who is going to get hysterical and call me a fickle fan. I have praised AVB to the heavens when he has got it right and I reserve the right to criticise him when he gets it wrong. There are plenty of tub thumping ‘we’re gonna win win win if we all pull together’ blogs out there and very good some of them are too, but whether I’m proven right or wrong I like to call it how I see it.
I am still convinced that we have a manager who exhibits limitless potential, but he is making mistakes at the worst possible time. Fortunately, one of AVB’s greatest strengths is his ability to learn quickly from his mistakes and improve as a manager. So is it time yet to hit the panic button? I think not. We are fourth, and with Chelsea to play could still take third. We haven’t suddenly become a bad team; this is a stumble, not a collapse.
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