The GoatyGav Column
Side to side movement, sometimes interspersed with passes back towards our own goal, in an attempt to dominate possession of the ball, became the team’s MO under Manuel Pellegrini. Last season saw some semblance of ‘Samba’ football when the players would work their way in to the final third before upping the tempo and finding gaps but, with confidence at a low ebb, the system of play became, at best, ineffective.
Patient build up often works. Most of my formative years, watching football, were spent admiring the Liverpool teams of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. People forget that it wasn’t all fast paced excitement by those sides that won numerous domestic and European titles. The amount of times that they’d play out wide then come back and recycle the other way often became monotonous. Pro Liverpool commentators referred to it as ‘probing’. A phrase that you don’t hear very often now. Probably for the best n’all but the key thing was that Liverpool had the players to do it. Watching West Ham over the last eighteen months it became clear that, whilst the squad was good, we didn’t have the depth to dominate the ball and were ‘sussed’.
It all became a little repetitive. Despite the fact that I genuinely wanted Manuel Pellegrini to turn things around the frustration of watching him stick rigidly to his methods became too much for me and I, eventually, joined the voices calling for him to move on. Now that’s in the past and I’m optimistic for the rest of the season.
We are already seeing more threat for the team. More opportunities are being created as the ball is moving quicker and more space is being found by the players as the boys hit opposition earlier and before they’re properly back in defensive shape. And that was at the nub of it. Opposing teams were more comfortable defending against us because we allowed them to become very difficult to break down while we held the ball instead of breaking in numbers and zipping it forward. When I think back to the Crystal Palace home game I admired the speed at which they got their two banks of four, with less than five yards between them, set back up once they’d lost possession. They were extremely difficult to break down. In hindsight, however, there’s more than just a smidgeon of a notion that I shouldn’t have been so full of regard for them considering our tardy build up. Within five minutes of the start against Bournemouth you could see the shift in approach.
I’m genuinely hopeful that we see this, more dynamic play, continue under David Moyes. It’s going to take a little while to get the boys playing the way that he wants but the signs of the commitment to swifter attacking methods are in some evidence. It’s definitely not there yet. The evidence of that were on show against Everton when, on more than one occasion, the fans were urging the players forward in greater numbers while Everton were out of shape. The old tendencies were still there as some strolled forward when they should have been sprinting but I do feel that things are moving in the right direction now. Hopefully we’ll see the team commit to getting numbers forward together against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. We, as fans, are in desperate need of some cheer and a good cup run would be just the tonic.
Trailing one-nil going in to the last ten on Sunday the Ironesses turned things around with an Alisha Lehmann brace. Brighton Women went ahead in scrappy fashion in the first half. With the ball bobbling around in the box from a corner it was, just about, bundled over the line before being cleared. The referee took a few seconds to indicate the goal but, despite it’s ugly nature, it counted all the same. Lehmann’s equalizer followed some great work out wide on eighty minutes when she, standing unmarked, took her turn to bundle the ball over the line before grabbing the winner from a long, route one, kick from Courtney Brosnan. The Brighton defence allowed the ball to bounce before Alisha outpaced them to latch on to the opportunity with a smart finish for the winner. A goal of real quality. You can view the highlights on the following Youtube video: -
Congrats to the team who ease any relegation worries that may have started to loom. Next are an Arsenal team, just coming off a heavy four-one defeat to Chelsea, at home in the F.A. Cup on Sunday. Good luck ladies.
No game for the Under twenty-threes since the three-all draw away at Reading. No game this weekend with bottom of the table Sunderland next up on the 2nd Feb . With only a single point out of fifteen games the Mackems shouldn’t prove too big an obstacle to gaining three points however the youngsters from Northumberland will be aware that captain Coventry (wouldn’t be the best name for a Superhero would it?) Holland and Alese all now loaned out and the squad is not as strong as it has been. Best of luck to the boys for that.
Have a good week all & COYI!