Tactics, Intensity & Refereeing

There’s no need to re-live the events of yesterday. Awful performance, and the better team on the day won the game as much as it pains me to say it. QPR compounded the misery by letting Southampton nick it in the 93rd minute. I have no idea how United continue to play like QPR yet somehow keep on collecting points. They definitely stole one from the Hammers yesterday. At least Everton held off Liverpool, the only good thing about the weekends quite toilet football.

The tactics that we went with for the game where similar to when we played City with a slight difference in personnel. We had a team that had a fraction less energy than against City. Alexis & The Ox replaced with Welbeck & Ozil. Not quite the same levels of pressing and running in the two replacements and that was the key yesterday. The tactics seemed to be working well in that they were having the majority of the play but were restricted to long range shooting, some of which went close, but no real clear cut opportunities until the goal came. Even on the goal front, it was some pretty bad goalkeeping that led to the goal. What made the tactics look as if they were wrong was our decision making in the final third. We failed to capitalise in dangerous situations where with a bit more directness (ie Alexis and The Ox) we might have got a second goal. Instead our only real outlet was Welbeck’s pace. This was no bad thing but the lack of pace in the team almost nullified the performances of Ozil, Cazorla and Giroud. To have 3 of 11 rendered missing makes for a difficult day at the office. I saw a fair few people on Twitter stating as to why Welbeck was selected over Walcott and why we had set up in such a way, the same people who say Wenger is tactically naive and the same people who say they want someone like Mourinho managing the club. The selection was a Mourinho like one. The tactics were Mourinho like and when it doesn’t pay off the same people are frustrated that we ‘didn’t go for it’. It’s nonsense. You can’t on he one hand chastise the manager for always attacking and then lambast him for doing the opposite. What happened yesterday was based on fine margins. A couple of lapses in concentration and errors cost us the game. Had we carried on in the same way and won, the tactics would again have been lauded all around. With the players we had available we could have ‘gone for it’ but as you could see we lacked the intensity to go and win a game in a punch for punch manner.

That brings me to my next point. The intensity to which both teams played. Sp*rs always raise their game when they play us, as winning the game itself means more to the players on the field on the day. I have seen that in recent times there is a lack of intensity in games on our part. Not just against the Spuds but in a lot of away performances. I think yesterday was born of the players on the pitch. There were a fair few who had played in a derby but not very many who know what it means to win. It’s hard for players like Per and Kos to dictate the intensity of a game. Last season we had Scz, Gibbs, The Ox, Rosicky, Per, Kos, Sagna, Podolski & Arteta. They all genuinely understood what it meant to win at SHL. This season we had Per, Kos, Ramsey, Coq(ish) who can share the same mindset. I really do believe that this was a big issue yesterday. If we had one or two more who could have brought a bit more intensity to our performance we may well have stemmed the tide of their football and been able to impose some of our own. I think the only selection that could have helped us yesterday is Theo instead of Ozil or Cazorla. More pace and another player who cares about beating the spuds. I would have been tempted to have him on instead of Ozil as the work rate would be similar, or marginally increased if anything. Plus we would have had more pace on the break. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though and yesterday was just one of those days. It was an off day and a few little tweaks can correct the errors that were made. I’m just happy that we have a game so quickly afterwards where we can go and exercise those demons.

Now onto refereeing. Martin Atkinson is a humongous tool. We were being outplayed and he had no bearing on that. The fact we were being outplayed was completely down to ourselves. What did have a bearing on the way that the game panned out was the way they were able to get away with such reckless fouling without punishment. Ryan Mason should have had a yellow card in the first few minutes for upending Ozil with a horrendous tackle. Danny Rose somehow got away with foul after foul and only got a yellow card with 5 minutes to play. This aside he’s also gone and stamped on the back of Giroud’s calf. That’s a red and I don’t care where you see it from or whether he’s unlucky or he’s slipped. It’s a tackle that could put a player out for months so needs appropriate punishment. If some of their players had been cautioned as early as they should have been we may have seen a drop in their intensity, which would have given us more of a foothold in the game. Fair play to them as they were always going to continue with a more robust approach if allowed to do so. That’s neither the fault of us or them. It’s the fault of the officiating. Not why we lost but a big reason as to why we were pinned back for so much of the game. You can only give what you see they say, the fouls were given as they were seen but the cards weren’t as the crowd were seen and home decisions were made. This season has seen an amplified view on poor officiating. It’s almost as though the social media side of things has really got into referees minds and is affecting their performances. One portion of the BT sport (I hate this channel) commentary that was unbiased was the comment on Ozil’s goal. We are so precise with our view on decisions, with a benefit of 3 replays and clowns like Michael Owen still get things wrong. He was about an inch offside with his toe overstepping the line. When there is not a clear view of an offside the benefit has to be given to the attacking side, that’s in the rule book. Credit where credit is due, that was a good call by the linesman. So whoever thinks it was offside – bore off!

Hopefully Alexis will be back in the side to smite Leicester and we can back into 4th place, potentially 3rd if the rest of the football isn’t as toilet as it has been this weekend. Liverpool play Sp*rs at home and Southampton play West Ham so we can still get back on track pretty quickly.

Have a great week folks.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

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