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Three Games Go Towards Shaping Our Season


Dorset

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Blimey, what a six days they were! Last week we were dicing with the future darlings of Old Trafford (as if) in a Youth Cup semi-final that saw our conquering kids wend their merry way, almost unnoticed in press circles, into another final. Then the follow-up, a putting-to-the-sword of a Spurs team that crept out of an FA Cup extravaganza a good ten minutes after the majority of their supporters did. At first sight the wife thought the mass evacuation must be a Wembley Fire Drill, that is until it was explained to her that this type of thing usually involves the whole of ground and was never meant to be carried out on the loser-first principle. And finally, we had the mugger, slugger, gee aren’t we the spoiling buggers of the Champions League - a master class on how to beat Barca by playing them at anything but their own game. Three separate and unrelated success stories, or could there be a thread running through the lot that needs taking notice of? Here’s my wallowing take on what was a glorious triumvirate that’s bound to live long in the memory…

It is, of course, difficult to link our youngsters performance with anything the seniors do until such time as the JT-scale of breakthrough is made, but what the Youth Cup adventure tells us is that we have in Todd Kane, Nathaniel Chalobah, Lucas Piazon and Islam Feruz at least four players within first team touching distance and each one will push for inclusion next season should Roman go all frugal in an effort to force transition in its most basic form. What is also interesting is that the Chelsea Youth team manager Adi Viveash has persevered throughout the season with a distinctively quick pass-and-move playing style that appears more rooted in AVB’s high line [risk and reward] approach than Robbie’s return to the tried and Chels-tested grassroots [prevention then cure] method. It is pleasing on the eye, we shall continue to run with it at that level, but there is no way it will be seen higher up the scale at the club this season and certainly not at the Emirates tomorrow.

By contrast, the victory over Spurs provided us with an insight into both Robbie’s remit and his astute tactical flexibility - winning was everything and it cried out for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Mata playing in the centre. Excusing the pun and no matter the toll taken on Didier as the lone striker, Ramires and Kalou were required to help out in midfield and counter the threat on the flanks from Bale and Lennon, duties they performed admirably and it proved well worth the price paid in ditching the flair of Danny Sturridge. Imagine a similar situation under AVB and you could almost have guaranteed a 4-3-3, Danny playing upfront on one side with Mata marginalised on the other, a slugfest ensuing which could have ended in a 5-4 scoreline, no doubt featuring Modric as MoM. It didn’t happen and we must be grateful, as the Di Matteo/Newton partnership might easily have consigned itself to a tactical comfort zone for the big match that was to come so soon on its heels.

As I mentioned on the Match Chat thread, the win against Barca confirmed our reputation as the only English side capable of stopping Messi and Co on a regular basis. The tactical reversion to a double-block across the defence to stop his deadly runs might not have been Eddie’s idea, but the gravitation of players around the little master had Newton’s theory at its heart and was soul-destroying enough for him to start taking players on from ever-deeper and riskier positions, even as early as the closing moments of the first half - just call Frank to testify and then check the score sheet. On this occasion Mata’s guile was sacrificed and he returned out wide, only to the right this time, thereby enabling Ramires to keep an eye on, and counter the pace of, Dani Alves - another example of the tactical acumen and decisive decision-making that has become a feature of Robbie’s interim management.

Still a long way to go for all concerned, but post-AVB and in complete contrast to the Portugeezer’s regime [allegedly] we appear to have given those in control, whether it be Viveash or Di Matteo, the freedom to go their separate ways in terms playing style during a crucial period for our teams at both levels. Arsenal, despite another barren year, never need to go through this process because their powerbrokers are happy with their lot, even though [for 7 years] it has been relatively little. Spurs, under the short-arm-deep-pocketed control of Daniel Levy, have Harry for as long as it takes the FA to make that forensic search for a reason to take him away, other than having him as their very own cheery English factotum on all future SSNews reports, or until it all goes pear-shaped.

Ah, shaped...the word brings me full circle, to the differing tactical shapes, the individual calls made and the responsibilities that have been met head-on. Of course, there is every possibility we might still end up with nothing this season, but it strikes me that it wont be for the want of trying to make the changes that are needed and, on the evidence of the last three games, we are at last going the right way towards shaping our future,irrespective of final outcomes and past mistakes.

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Good post Dorset. Though I thought we should have stuck with AVB, I have to say I don't think we'd be in this position if he were still here. I'm not sure we'd have even got past Napoli. Robbie deserves all the credit he's getting at the moment. Whether he's a better man-manager, a shrewder tactician or is just benefiting from being under less pressure, so far it looks like Roman made the correct decision. Let's hope he makes the right one in the summer too.

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Loved this:

Then the follow-up, a putting-to-the-sword of a Spurs team that crept out of an FA Cup extravaganza a good ten minutes after the majority of their supporters did. At first sight the wife thought the mass evacuation must be a Wembley Fire Drill, that is until it was explained to her that this type of thing usually involves the whole of ground and was never meant to be carried out on the loser-first principle.
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