Trippier and Davies came in for KWP and Rose. Perfectly sensible.
Sanchez in for Foyth, again is fine (Sanchez the better defender IMO). Alli came back in for Moura, which also should be an upgrade.
What I find a bit odd is the area of the pitch that has to work the hardest, the central midfield, has been the least rotated.
Winks and Eriksen (both managing injuries) have both started 4 consecutive games in the last 10 days. Sissoko has started 7 consecutive games in the last 22 days.
I said before the last game that Eriksen and Sissoko probably needed a rest. I think this game was probably evidence of that. This seemed a schlepp too far for both of those.
As soon as we saw this line up we knew this was going to be the 4312/41212. Against Wolves 3421/541 this perhaps wasn’t the best option (a 343 with wing backs might have been one better option, or maybe a 433) but it wasn’t a disaster either, especially as Alli pushes up and becomes a third forward effectively a lot of the time.
First off we have to give Wolves plenty of credit. Tactically this is probably as good as anyone’s been against us since Arsenal away. This was very reminiscent of Leicester’s title tactics. It’s not a pure bus park, they press in other areas and actively try to produce turnovers and counter attacking scenarios.
Even in the first half they limited us to virtually no real chances, second half not only did they stop us having a single chance at all, they were the team creating situations.
We’ve ended this game with an X/G of 0.28. Theirs was 1.21. That’s abysmal and tells the story of the game in terms of tangible end product quality today.
There was some flatness to our last game, signs of physical and mental fatigue that the 5-0 score line put a false moustache and comedy glasses on, and I think that fatigue hit a wall today, mental, physical and literal, in the shape of Wolves tactical pragmatism.
Our goal came from a piece of Kane uberness, cutting in from the right and hitting a wicked left footer that seemed to first curl, then fade away from a desperately diving keeper.
That’s pretty much where this game ended for us. The second half we were like zombies running on collective muscle memory, going through ghostly motions. We had 66% of the ball first half, 54% second half.
In the end we get done by a set piece (from which no one seemed to be marking their biggest aerial threat) and skanker through Alderweireld’s legs that dribbles past Lloris and a break goal when pushing forward trying to get an equaliser.
But lets be honest, last game, and throughout this season at times, especially the first dozen games, we had our warnings that one of these might happen, and have rode our luck a little in several games. Even the Bournemouth game which had a five goal margin had an X/G (quality chance) margin of about 0.9.
There were some pretty meh performances al round today, but the biggest culprits for me were Alli, Son and Sissoko.
Alli and Son are both capable of games like this when we are squeezed, they cough up the ball too readily, moves break down and the opposition can counter. The thing is, both of them have been in really scintillating form of late, even when Son’s been bumbling he’s been scoring.
Sissoko (61 @91%) saw much less of the ball than both Winks (92 passes 93%) and Eriksen (91 @ 90%) but also made no key passes, passed the ball forwards much less (Winks 39, Eriksen 29, Sissoko 19) barely carried the ball forward (no take-ons) and was the only outfield player to make no tackles or interceptions, also dispossessed 5 times.
Too many times throughout this game Sissoko trundled around aimlessly. Too many times he ran away from the player on the ball looking for an out ball and pointed elsewhere; even his pointing is just vague and un-incisive, often conveying the message “anywhere but me”.
Yes, Sissoko has probably played too much football recently. But at some point we have to stop congratulating the boy for simply not being terrible and remember exactly where this club is aiming to be and asking the question “is he really good enough for this level”.
Sissoko definitely wasn’t the reason we lost this game. He didn’t do anything momentarily catastrophic, but the drip drip effect of having a player out there who does so many things so mediocrely does infect many aspects of our play.
He doesn’t want the ball under pressure, and this league is all about pressure, his technique is sub-standard, he has zero vision or incision, most of what he does in midfield areas is bunt the ball to the nearest safe option. For someone playing as an 8 in a 3 man midfield that’s just not good enough.
Unfortunately Sissoko seems to have filled the “unit” remit vacated by Dier for Poch.
I just wish we had a proper fucking midfielder there, someone comfortable on and with the ball, someone more defensively dynamic and/or offensively intelligent. Or both preferably.
There is a role for Sissoko maybe further up, bulldozing at defenders. But the odd rhino charge from midfield that rarely leads to anything is just not justifying having someone as uncomfortable as he is in the midfield.
Players like Skipp, TOB and jack Roles have got to start being considered as more viable options to develop. Very different players but who offer much more dynamic hybrid (TOB) defensive (Skipp) or offensive (Roles) options. Meaning we can use players like Winks slightly differently.
Eriksen was lacking spark today too, but he still constantly made himself available and did get through plenty of the ball, and we know what he’s capable of and invariably does deliver.
He tried to look up but it just wasn’t happening. Winks made a couple of errors without the ball today, but he doesn’t half work his Bow Locks off to get on it, never hides, always offering himself for team mates needing an out ball, plays comfortably under the confines of the congested midfield areas, has never really been a DM or “holder” as such, and considering his role is to anchor the more adventurous Eriksen and Sissoko, still made more forward passes than both of them.
And let’s not forget he has still only made about 20 league starts now. Our best performances of late have invariably involved Winks and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Not because he’s wonderbread, but just having a someone who can get and give the ball with a bit of alacrity means we play more football through our midfield and have generally benefitted enormously from taking the Dier shaped brake off.
I’m not sure what Wink’s best role will be going forward. In an ideal world that central hub role would better suit a more defensively diligent player like Skipp (or we buy someone) and Winks’s role is more an 8 or 6/8 hybrid type.
If we buy a couple of real top notch midfielders – an 8 and a 6 say – then Winks might drop out completely, but I can’t see us buying two world class CM’s any time soon, so in the meantime I’d much rather see him out there developing than a player like Sissoko with 350 appearances who brings so little quality and so little chance of evolving.
Either way, today aside, I think this 3CM (or 1+2) has generally been a breath of fresh air though, I think it’s a work in progress though and still needs fine tuning, whether that’s with academy options or purchased ones (or both).
There is no point doing individual ratings today. No one shone enough to deserve a special mention.