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First of all lets give credit to Stoke who were clearly the better team on the day. As others have stated, when you look at the players they have at their disposal they should not be bottom of the table. I saw them at Charlton in the second game of the season when they lost 3-1 but at 1-1 the game could have easily been theirs if they had taken some straightforward chances.
I think Cooper was correct when he said that we didn't move the ball quickly enough and didn't press hard enough in the right areas. The difficulty with this analysis is that it begs the question as to why there wasn't some rotation from Wednesday night. The high press is notoriously energy sapping and it wasn't unforeseeable that some of our players (particularly some of the younger ones) would be feeling the pace. That in turn was almost certain to mean a decline in passing quality.
In addition we have obviously had issues in the previous two home games in creating chances and providing any service for Borja, which suggested a tweak to the system is needed. Our away form (P5 W3 D2 L0) is excellent but we need to find a way of creating more at home.
Personally on Saturday I would have brought Byers in for Fulton and Routledge for Celina, with a question mark as to whether Carroll could have played instead of Dhanda. As I've written in here previously I think Byers offers more than Fulton in home games where the onus is on us to attack but would not decry Fulton's contribution to our away form.
I also think that at home we need to find additional width to stretch the opponents defence. Neither Ayew nor Celina are natural wide players and when Routledge was introduced he seemed to have been told to play in the inside left channel rather than out wide. We need to be getting to the bye-line and crossing the ball for Borja to attack rather than pumping the ball up to him with his back to goal.
As to Ayew, he has always been a wide attacker rather than a winger or striker, and enjoyed his best period at Marseille in such a role.
The good news is that our next game is away. The bad is that the next home game is the old enemy SC Cardiff.
Worth noting, though, that Reading were down to 10 men for a large part of the game, something that might easily have happened last Saturday.
Last night's results and resultant league table really demonstrate what an open and unpredictable division this is. It may be that at some stage a couple of teams will put together a consistent run but as it stands its an exciting toss of a coin between a dozen flawed sides as to who is going to be in contention.
As to Gary's point about possession stats etc I would be interested to know if last season's figures are based on the season as a whole or on the same stage last season. It was obvious that we were much more consistent in the second half of last season whereas the first half was something of a mish-mash. People correctly criticise the performance against Forest but I seem to remember a very similar performance against them on the same weekend last season, the only difference being that last year Forest spurned all their chances whereas this year they finally put one away. There was also the "after the Lord Mayor's show" performance against Bristol City at home last August which was less than incisive. My view is that we are in a similar place at this stage of the season but with a touch more resilience that has led to a few more points on the board.
I also agree that there is a tendency to get dewy eyed about the performances under both Brendon and Laudrup whereas in reality there were some poor games even in the heyday of both. To my mind Brendon benefitted from a lot of the work done on defensive shape and ball retention under Sousa which gave us a tougher edge and ability to grind out results in tight situations that was not really there under Roberto. Brendon also obviously benefitted hugely from bringing in Scott Sinclair who had what was almost certainly the best season of his career and gave us a decisive edge. It should also be said that there were a series of frustrating home draws/defeats in Brendon's promotion season (Millwall, Hull, Watford and Portsmouth spring to mind). Its the Championship, teams are flawed and this sort of thing will happen.
I still think its much too early to draw any real conclusions about either results of playing style but on balance I think we have to happy with the season's opening. After all, we could be Stoke....
I think the lack of pace is a real issue, particularly when compared to the second half of last season when Dan James came into his own and sides were frequently defending ten yards deeper, often leaving more space between the lines. This was evident in pre-season and hopefully the likes of Garrick can step up to the mark as the season progresses.
In terms of approach I do wonder about playing both Fulton and Grimes as two deep lying midfield players in home games when we want to take the initiative. I would be inclined to go back to Grimes and Byers with Celina ahead of them in the number 10 spot when we want to be on the front foot, and utilise Fulton when we need greater defensive solidity.
When having these discussions it is worth remembering that any style depends on the personnel available, and also recognition that there are two teams on the pitch.
There were times last season -particularly in the first half - where we were extremely inconsistent even within matches and not everything was rosy in the garden in terms of a free flowing passing game. Potter was experimenting with ideas and also personnel with some varied outcomes. Eventually we settled into a pattern that often involved McBurnie dropping quite deep while we also had an obvious "out-ball" down the left hand channel. Its worth remembering that Dan James could make a hopeful punt down the channel look like a well weighted pass.
Both of those options were taken away from Cooper, with McBurnie leaving on the eve of the season not helping in setting a style or pattern when competitive games against our peers started.
In the final third of last season it was very difficult to combat Dan's pace which made sides defend ten yards deeper, leaving more space between the lines for the likes of Celina to exploit. That seemed particularly evident in the first half of the Hull game.
QPR will be interesting as last season they blew us away with a fast and furious press during the opening to the game that left it over as a contest. While I'm no advocate of long ball football I think its fair to say that a few hoofs to row Z in the opening 15 minutes in March might have kept us in the game. (Lets not even mention unassertive but "good passing" goalkeepers). At 1-0 down we might have been able to impose a more passing style later in the game as QPR tired and the game became stretched. At 3-0 they were able to sit deep and contain by getting numbers behind the ball, forcing Dan inside into traffic.