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Monday, 20 March 2017 17:43 Permalink

There's no question that Clement has made great strides in improving our defensive shape and discipline, and has also extracted much improved performances from the likes of Cork and Fer, and to a lesser extent Fernandez and Mawson. However, in the last couple of matches old frailties have re-emerged in the performances of each of the above - and it's cost us big time.

The first goal we conceded against Bournemouth was a catalogue of errors, albeit with an element of misfortune. The first mistake was Llorente being easily dispossessed on the half-way line, this triggered the second mistake - Cork was shoulder-to-shoulder with King, but darted out to close the Bournemouth defender down. Although understandable, when Llorente then attempted to win the ball back he only succeeded in passing the ball beyond Cork, leaving King in acres of space and with the midfield trio all well in advance of the ball. Had Cork taken a more conservative approach, and held the line, it's unlikely the goal would have been scored. Fernandez was then faced with a tricky decision - to allow King to turn and advance on goal unchallenged, or to close him down. The latter was only a sensible option if Fernandez was sure to inercept the ball - which of course he didn't, leaving Mawson completely exposed. Having said that, Mawson will be disappointed that he didn't make more of an effort to block the ball, instead he merely lengthened his stride causing an avoidable own goal.

The second goal has some echoes of the first in that when Cork was beaten to the ball in the middle of the park, Carroll over-committed and got in front of the ball, again allowing King acres of space. Mawson should have shown better awareness of the threat posed by Afobe peeling away - although I suspect if Ash was still with us he would have alerted Mawson to the danger. In any event Mawson's footwork was poor, so that when he failed to intercept the ball Afobe was completely free. Two easy goals for Bouremouth - and both resulting in the first instance from over-committed midfielders getting ahead of the ball and allowing King acres of space.

The opening goal for Hull also featured familiar failings, from Fer in particular. After a sloppy pass from Carroll, the Hull defender was allowed to advance out of a deep position, with Ayew making no serious attempt to intervene. Fer then nearly won the ball, but he couldn't prevent the ball down the line - which Cork attempted to intercept but only succeeded in taking himself out of the game. The most annyoing aspect is that had Fer read the situation and reacted properly he could have got back to block the pass in-field to Hernandez, which led to his superb chip over the top. Not only that, but Fer was also then close to Niasse, but simply left him to Mawson while he jogged casually into a central position, raising his arm for a ficticious offside. Mawson can't be faulted for the goal, but Fabianski should have come off his line sooner and spread himself more - in the same manner as Jakupovic earlier in denying Routledge.

If we're to get back on track we need to sort out these regressions to type. In fairness, we presented Hull and Bournemouth with very few chances - but not even teams in the lower reaches can be expected to squander the sort of gilt-edged chances we presented them with.

There's also much to sort out with our offensive showing (it's worth noting that both of Routledge's chances against Hull came from clever play centrally, rather than out wide) - but we need to cut out the silly mistakes if we're going to give ouselves a good chance of staying up. Back to basics for Clement methinks.

Mark (Jack) London Monday, 20 March 2017 20:25

I look at the goals slightly differently.

I agree with the initial part of your analysis, where Cork was out of position leaving King on his own in the middle, exposing the defence. it wasn't the only occasion where they overloaded us in that area during the game, and caused us more problems after they scored.

Pugh was often found in acres of space in the inside right position, and caused us all sorts of problems in midfield.

Once King was free I agree Fede had two options. Did he choose the wrong one? He's damned if he choses either one if you are honest.

He decided he didn't want King to run at him. And the rule you keep hearing the experienced international defender pundits saying is "you wouldn't want him running at you".

So he decided to try and close him down and try and tackle him. King was clever - and you have to take your hat off to a good bit of skill. He nicked it around him and got the pass to Afobe.

If he let him run at him and fouled him, gave a pen, or he got past him, every fan would have been on his back, regardless.

But then we had two inexperienced players behind Fede. They should have shortened the gap between them, and Kingsley also moved across into Mawson's position. None of them moved, until way too late. It gave Afobe the chance to shoot, and he got lucky, as his shot was going well wide.

We really haven't had the rub of the green very often with deflections this season, have we!

At that point, the goal was completely against the run of play.

The second goal is hard to blame Cork for.

For me it started with an error from Carroll, and it was an error we saw throughout the game, and not just by him.

When we were making headed clearances, instead of heading out towards the touchline, we kept heading it back into the middle of the park, where it was picked off by Bournemouth's midfield.

This time it wasn't. but Siggy had a poor touch in the middle of the park, and played a hospital pass to Cork, who had little chance of taking that ball. King pounced, and then Mawson got the wrong side of Afobe, and ended up on his arse. 2 nil.

What you fail to mention in any of this, is the role of The Undertaker's selection.

With us completely disrupted at fullback, was Fer, a player who has not played that position since he was early in his career at Feyernoord, and then only a couple of times, the right choice?

I'd say no.

Should Ki, who has been out for over a month, have started ahead of Leon, who has been fit enough to sit on the bench the last few weeks? Again I'd say no, even though Ki did OK. And faded quickly in the 2nd half.

And many are critics of Routledge on here, be he offers far more defensive nous than either Narsingh or Ayew, so would definitely have been a better shield for the inexperience behind him.

So Clement options could have been:

Play a rookie - albeit one with huge promise and a player who has played a season of league football, winning 3 player of the year awards at right back. Leaving our strongest element, the midfield untouched, and having protection in front of Connor.

Or, play Cork at right back, who has played far more of his career there, and more recently than Fer. Fed stays in right midfield, and the little master sits in the defensive midfield slot.

NickR Monday, 20 March 2017 23:02
I totally agree with everything Wyn said, but I think Fernandez was even more at fault.

He left a large gap to close down, meaning he was running too fast when he got to his man. Momentum made it easy for him to be turned. Had he been a couple of yards closer, he could have closed his man but been able to easily stayed in control of his balance......he could have gone on the player's left or right shoulder and controlled the situation. That's something any decent defender should know.

He's done it before SO many times this season - it's a lack of concentration, I think. He's ball watching then over-reacting when he realises his man is going to get the ball. Remember the Liverpool (?) game when he went diving into a challenge, only to see the ball flipped over his head (actually, with the help of a handball, I think)? It's giving the opposition a 50-50 chance of turning and getting away from his marker.

The other option was not go so deep to his man and wait for him. Most central defenders don't like going so deep, but you can understand why Fernandez wouldn't want him running at him. What Fernandez's actions did was create a big hole behind him - it was rash and risky. Fer and Mawson could take some blame for not covering but Fernandez created the problem.

Also agree that we missed Fer's strength and drive in the middle. He bosses midfields and we lost the midfield on Saturday, even though we played with 5 and they had 4 across the middle. Hindsight is a great thing but I think we should have kept Carroll, Cork and Fer together, even if it meant giving Connor Roberts his debut.

At least we've got time to get over this poor display and get players fit again. Boro's a HUGE game and one we must win.

Strangely, if we win and then beat West Ham, we'll be equal on points with the Hammers, I think. It's not likely, but I'm always an optimist, especially as I'll be in the away end with a couple of my mates who are big Hammers fans!!!
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