The addition of Deulofeu gives us width, flair, and that final ball/delivery that separates “possession football” from pure “possession”. Too many times last season, we passed the ball around the back four, pass it around again, just to have the ball ending up all the way back to our goalkeeper. With Deulofeu in the final third of the pitch, players are now willing to make a riskier run, knowing that a killer pass is more likely to be executed. At times (especially on the counter) the combination of our one-twos, our pace (Barkley, Deulofeu), and our strength (Lukaku) is a joy to watch.
However, my opinion is that — unless you are a top, top side like Bayern or Barcelona with the calibre of players capable of doing that all game long — those combination plays/counter attacks would only account for anywhere between 20-30% of the game (roughly 20-30 minutes).
My point is, currently our team is not a team that is able to "Bayern" / "Barcelona" our opponents, nor should it be expected to dominate/win games just by free-flowing attacking football alone. Without the basis of a solid defence, without players instructed and committed to carrying out the basics (closing down, set piece organisation, tracking back), attacking football is only a good as providing the occasional play-of-the-day goal, the odd 3-0 result, rather than a sustained run of wins and most importantly, points.
God forbid I use Chelsea as an example, but Mourinho understands the importance of “the other 60-70 minutes” of a football game, and makes sure his teams get that part right first, before allowing his flair players to come up with the “other 20 minutes”. David Moyes also understood that (albeit without as much success). This is genuinely why I think we did so well during Martinez’s first season in charge: The fundamentals were well-drilled and carried out consistently, we were relatively solid with our defensive percentages, which provided our front line the basis to attack. Looking at Leicester this season, you would notice a similar theme: A group of 5-7 players that are just solid and energetic, eg, Fuchs, Kante, Morgan, Albrighton, which then provides a platform for players like Mahrez and Vardy to come up with the rest.
To not practice/put major emphasis on set-pieces, to not drill-in the importance of the basics (closing down, staying goal side, follow your man not the ball etc) shows us that either the manager is seeing something we truly don’t, or he is tactically flawed big time. A recurring theme for us this season (both in terms of our results and our manager’s speeches) seems to be, “We’re attacking well, we’re scoring goals, but unfortunately our defending has let us down”. In all honesty, I would much rather hear “We’re defensively super solid, but unfortunately our passes in the final third didn’t come off tonight”.
The unpredictability of attacking passes is definitely more excusable than a blatant lack of practice/concentration in defensive situations. And unless our manager is ready to accept this reality, and perhaps making some bold changes, eg, Realising Tim Howard is actually not good enough as our goalkeeper, it is quite hard to believe we could achieve something that is truly special with this current crop of players, before they eventually seek pastures new.
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