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'The Road to Hull...

By Paul Walsh :  21/09/2008 :  Comments (12) :
... is paved with good intentions'...

I'm hoping not to be thinking that, sitting on Humberside at 5 o'clock this evening! Excuse my play on the old adage which highlights the difference between a dreamer's desire and the need for positive action if one's hopes are to be realised. I am hoping that we win today of course but in addition, what I'd like to see most of all, is a big fat zero immediately following Everton on the scoresheet.

There is no doubt that our indifferent start to our campaign has been caused by our poor defending. The time has come today, for those selected to start in defence, to shut up shop.

There have been various arguments here and in other places as to why we are shipping goals at such an alarming rate. Carsley's departure is held up (correct to a degree in my opinion) to be the main reason for our defensive demise so far but there has to be life after Lee.

I am hoping but not expecting for Cap'n Pip, Joey, Joleon and Leighton to line up in front of Tim today. Why? Because they represent, in my opinion, the best players for those positions currently available to us. The omission of Jags (who I'd bench) is bound to cause some consternation amongst his supporters here but aside from his organisational and vocal input, Phil for me doesn't really cut the mustard. I find his last gasp style a turn-off to be frank and fraught with danger. I'm thinking Arsenal at home last season right now. I'm not nailing his attitude (which seems first class) but his composure really, especially when we're in possession.

None of my misgivings about Jagielka should exonerate Messrs Howard, Lescott or Yobo who in various turns have not acquitted to themselves to the expected standard so far. Neville escapes my wrath because overall he's been Steady Eddie and there's comfort in that at least. I want Baines in because I believe with a run in the team he'll prove to be as able defensively as he is in attack. Hopefully the recruitment of Fellaini and Castillo should render his non-selection on grounds of his lack of height to the bin. It's not Baines being too short that was the problem so much as the plethora of short arses elsewhere in the team that caused his sacrifice.

So having opted for my preferred back four we come to the vexed question of Carsley's replacement. I was at Stoke last week to see Castillo's debut and saw enough to persuade me, he in time, could do a job. The most impressive thing is his desire to find feet with a pass. Hence a couple of passes being intercepted as he tried to find his range and timing with new team-mates. I can live with that for a couple of matches whilst he adjusts to the frenetic pace of the game here.

Obviously his primary function will be to guard the back four and thwart the opposition's forward forays but instinct if nothing else tells me he's more than equal to the task. Besides he looks suitably mean and moody which is what you want from your enforcer/water carrier. Don't underestimate the value of looking like a hard bastard when it comes to intimidating some of the more delicate wallflowers that inhabit some of our opponents' midfields.

Whatever people's take on how we lined up last week, it was an obvious 4-2-3-1 formation from where I was sitting and I'd expect Moyesie to stick with that again today. Fellaini could come back in besides Casti with licence to get forward to support Mikel, Tim, Ossy or Vic (perm any three from that four depending on injuries) with the Yak at point.

As I stated at the top whilst three points is the ambition today the need for a clean sheet is vitally important also. Especially with what lays waiting for us over the course of the next three matches. With that in mind I hope Howard, Lescott, Yobo et al show us through deed today and not repute that they are all square to the job in hand. The time has come for them to stop thinking they're good players and to show us they are!


Reader Comments

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Jim Hourigan
1   Posted 21/09/2008 at 19:55:04

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Sadly Paul not to be and once more we conceded 2 goals of such amateurish standard that its embarassing. Both from set pieces so none of this bull about missing Carsley. For the second week running we look very vulnerable as soon as the ball is sent into the box and that has nothing to do with the midfield. Like you I don’t think Jags is good enough and today the number of balls he allowed to bounce was scary. It gave them the confidence to keep lobbing balls in and I reckon between them Yobo and Jags won fewer than half a dozen balls in the air (until they tired in the last 25). Neither of them got close to their forwards and they both looked very poor. Something is wrong in the centre of the back 4 cos I don’t think they know who is going to be playing there regularly. I think DM has to make a decision and tell them and stick with it for at least 6-8 games.

I also am starting to have grave concerns about Howard. Both today and last week I don’t think he came for one cross and I think its something teams have sussed. He’s a good shot stopper but are crosses his achilles heel? With a goalie and the centre backs looking very suspect I cant see a clean sheet on the horizon !!
Michael Williams
2   Posted 21/09/2008 at 21:10:16

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Think a problem we have is when we start with just the Yak up front and the 4 behind him. This seems to be more of a problem when we play teams who realistically shouldnt be on the same pitch as us.. So far this season we have only come to life when somebody else is brought on to put pressure on poor defences who when put under pressure look like they should concede goals left right and centre.... Instead these teams are putting us under pressure....Come on DM play 2 up top against these sort of teams..
Derek Thomas
3   Posted 22/09/2008 at 06:37:04

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I don’t buy in to this Baines is too small malarky.

One of he Fullbacks jobs is to stop the crosses coming in from wide. From the sublime, Wilson, Parker, Wright, to the ridiculous Neville and Hibbert ( sorry lads but they WERE a different class) there are no giants heightwise.

The key is the space infront and behind the fullback and who is covering it or not.

But nowadays there are very few get to the byeline and cross it wingers. The crosses in tend to come from deeper positions. So maybe that where the ’ cross stopper’ aka fullback should be! not a full back, but a wing back.

Three at the back plus 2 wingbacks, with a minder / Carsley / Castillo in the middle. This, depending if we are in full flight forward or, as seems to happen up to now, full flight going back gives 3, 4, or 6....OR if we are to totally embrace the defend from the front mind set 10!!

No lesser light than Joe Mercer said football is a simple game, when we attack we have 10 going forward and when we defend we have 10 coming back.

Nothing in this seems at odds with Moyeses and the teams all for one ethos.

What ever comes about we can’t go on leaking goals at this rate.
Derek Thomas
4   Posted 22/09/2008 at 07:13:05

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And another thing Felliani is 6ft 4in and got done at the far post, so maybe what I’ve been telling the wife really is true, size doesn’t matter it’s what you do with it that counts. It doesn’t seem to stop Cahill nodding them in.
dominic duerden
5   Posted 22/09/2008 at 08:09:52

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Baines is hopeless, not as bad as Hibbert, but still hopeless.

Last years back five of Howard , Lescott, Yobo , Jags and Neville was outstanding. So far this year Howard has had a ’ mare ’. He may need to be dropped if he cant pull it around. Other than that, I would just be patient and I expect they will get things back to how they were last year..
Kevin Tully
6   Posted 22/09/2008 at 10:05:53

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"The Road To Hull"

Starring Bob Hope and Tim Howard.
Richard Harris
7   Posted 22/09/2008 at 10:13:01

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Jim Hourigan wrote "I also am starting to have grave concerns about Howard. Both today and last week I don?t think he came for one cross and I think its something teams have sussed. He?s a good shot stopper but are crosses his achilles heel?"

When I?ve watched Tim Howard from behind the goal I?ve always felt that his positioning could be far better and that it was his agility to get across to stop the shot that was his strength. However a real top goalkeeper should have instinctive as well as properly trained and practiced positional play. I do love when people say "he?s a good shot stopper but...". If you?re not a good shot stopper then you shouldn?t be playing in goal!!

Ben Howard
8   Posted 22/09/2008 at 10:49:29

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I think our recent lack of composure comes primarily from the keeper. I don’t want to start slamming Tim as I think he’s done really well since he came to the club and is still my no 1.

However, I remember the plaudits from the press and fans alike after his first season at United. He was vocal and bullish at the start, yet a few silly mistakes seemed to knock him for six and he never really recovered until he pulled on the beautiful Blue.

He appears to be going through that again and maybe fears for his place. This, you may feel, would motivate him to do better, but confidence with goalkeepers is paramount and we need to stick with him and show him love - he’ll come good in the end.

Just think how Paul Robinson’s career has taken a nose dive since he was Englands’ No. 1! I don’t want us as fans to feel we’re slightly responsible for knocking the last shred of composure Timmy has out of him!
Paul Walsh
9   Posted 22/09/2008 at 10:15:40

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Well all I can say is that the most obvious emotion I felt at the final whistle was relief. This was promptly followed by gratitude to forces unknown as we came away with a point we barely could have hoped for, with our display in the first seventy minutes. I wrote the article in the early hours of Sunday morning hoping that the effort would help me to sleep. I raised a few points concerning my hopes for the game and here is a brief conclusion of what I found out from watching it.

Firstly we started abysmally, devoid of any real passion or fight. It was apparent from the off that the defence (with the surprise inclusion of Baines over Lescott) was at sixes and sevens. Credit has to be given to Hull for starting very brightly and knocking the ball about very well. I wasn?t surprised when they scored. We?d been inviting them onto us from the start. I couldn?t believe how the lad got above Fellaini in the way he did to score mind you.

The initial formation was as I suspected it would be 4-2-3-1 but in contrast to the Stoke game it seemed to hinder us more than help us this week.Of course if you?re determined to give the ball away as much as we seemed to do then you?re going to create problems for yourselves. I?d suggest that system is also reliant on pace in your midfield when breaking with the ball and we were badly lacking any of that until Saha?s arrival.

Going back to the defence Baines was pulled at half time and I feel that tells a story in itself. He didn?t cover himself in glory but didn?t do much wrong either. Lescott?s omission and then appearance after the break in the left back position had in my view more than a little bit of political machination attached to it. Moysie laying down the law to Joleon perhaps? My way or the highway? Whatever, I fully expect Baines to be on his way now as it is obvious if he?s surplus to requirements then we need to cash in in order to purchase this winger Moysie supposedly wants, to give us pace and width further up the field.

I stand by my assertions about Jagielka, "car crash defending" all the way and even worse clearing the ball "blind" when there was no need. He?s not even as good as Stubbs and yet we?re supposed to have moved on. Believe me, nice guy he maybe, but effort and endeavour aren?t enough where we hope to go.

Castillo had a very tidy first half with the exception of one glaringly bad pass. Could consider himself unlucky to be sacrificed. He?s getting with the pace and I wouldn?t worry about him. Ecuadorian or Martian he can still play a bit... no danger.

Fellaini? Well he?s got to go down as a "Work in Progress"... no more. Seems to be playing "within" himself at the moment and discovering whilst he was a big fish in a small pond in Belgium, now he?s just a big fish in a very big sea. Has to learn it?s permissible for him to jump for balls in the air.

Arteta... flatters to deceive at times. Yesterday was one of those days. I?d suggest he go back to corner-kicking school. Wouldn?t have beaten Ronnie Corbett at the near post with some of those deliveries yesterday. However, he was far more effective in open play when he was moved inside

Cahill was largely anonymous in a typically Tim Cahill fashion until he scored. Perhaps he?ll give us ten goals in ten games like the last time he returned from injury. We?re probably going to need him to do so.

Saha was very impressive when he came on, intelligent in his movement outstanding in the air for first ball and the sight of Yak and him together was the highlight of the day. Here?s hoping he manages to stay fit. We need his pace if nothing else.

Overall we didn?t get either of the two things I wanted. The win or the clean sheet, and you?d have to be a blind man not to see that we have serious problems at the back right now. They?ve got to sort it out soon or we?ll be out of everything before we know it.

Kevin Gillen
10   Posted 22/09/2008 at 11:56:16

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Paul Walsh I agree with nearly all of your observations except the Cahill ones. He?s not the most mobile of midfielders but he was so clever all game I thought and outworked the Hull midfielders (they were out on their feet at the end of the game). He is also a constant goal threat.

I don?t think Moyes will let Baines go. He has to be patient. Hull would have killed to have an attacking left back like him available to them. When he comes in he looks like a quality player to me and he will play his part in time. I agree we need an attacking wide player, Pienaar might have had a field day against McShane, a central defender playing fullback who didn?t get over the half way line all afternoon.

Paul Walsh
11   Posted 22/09/2008 at 12:41:39

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Kevin Gillen - to tell you the truth I did wonder if I was being unfair to Cahill as I reviewed that post. On reflection I should have said his link up play has improved very much and he rarely wasted possession as some of his more erstwhile colleagues did. It wasn?t meant to be as much a criticism as it read and you?re right to take me to task over it.
Chris Williams
12   Posted 22/09/2008 at 21:29:30

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Perhaps Moyes needs to drop Howard to give Carlo a chance, plus a wake-up call to Howard to get it together.

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