not expecting big changes for the game as it doesn’t seem Bielsa’s way. If, as expected Sheff Utd win on Saturday to virtually consign us to the play offs, a lot of managers would rest players. Not Marcelo, I think Phillips will be back at the expense of possibly Klich (maybe Forshaw) and the left back will possibly be Beradi over Dallas. May also see Roofe return up front as the striker needs some game time..
So, a lot of people ask, what has gone wrong? Is it the much fabled ‘Bielsa burnout’, have we lost our bottle? For me. Neither for me. We are dominating games (possession wise) as much as we did at the beginning of the season. We are running just as fast and just as far – so why are we struggling so much? I think the answer is fairly simple… teams have figured out how to play against us a bit. Early on in the season, teams would come at us and we would just pick them off. We were fantastic at exploiting the spaces, finding the gaps. However, teams have seen how to stop us – and Birmingham were the first team to work it out. Condense the space. Let us have the ball in our half, sit deep with 10 men behind the ball. Pretty much every team does it now. It’s no surprise that (apart from Wigan), we score first and we win. Teams then have to come at us a little bit and move upfield, and we can pick them off. If a team scores against us, they can sit deeper and deeper and close all the space. I think it’s why we struggle against some of the ‘weaker’ teams. Those that have little or no ambition, but will try and frustrate and hit us on the break. Teams that attack us, like Derby and WBA are easier for us to get at. So what’s the answer? When teams defend like this, you sometimes need a bit of magic to unlock a defence. We don’t really have that – we have players who are trained to play in a system. Ball out wide, defender overlaps as the winger pulls inside etc. We fire in a load of crosses but the penalty box is crammed and we’re not great in the air. The only ‘magician’ we have is Henandez, and again, teams are figuring it out. It shows that we miss Saiz. Despite him not at his best before he left, he could produce moments of brilliance – and if he didn’t, Pablo could. We also had Jack Clarke who could do something out of nothing, but he’s not been the same since his collapse and needs to start again in pre season. In the summer, irrespective of what division we are in, we need someone with that touch of something – even if they frustrate at times like Saiz could.
The optimist tells me that in the Play offs we might actually do ok. Villa, WBA and whoever else are likely to want to attack a bit, and that’s where we are at our best.