Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Reliance on Robin is not Wright

Morning all, and welcome to a brand new week.

I will, this morning, be avoiding the hot topics of hatred and abuse and Match of the Day. In the first instance there’s very little you can do about it (especially as no club/fans are whiter than white) and in the second any programme that would have The Goblin Prince as its guest, to peddle his footballing philosophy, hardly needs me to further its agenda by complaining about them and giving oxygen to the nonsense they broadcast most of the time,

Anyway, plenty to be going on with this morning, starting with the manager looking for the skipper to drag us over the line and into third place this season. He says:

He has to push us over the line, there are two games to go. We have been a bit over-reliant on him, I concede that. But it is difficult to change that before the end of the season.

It is kind of unusual for the manager to so publicly put pressure on one individual, even if he is the most likely source of goals. Maybe he wants to focus Robin ahead of the last couple of games, but with Rosicky in the team, Gervinho, Benayoun, and even someone like Ramsey who can get himself into good positions, I’m surprised he didn’t look to urge more from the team rather than one individual.

Maybe he saw Gervinho miss that header on Saturday and realised that it’d be asking too much to expect others to contribute, but it’s a bit odd nonetheless. What’s also interesting is that Yossi Benayoun has pretty much backed up the manager by comparing him to Fernando Torres (in his most effective years) and saying it’s up to the team to give van Persie the ball in areas he can score from. He says:

We know we must give Robin the ball in the right place and he will score. That is what we did against Stoke and he has been doing that all season.

Again, it’s understandable that when you have a player as good as van Persie on your team you try and play to his strengths, but there’s an inherent danger in becoming overly-reliant on one player for his goals. This is from Tony Adams book ‘Addicted’ when he talks about being too dependent on Ian Wright:

With Ian you could hardly help yourself sending ball over the top for him all the time to run on to. It can make you lazy, so that you were looking for him all the time and if it didn’t come off, you didn’t have other options.

I guess it’s a good thing that the manager recognises that a) we have been a bit too focused on van Persie’s goals when others should contribute more, and that b) it’s something we need to address in the summer. But, I do wonder if we’re falling into this trap a bit already. For example, Laurent Koscielny’s long passing.

For the record, let me state I’m a fan, I think he’s been excellent all season long and this is not meant as a criticism, merely an observation. On Saturday, against Stoke, he gave the ball away a number of times when passing it long, looking for a forward. Whether this was because he had no options around him I can’t quite remember but it did strike me as familiar, and it seems to be something of a pattern in his game.

Koscielny’s passing Stoke – 28.04.12

Koscielny’s passing Chelsea – 27.03.12

And it was very similar against Everton, Man City and plenty of other games this season. Maybe it’s an instruction, to try and hit the forwards early, and on Saturday against Stoke it didn’t seem to be because of fatigue and/or desperation. But maybe too it’s because we’re always looking to one man to make the difference and when Robin van Persie can’t do it we’re left short of ideas.

In the grand scheme of things maybe it’s not much to ask for Robin to do the business in two more league games but I would hope that his team-mates can see the other side of it. That they too have an important role to play. If they sit back and wait for their captain to do it, then we’re going to make life difficult for ourselves if he doesn’t. He’s won us plenty of points with plenty of goals, and I don’t think it would be unfair to suggest that others have not scored anywhere near as many as they should have, either through the chances they’ve had or the position they play in.

I’m glad Arsene has more or less said this is something we’ve got to find a solution for ahead of next season but I would hope there’s a focus on what the collective can do on the training ground this week. If there’s a header that requires a bit of bravery on the part of the player with the chance, I hope we see that because that can often be the difference between 1 point and 3, or 1 and none. Anyway, we’ll see on Saturday.

Chelsea and Sp*rs winning this weekend means that the pressure is still on even if it is in our own hands. However, 2 points from the last 9 (or 5 from 12) is a bit worrying when you remember how we’ve struggled to finish seasons in the last few years. We need one last big push, 2 wins will do it, a win and draw would probably do it but leave us relying on others to drop points so the former is clearly preferable.

We’ll touch on that more as the week goes on, no doubt, while tonight’s Manchester derby could well decide the title. I realise having to choose one over the other is the classic poo sandwich/vomit pie choice, but it’s United for me. As great and all as our rivalry is/was with them, there’s so much to dislike about City and how they do things. It would be just delaying in the inevitable, I know, but I can live with that for now.

Till tomorrow.

Koscielny stats via the StatsZone app for iPhone – download here.

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