A small tactical suggestion you will probably hate

Discussion in 'Columns' started by Bill_Oddie, Nov 21, 2013.

  • by Bill_Oddie, Nov 21, 2013 at 3:32 PM
  • Bill_Oddie

    Bill_Oddie Everything in Moderation Staff

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    Hello. I would like Andros Townsend to play left back.

    I can imagine the skin seething at this suggestion, the scalps frothing with anger and the fingers bristling to type rancid vitriol the likes of which the internet has never before experienced outside of a Mail Online comments section about homosexual Muslim job-seeking adolescents seducing your daughter. I was going to ease you into this gently but, like ripping off a sticking plaster, these things are best done quickly.

    Let me explain.

    I don’t think he should play there long term, by the way. Good Lord no. This is very much a ‘needs must’ situation. But what the needs must at this particular moment is a left footed attacking player at left back. Danny Rose is one, but he’s injured. Jan Vertonghen is only half of one, and he doesn’t want to play there. Kyle Naughton isn’t one, and he’s not good enough. Zeki Fryers is also not really one, and he’s also injured. And not good or experienced enough.

    If you stopped at the words “attacking” in the above paragraph, this is probably not the place for you. The inconvenient truth of the AVB system is that full backs are arguably our most important attacking players (no wonder we don’t score any goals, fnar fnar). After five games this season no other player in the team had touched the ball as much as Danny Rose (2nd) and Kyle Walker (1st). They are the starting point and the pivots for a majority of our attacks. Even in the opposition half, they see more of the ball than anyone else. Walker is in the top ten players in the Premier League (and unsurprisingly the only defender) for the most passes per game. He averages more key passes per game than Aaron Ramsey, Michael Carrick and Yaya Toure.

    Our game relies heavily on getting our full backs beyond the currently-much-maligned inverted wingers. Our system needs those full backs to push up and widen the pitch, in turn making more room for Eriksen and creativity in the middle. In Sandro, Capoue or Dembele, we have the cover to stay back in case we lose the ball and get hit on the break. This system has been extremely successful defensively and the reason it hasn’t worked offensively is, I would argue, that we have not had a proper attacking left back since Rose’s injury. Our best football since has been the two halves (Everton first half, Newcastle second half) that Vertonghen got further up the pitch and repeatedly went outside the right back. Otherwise, we’re too easy to defend against as we don’t get wide and stretch the play, and teams know when it comes to us attacking down the left we never get to the byline. It’s much simpler to defend crosses that come from deep as you can organise and you are facing the right way. Until we get past the opposition right back – or at least look like doing so more frequently – we are twice as predictable.

    So, for our system to work, we need a left back who is fast, left footed, comfortable with the ball at his feet, can deliver a cross and is called Andros (okay, I made that last one up).

    It’s essentially the reverse move that Gareth Bale made. There were many who felt Gareth Bale would make a great left back. They weren’t wrong. It’s just he makes an even better attacking midfielder or inverted right winger. The arguments these people used for Bale at left back: “He can run onto the ball”, “He’ll have space in front of him to get his pace up”, “He can push back both the opposition right sided players taking them both out of the game”, “He can cross both early and when he gets to the byline”, “He has a left ruddy foot”, all these are exactly the same for Andros Townsend.

    Would we miss much of Townsend in the attacking right side spot? One accidental goal and no assists would suggest otherwise, although his fine form has deserved a better return. Moving him back to a spot he played at youth team level on occasion might give him more chance to increase that assist column. It may also come at the cost of less shots on goal, but given his shooting accuracy that might not be a terrible thing. Would you rather currently see Townsend or Lamela cutting inside and pulling back their left leg for a strike on goal?

    Which, for me, is the final factor. Townsend at left back lets Lamela – and another of our genuine star players, Jan Vertonghen - play in their preferred and best positions.

    Let the vitriol commence.
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Discussion in 'Columns' started by Bill_Oddie, Nov 21, 2013.

  1. Bearyid
    I can definitely see some kind of messed up logic in here ...
    He would be excellent at keeping the width and crossing into the box ...
    And his defensive capabilities aren't laughable...

    However I think his positioning and willingness to get back after an attack would let him down...

    Otherwise I'd be all for seeing it until Danny rose got back
    Specially to see Lamela do some more of those sexy step overs and tricks in the penalty box
  2. Sweetsman
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  3. doom
    not an absurd idea but in the same line of thought why not have Lennon at right back - he is probably more positionally aware than Walker. Put Walker on the left as an inverted winger. Then lets have Verts as an inverted defender and Soldado as an inverted striker and while we are there lets have AVB as an inverted manager.. do you get the drift?
  4. dougie
    Easy for us to say, but AVB has to pander to these ego's. Asking a high-profile, much hyped attacker to play in defence?

    If AVB had the reputation of Mourinho he could get away with it for a while, but he doesn't.
  5. Bill_Oddie
    Because we have a fit attacking right back. Again, this is a short term solution only.

    Sure, if Walker and Naughton were both injured - and Kaboul, who would not only be happier at FB than Verts but is more suited to playing our type of full back role (he was frequently the furthest player up the pitch for both us and Portsmouth when he's played RB) - and we needed a player to fill in at RB, Lennon would be the best fit. Certainly would be a sight better than Dawson there.
  6. Bill_Oddie
    Not necessarily worse than asking Vertonghen, who has explicitly said he doesn't want to be a left back, to play there. Jan's professional enough to do it anyway and Andros is smart enough to realise you do what the boss asks.

    Besides, again, full back in this team is rarely a defensive position. What we need is a naturally attacking player at left back. Like Walker is on the right.
  7. Sweetsman
    We could go three at the back with Chiriches, Kaboul and Vertonghen, then have four in the middle with Walker, Sandro, Capoue and Townsend, then two of Lamela and Holtby/Siggy, then Soldado at the front. There would have to be interchanging of positional play between midfield and forward lines to provide variety; I would bring on Ade for Walker if we went ahead and go to a flat back four with Capoue dropping back and Holtby also coming back into midfield. Adebayor has very good positional plate and could open up spaces for others.
  8. Acid
    Harry... is that you?
  9. Jacques
    Thats right...

    I remember Harry played him in the Europa League at LB....he had a shocker as far as I can recall!!
  10. spud
    'Rarely' doesn't mean 'never'. If we played somebody at left back who couldn't defend, other teams would see it and 'rarely' would become 'all of the time'. Even though we intend to play full backs as attackers, they must be able to defend; otherwise we're asking for trouble.
  11. PhilosoSPUR
    This is really good as a thought experiment but it just makes me realize why Vertongen is better than Naughton in this role. Then again, I would like to see us try this.
  12. Bill_Oddie
    Yeah, I accept that. Hence why it won't work long term.

    But in the absence of Rose - why we allowed ourselves to only have one person for such a key position at the end of the transfer window is a whole different discussion - we first tried a right-footed defender, Naughton, which was horrible as he would cut inside directly on top of Gylfi (Cardiff). Then we've gone with left-footed defender Vertonghen, which has worked when Verts has been able to push up, but this is our very best centre-back and someone who doesn't want to play left back. Since going to left back, he's two best halves have been the team's (Everton 1st, Newcastle 2nd).

    It's basically do we have a left back who is reluctant to attack or one who might be reluctant to defend. Our possession stats and goal-scoring record suggest it might be more dangerous to keep with the more defensive-minded player.

    I really think it's worth the risk as it is what our approach is all about. Although having said that, I probably agree with those who think the Manchester teams aren't the time to take that risk.
  13. parj
    I'm for it if means he has cross more instead of shooting
  14. Jody
    Might not be so good for his world cup chances...

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