Often Partisan

Two Boxes

Saturday’s game was not just seen as a return to winning ways by Blues fans, but a return to a team that is attacking; a team full of purpose, of vim and vigour. For many, including Colin Tattum here, the return of Kevin Phillips to the team is seen as the catalyst for the improvement of performance. Whilst not denigrating at all KP’s contribution to the game on Saturday, I think that there is more to the win than just Phillips being able to score a goal – Blues were better defensively, and for Blues that can mean the difference between three points and no points.

Statistically, the two games weren’t that different. Whilst it appears we attacked more against Bolton, and created more chances, the truth is that we didn’t. Using the chalkboards from the Guardian’s website, I can demonstrate this here:

Chalkboards of shots

If you count the number of shots in each game, they tally up exactly the same – 12 shots in total, 5 on target, 5 off target and 2 blocked. The only difference between them is that Jaaskelainen let in one more of the on target shots than Ali al-Habsi did. I thought that Phillips did well to take his chance, but Bolton’s Finnish stopper should have done much better with it. Goalkeepers making simple errors is a theme I intend to come back to.

Passing wise, you can also see that there isn’t that much dissimilar between the two games; whilst the completion rate is higher against Bolton, it’s only marginally so (less than a percent higher). Blues played a much shorter passing game against Bolton, with many more sideways passes in the middle and less direct punts up front than against Wigan.

Passes

This can be broken down further by looking at individual player’s games. Ferguson, freed of injury to his rib was able to play a bigger part, with a better pass completion rate and a third more passes over all than against Wigan. Ferguson Passes

Craig Gardner too was much more mobile against Wigan and got around the pitch much more, as can be shown by his chalkboard. What’s interesting is that whilst Gardner passed it forwards a lot against Bolton, not many at all of those passes were successful.

Gardner Passes

At the time of watching the game, I thought that Blues pressed the opposition much more against Bolton, and were a lot hungrier for the ball. Pressing the opposition is something that Blues do well, and the lack of it against Wigan allowed the Latics to settle into their own game, and try to get behind the full backs.  However, I think one other massive discrepancy between the two games has been overlooked – Ben Foster.

Against Wigan Foster didn’t play well; he was at fault for at least one, if not both of the goals. When Blues conceded the first goal, it rocked them back on their heels and I think it massively changed the way that they played. Had they not conceded that I’m certain that they’d have gone on to win comfortably as Wigan just didn’t look happy as a team prior to it going in. Against Bolton, Foster was back to his inspired best. There were at least two saves from Sturridge in the first half that were top class that allowed us to hold on to the lead until the interval; and the two brilliant saves at the end ensured we went home with three points.

After Wembley, an Arsenal fan remarked to me on the tube that football was a simple game; that it was all about what happened in the two 18 yard boxes. He contended that Arsenal lost at Wembley simply because they weren’t as good as Blues in either area, defensively or attacking, and that we deserved the win. I think that simple breakdown of what football is is what Blues need to focus on – scoring goals is important, and it’s important we improve on our attacking but we also have to ensure we cut out the silly goals. If we don’t concede goals, we cannot lose. That’s not to say we have to be all-out defensive; more that the players need to be concentrating for the entire match on not making a mistake and allowing something silly to deny them the good work up the pitch.

 

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2 Responses to “Two Boxes”

  • MrMustard says:

    That last paragraph seems eerily prescient when you consider Ridgwell’s horrendous and hugely costly cock-up yesterday.

    • almajir says:

      I’ve consistently believed it’s not “not being attacking” that has cost us this season, but defensive errors. Yes, we don’t score as many as we could but we are making too many mistakes at the back. Keep clean sheets and you can’t lose – and a point a game hereon will keep us up


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