Often Partisan

Back to the Chalkboard

Having had some time to reflect on the game yesterday against Wolves, I thought it would be interesting to review and analyse in detail some of the match to show where Blues were strongest and weakest. To do this I’ve again utilised the excellent chalkboards from the Guardian website.

As I expected, Cameron Jerome took a load more abuse on the Blues messageboards for not scoring against Wolves. No matter that he’d had one shot on goal, and was dining on the merest of scraps up front; people seem to expect miracles. Worse still, there were some that claimed Jerome was lazy. This is unforgivable – if there is one thing Jerome isn’t, it’s lazy.

In the above image, the successful tackles made by Jerome are in blue, and unsuccessful ones are in red. As you can see, Jerome successfully won the ball in their half ten times, with quite a few of them occurring around the Wolves 18 yard area. If this isn’t evidence of Jerome working hard to try and win the ball for Blues, nothing is. Eight of these were in the air, and were won despite being shoved in the back by a defence that seemed to get away with a lot. The bigger problem was that there was no one around him for the flick-ons to go to – but there can be no denial that Jerome tried to win the ball for Blues. To win over fifty percent of the aerial balls as a lone striker surrounded by centre-backs willing to rough you up is a good percentage.

One player who did push up and tried to help Jerome when he came on was Chilean winger Jean Beausejour. As the next graphic shows, he did his best to keep the ball in the right end of the pitch.

Fully fifty percent of the passes Jean Beausejour made were in the final third of the pitch, where he held on to possession and enabled the Blues defence to take a breather – in numerical terms the Chilean made ten successful passes and just three unsuccessful ones in that area. Admittedly, Beausejour only attempted one cross (which was unsuccessful), but as some have pointed out that may have been a tactical attempt by McLeish to just hold the ball up in their half to relieve the defence. Rather than attacking Wolves with vigour, it was more of a rearguard action led from the front – with ten men on the pitch for an hour, that’s not the worst of plans.

Liam Ridgewell is one of my favourite players, but his passing was a bit iffy during the game; the simple short passes in the main found their man, but all too often Ridge would lose the ball by trying to hump it forward, as the next graphic shows.

As you can see, Ridgewell did make quite a few good passes down the left hand touch line, but anything where he tried to get the ball much further forwards either ran out of play or was gobbled up by the Wolves defence. Whilst it’s true our goal came from a long ball straight from Foster, it’s also true that the long ball doesn’t suit us; Beausejour in front of Ridgewell was doing a good job in front of him, and particularly in the second half I was disappointed that the two of them didn’t work together in the same way that Stephen Carr and Seb Larsson do; ie one bombing on behind the defence to give the other the option.

The last thing I noticed was the erraticism of Roger Johnson’s passing. Now don’t get me wrong, Rog puts his head and his body into the line of fire match after match, and he’s a great defender – but his passing isn’t the best.

As you can see, every time Johnson looked to hump the ball up the pitch, it just got gobbled up by the Wolves backline. Worse, many of his clearances went straight to a Wolves player also. However, it’s not all Johnson’s fault; the fact is, with just Jerome up front we lacked any kind of attacking dimension and too often the midfield were too far back to try and support Jerome (with the notable exception of Jean Beausejour). It’s sad really, because I think the long balls unsettled the Wolves backline, and with Jerome winning a lot of headers we’d maybe have profited more if we’d have had eleven men on the pitch.

Hopefully when Eck and the backroom staff watch back the DVD of the game, they’ll pick up on some of what we did right, and maybe Jean Beausejour will get a chance on Saturday – with Gardner out of action due to his red card and Bentley leaving St Andrews in a huff, you’ve got to think that the Chilean might get a chance. I also hope that McLeish will look at Zigic for the Toon game, and get him to work with Jerome (and Phillips) on how they’re going to make use of what could be more aerial domination – the runs off the targetman could be the difference between us scoring and drawing another blank.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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