Often Partisan

Unpopular Tactics

So, the Blues unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at the weekend. Having had a little while to think about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that one thing cost us more than everything else – and that was the change from the 4-5-1 Blues have been playing recently to what you think would think is a more natural 4-4-2. I know this may be heretical, but right now I think we’d be better off playing just one up top.

Before you say it, I’m not going all defensive minded. I think Hughton has proved this season that 4-5-1 doesn’t have to be a defensive formation at all; as long as you’ve got two wide men who can get forwards and one in the middle maybe to push on as well then it’s all good. With the signings of Huseklepp and Townsend I believe Blues have the personnel to pull this off.

The main problem with the team at the weekend seemed to be in the midfield. Both Fahey and Mutch seemed to have trouble getting to grips with the Forest midfield and as such Steve Cotterill’s men seemed to be able to attack with ease. Blues rely on having a good base in midfield to get passes going wide and forwards and whilst Mutch and Fahey both improved in the second half neither got that sort of role going. This was compounded by Zigic and King; neither look completely 100 per cent fit and neither are that quick anyway – so a quick counter attack at pace isn’t going to happen.

There was a moment in the second half just prior to Zigic getting subbed when he intercepted a pass beautifully with a header forwards, and the ball bounced into a bit of space behind the full back and away from the keeper. Unfortunately, Zigic was the only Blues player close to it and he was never going to beat Lee Camp in a foot race to the ball. It was a shame really; Zigic hadn’t had the best of games although he tried to put himself about and I thought we hadn’t played to his strengths at all.

However, I wonder what would have happened for instance if Hughton had lined up with a front six of:

Mutch Fahey

Burke Huseklepp Townsend


My thinking is that it would have allowed Mutch and Fahey to sit a little deeper, as both prefer to do and maybe pushed Burke and Townsend a little bit more onto the Forest fullbacks (although I do think both Gunter and Elokobi had very good games). Huseklepp looks like an intelligent player who can make runs off a main striker and can both pass and shoot well. I’d have then maybe had Zigic on the bench to change things if it looked like we needed a bigger target up front, and Redmond to offer an alternative to Burke or Townsend.

Of course, going one striker up front isn’t going to be a popular move at home – another thing I noticed is that whilst Blues tried to build up patiently (as they do away from home, judging by the commentary from Blues Player at any rate) there was frustration in the crowd because they weren’t immediately getting the ball forwards, and I think this transferred onto the pitch, causing the players to make simple errors. I have no problem personally with the team playing the ball across the park from side to side to try to make space but like the idea of 4-5-1, it’s not popular – because some people want Blues to batter the opposition penalty area throughout the game like they did in the last five minutes. I think the weight of expectation was there because of Blues’ run and the position of Forest in the table but Saturday proved, you can’t just turn up and win.

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18 Responses to “Unpopular Tactics”

  • Nigel1875 says:

    Players put in bad individual and collective performances. End of.

    • JohnR says:

      I agree they did but ask yourself why. I think Forest got their tactics right and knew what they had to do to stop us playing. Bringing in Zigic and continually playing the long ball to him just didn’t work. That’s not just the player’s fault but also the manager picking the wrong side. Look how much better we were when Zigic was taken off and we played the ball along the ground a lot more.

  • JohnR says:

    I fully agree Almajir, I hate to say it but I thought CH got it wrong. He commented after the match that the service to the front two was poor but surely this was because Fahey and Mutch were outnumbered in midfield. I think we look better and play with more composure with five in midfield. We desperately miss N’Daw who would have brought some strength and aggression to the team and wouldn’t have been bullied out of it like Fahey and Mutche were.

  • AuldBertie says:

    Unfortunately Jordon Mutch had probaly his worst ever game in a Blues shirt on saturday and very few of his passs were on target hence we constantly gave possession away in midfield. Hopefully it was a one-off and it’s unfair to be too harsh on a twenty-year-old who has generally done well since cementing his place in the team. We have really missed N’Daw and the sooner he returns the better for me. I also though Spector was very poor on saturday. His passing is generally wayward at best but on saturday he was only just behind Mutch for misplaced passes. His crossing too was very poor and posed no threat to Forest’s defence. The attacking dimension Carr provides us with was definitely lacking and I for one will be very pleased to see him back

  • andy says:

    We can all sit down and pick the bones out of formations and team selections. Every manager has days when they maybe feel they should have lined up differently, Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that recently. CH i would think, was happy with the formation against Forest and so were the crowd who waited in anticipation of a comfortable win. It wasnt to be, and its a kick up the backside because every game is difficult. Forest certainly wasnt going to come, respect our run and lie down. Blues were poor in the first half and calamitous defending ultimately, cost us the game. There can be no expectations of the right to beat anyone in this League, Blues have had an excellant run which has put us in the top 6, and the aim now, is to stay there.

  • Tony D says:

    I agree. Too many players had bad games. Fahey and Mutch were on their heels, off the pace, and their touch deserted them. Spector was poor, apart from one goal saving tackle. The litany of mistakes and hesitation leading up to their second goal was very un-Blues like. Lining up in a 4-5-1 would not have changed much, especially with Townsend struggling to gel with the team. We just have to put it down to the bad day at the office that was surely due at some stage.

    Take the positives and move on. Positives included a run-out for Townsend and Whosaklepto, another rousing finale which, on any day would have saved a point at least, a good kick up the arse, a much stronger squad emerging (the two loan signings; King, Zig and N’Daw coming back to fitness). On the negative side, Fahey looked as if he had done his groin shortly before the end, although he reocovered enough to rattle the woodwork.

  • chris says:

    mostly agree, i think they miss either gomis or ndaw doing the rough, tough stuff.
    bringing zigic in who hasn’t been fit for a month was too soon and he’s proved last season and this that he needs to be really fit to be at his best.
    a new player who’s only 20 shouldn’t have replaced elliot. townsend should have come on as a sub, maybe he shouldn’t have even been in the matchday squad ahead of elliot.
    just because he’s come from spurs doesn’t mean he’s better than we have or will take time to adjust to a new team.
    i think the team was unsettled by these changes and we saw the result.
    redmond should have had more than ten minutes.
    one shot in the first half to me shows the lack of cohesion from the starting eleven.
    it’s a kick in the teeth to gomis, elliot and rooney to be dropped so quickly for two loan players when they have contributed so much this season.
    our home form has suffered this month only 5/12 points so i think the positive in my eyes is the monkey is off the back.
    so there’s now no pressure to keep any runs or records going. they can start again without that added pressure.
    they have a week to re-group and settle in the two new players and bounce back.

  • quokkasskip says:

    4-5-1 at home is so negative. If you get an away team playing the same formation you will struggle to score goals. First half yesterday was as bad as we have been under Hughton. It was the players fault. I thought Townsend, although decent going forward cause us defensive problems and it was no surprise that both their goals came from our left. Mutch, Burke, Spector and King were awful first half. Zigic was actual our best attacking player in the first half. We were a different team second half and could of easily won it. Hopefully this will be the reality check the players need and refocus them for the remaining games. I fully expect us to play 4-4-2 versus Derby and truly batter them….

  • Dino Tiltoni says:

    As quokkasskip says:

    Both Forest goals came from the left as Murphy was exposed due to lack of support from Townsend. He got much more help from Beausejour. I think it would have been better to have started Redmond on the left.

  • John says:

    Steve Cotterill and his staff had quite obviously done their homework on Blues weak link,which was Murphy. Murphy is a good attacking full back,but regularly fails to stop wingers crossing the ball. Forest ripped us to pieces, down their right flank and both goals came because Murphy failed to stop crosses. In fairness to Murphy, he has been covered most of the season by Beausejour,who worked hard in front of him and helped to make him look a lot better, than he actually is. When Townsend has settled in and got to know how the team works,maybe that will help Murphy again. As Blues have no cover for Murphy, maybe Chris Hughton is looking for a new left back. One good thing about our loss on Saturday,was the fact that Blues kept on working hard to the very end and indeed, nearly got the equaliser . Wether we deserved it or not,is another matter. Anyway,hopefully, we can start another undefeated run going now. KRO

  • John says:

    Although they also played 442 they played very narrow while we tried to get plenty of width. Unfortunately this gave them more bodies in the middle.

    I do feel though that the 2nd goal was a bit lucky, and at a time while we were on top. If they hadn’t of scored we would of gone on and won the game. Like what’s happened in a lot of games at home this season

  • RichardW says:

    Absolutely spot on about Murphy. Shame to criticise a wholehearted player who is capable of incisive runs forward and can tackle well but just look at how many goals come from balls in from his flank. He has a tendency to drift inside and leave the wing exposed. Just look at his positioning for Chelsea’s equalizer last week.

  • Dino Tiltoni says:

    Murphy has been playing well this season and has become popular with the fans. In previous seasons he has been hesitant and lacked confidence. A run in the side has done him good but he is sometimes positionally weak as identified and needs some protection which seems unlikely to come from Townsend.

  • Wingman Blue says:

    Attention focused ont eh new signings, you can perhaps forgive CH from not giving enough of his customary thorough attention to his matchday preparations. Unlike McJudas, CH does learn from his mistakes…

  • alexjhurley says:

    The answer is simple,

    1. Ndaw in for Mutch.
    2. Make sure Townsend understands and carries out his defensive duties, or pick redmond
    3. Start with Huseklep not Zigic
    4. don’t kick into the the low winter sun in the first half so Burke and Sprector can’t see what’s happening.

    We lost, big deal, there’s no easy games. We’re still capable of challenging for automatic promotion.

    Stay positive: In CH we trust

  • Lichfield Blue says:

    I think Forest did their homework and so indeed have a few other sides to visit St Andrew’s of late. Since we started to move up the table, it appears that we are getting far more respect and sides are very cautious – both Hull and Pompey focused on not losing rather than winning [as I believe Forest did] and I’m sure we have got to expect this for the remaining games at home. Most teams are trying to get the full-back tight on Burke and to stop the ball getting through to him quickly and too often on Saturday our build-up was too slow – I’m not saying hoof the ball, just try and move it forward quickly.

    We tend to go 4-5-1 away and 4-4-2 at home, but is one better than the other, or is it about how the opposition set-up and the different dynamic if you are home/away? I don’t know the answer; perhaps we should just continue to focus on what suits us best rather than over-worry about the opposition [let McLeish continue to do that at Vile Park] – 4-5-1 can be an attacking formation!!

    A word too in defence of Murphy against Chelsea; for me the goal came from Ibanez not tracking properly and not jumping to try and put Sturridge off his stroke. Ivanovic is a quality attacking option and, whilst Redmond did a decent job in tracking back, there was a lot of attacking threat for Murphy and redmond to cope with.

  • chris says:

    last year we wanted 4-4-2 and now we have got it, you want 4-5-1. Ridiculous. In Hughton we trust

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