How we lost that match yesterday I do not know. Perhaps a lack of killer instinct but absolutely not a lack of effort, attacking play, defensive stubbornity – we really countered their set-piece threat.
Unfair, unjust, unlucky, utterly undeserved. But not unhappy.
I really do not mind losing games when we play that well. If we keep playing like that, we will pick up points. We will win some games.
Whether it would be enough to stay up is another matter.
But I am sure that I am not saying anything too controversial when I suggest that I’d rather stay up playing good, attacking football and fighting – than the dismal, defensive 0-0 dream disasters of yonder.
Key to the return of flowing, attacking football has been the return of 3-5-2.
Overlooked, I feel, so far, is also the return of Tom Huddlestone.
I always thought that Steve Bruce, god rest his soul, did not take advantage of his quality on the ball. Bruce tended to play him in that “quarterback” role, where he could splay passes around but also left him with rather a fair chunk of defensive duties. Whilst he can put in a cracking tackle, he does also give away more than his fair share of fouls.
Huddlestone, for me, is a better semi-attacking midfielder, and Phelan seems to be giving him less defensive responsibilities than Bruce did – we are seeing more forward balls from Huddlestone than we used to.
It is no co-incidence to me that the more positive, attacking (or at least counter-attacking) football that we have played in the last three games, two of which we could easily have won, are not only attributable to the return of 3-5-2 but also to the return of Huddlestone, and the correct utilisation of Tommy boy.
Also of note yesterday was during West Ham’s set pieces, as far as I could see on my dodgy link, we were keeping two men up front. Such a source of frustration when we clear the ball but only have one person up front – having two allows us to break quickly and does not necessarily impede us defensively – it does make the opposition think about having to keep an extra man back, and significantly reduces the chance that the opposition can instantly put more pressure on after we clear the ball.
I do think Phelan now has both his best formation, and his best team. I had my doubts about Phelan, but he seems to be making some good decisions at the moment.
Long may this attractive, flowing football continue. If we go down with a fight, playing good football, then so be it. Its not often one can enjoy being bottom in the Premiserable League but there really has been an improvement. We will win some games!
Starting with Man City on Boxing Day. I can feel it.