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47 minutes ago, Enda said:

For the avoidance of any doubt: I think Dean Smith is absolutely the right man for the job, and obviously we've done really well this season.

The point about "Plan B" is that we can look a bit lost at times. We saw it for the last half-hour against Leeds when it was all one-way traffic. I'd even argue it was clear after 30 minutes that we needed to tactically change things a bit, but mostly I'm referring to last year when we'd go 1-0 down and we'd never come back. Dean is a bit slow at making changes, and except for the time when we played three at the back we've stuck fairly strongly to one formation. Pep and Plop don't have an obvious Plan B because they rarely need one. Teams like us don't have that luxury. It would be nice (understatement) if our setup could switch depending on circumstances.

In the old days the switch would be moving to 5-4-1 when you're closing out a game, or going 4-3-3 when you're chasing a game. I don't know what that switch could be for our side. We're not set up that way, and it's not clear how we could do that. And I think that's a reasonable criticism of our current set up, that we haven't a Plan B when it's all one-way traffic against us. I cannot think of a single game where Smith has made a change after 60 minutes that really turned the game. It might have happened once or twice, but I can't really think of one.

I agree completely.

I think Smith now has a starting XI, if everyone is fit, that suits his preferred style of play ... 4-3-3, even though, with Ross on board, that has become more of a 4-2-3-1.

I think the challenges come when (1) things are not going well, as in the last half hour against Leeds; or (2) where we pick up a couple of injuries; or (3) where you are in a position where, as you put it, you want to see out the game.  For me, Smith and his team need to show a lot of improvement in this area, certainly from last season, but, with the exception of the Leeds game, have not really been tested like this as yet.  I am hoping that Shakespeare will be able to bring a lot to the party in this respect. 

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On 27/10/2020 at 13:23, striker said:

I’m sorry I’ve done my best to explain what I meant. Southampton are a different team to Leeds with different player attributes and weaknesses so you have to adapt to that. No there isn’t just one way to beat a team but Villa went toe to toe with Leeds and got hammered. So common sense would tell you when they meet in the return game that Smith needs to change it against them or the same will happen again.

Wolves had a game plan against them by not leaving space through the middle or on the flanks nullifying Leed’s constant attempts to break them down and it worked hence my blueprint comment.

Clearly it’s you that doesn’t get it or simply won’t get it so there’s no further explanation needed on my part.

I understand what you're saying.

I disagree.

On 24/10/2020 at 11:28, striker said:

Smith had a ready made blueprint of how to play against Leeds (Wolves) and totally ignored it.

One would hope therefore that Smith will have a recording of the Wolves game in his pocket when Villa play Leeds again.

Wolves at Leeds is not a good enough performance to try and replicate.

Mourinho's Chelsea they were not. Leeds mauled them first half. They didn't restrict them of chances or the ball, if they had, I would probably agree with you it would be a good idea.

Luckily for Wolves, Leeds didn't score, and they nicked a deflection at the other end. Lovely stuff for Wolves, doesn't mean everyone should go to Leeds with that plan.

On 25/10/2020 at 12:57, striker said:

No matter how you look at it it doesn’t change the result.

Here's your problem.

No it doesn't change the result, but you need to look at all matches from multiple angles, not just the final score.

1-0 win good. 0-3 loss bad. That's not groundbreaking. 

Remember the 3-2 win at Goodison? Ashley Young. Is that a good performance for team's to use as a blueprint? You battered us for very close to 90 mins, we deserved nothing yet stole three points, great for us, crap for Everton. I wouldn't recommend other sides go to Goodison and get thumped for 90 mins thinking they'll pull out a 3-2 win because Villa once did.

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3 hours ago, Enda said:

For the avoidance of any doubt: I think Dean Smith is absolutely the right man for the job, and obviously we've done really well this season.

The point about "Plan B" is that we can look a bit lost at times. We saw it for the last half-hour against Leeds when it was all one-way traffic. I'd even argue it was clear after 30 minutes that we needed to tactically change things a bit, but mostly I'm referring to last year when we'd go 1-0 down and we'd never come back. Dean is a bit slow at making changes, and except for the time when we played three at the back we've stuck fairly strongly to one formation. Pep and Plop don't have an obvious Plan B because they rarely need one. Teams like us don't have that luxury. It would be nice (understatement) if our setup could switch depending on circumstances.

In the old days the switch would be moving to 5-4-1 when you're closing out a game, or going 4-3-3 when you're chasing a game. I don't know what that switch could be for our side. We're not set up that way, and it's not clear how we could do that. And I think that's a reasonable criticism of our current set up, that we haven't a Plan B when it's all one-way traffic against us. I cannot think of a single game where Smith has made a change after 60 minutes that really turned the game. It might have happened once or twice, but I can't really think of one.

Just off the top of my head from the 2nd half of last season:

  • Norwich at home, brings on Hourihane, he scores we win
  • Watford at home, brings on Luiz, he scores, we go on to win turning around a 1-0 deficit
  • Newcastle away, brings on Elmo, he scores, we grab a point

Against Leicester the other week there was a slight adjustment with Barkley and McGinn that helped us play better 2nd half, i remember being at the Sheff Utd game in the championship where we came back from 3-0 down - he made a tactical switch in midfield in the 1st half when we were losing, and it did help.

Could he use subs a bit better and a bit quicker in general? Absolutely, there's been times fresh legs have been required and not making changes has cost us, but then in slight mitigation our depth on the bench was poor last season.

The knock of 'no plan b, can't make in game adjustments' is one that is probably seen on every message board of every sports team tbh. As @Zatman said, it is a bit of a myth. For every in game change that actually works, you are looking at a lot more that ultimately have no effect.

Not directed at you @Enda, but i've never seen a game so over analysed as the Leeds one. Sometimes you just play shit; you look lethargic, not on it, and you get punished.

For all the praise that Bielsa is getting, he is someone who sticks rigidly to his plan - and then his teams burn out. Smith is often criticised for his teams being streaky and long bad runs - Bielsa went on a run of 1 win in 11 games over the Xmas period last season with a team that was pretty overpowered for the Championship. As well as his teams can play, as good as they look pressing and putting in so many miles more than the opposition at the start of the season, is that actually overall good management long term if you come up short at the business end of the season? Because that has happened several times with him.  

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3 minutes ago, andym said:

Not directed at you @Enda, but i've never seen a game so over analysed as the Leeds one. Sometimes you just play shit; you look lethargic, not on it, and you get punished.

For all the praise that Bielsa is getting, he is someone who sticks rigidly to his plan - and then his teams burn out.

Great post, especially this bit. Especially especially the bold bit.

It's still plenty of the posters that defended Steve Bruce for losing games in the Championship who are the most up for picking holes in Smith's game. Interesting.

Footnote: I do like Bielsa, and Leeds' recruitment was outstanding this summer. If their top boys can convince Bielsa to have a larger squad they might be an excellent side at the end of the season as well as in the first half of it.

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Good post and all very fair arguments, @andym.

The only two things I’d mention are: first, a sub like Elmo coming on and scoring was more of a fluke than the sort of serious tactical change some of us are alluding to (I accept your Hourihane example, that did change the game iirc), and second I don’t think anyone is taking the Leeds game on its own but rather the broader point that there is a bit of a habit there, as you acknowledge yourself. Good post/debate though 👍

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42 minutes ago, andym said:

The knock of 'no plan b, can't make in game adjustments' is one that is probably seen on every message board of every sports team tbh. As @Zatman said, it is a bit of a myth. For every in game change that actually works, you are looking at a lot more that ultimately have no effect.

I would love to see the analysis that backs this up, but I suspect there is none.  I think there are managers that have a lot more tactical flexibility than Smith has shown to date and, those that do it well will typically be the more successful managers.

The classic example for me was when we lost Jack and SJM in the last season in the championship and Smith still tried to play his 4-3-3/the same style.  It just didn't work with Hourihane in there (I can't remember who else played) as he just doesn't have the legs/energy to play that style.  When Jack and SJM came back we were strong and went on the 10 game winning streak.  But it didn't take a rocket scientist to look at the games in the losing streak and say we just didn't have the personnel to play the way that Smith had set us up without those two.  The definition of madness is to keep trying the same thing expecting a different result.  We had to try and find a style that suited the available personnel.  I am not convinced, as yet, that Deano is able to do that.  I didn't watch him a great deal at Brentford, but I suspect what they were better at was having replacements (similar style players but less good) that could slot into the same system/formation.  Maybe the tweak that you described at Leicester - the switch with SJM and Barkley - was the first sign of a growing tactical awareness and I would hope Shakespeare would be contributing to this. We can hope.

Successful management relies on a number of things:

  • Good recruitment of players
  • Good development of those players
  • Good man management
  • Setting your players up in a way that suits them best/plays to their strengths 
  • Good recruitment of your management team
  • Tactical awareness of your available players' capabilities and the opposition's strengths and weaknesses to enable changes both in and out of the game environment (plans B, C & D) that give you a better chance of winning

In the past we (with various managers, including Dean) have shown weaknesses in all of those areas.  Dean seems to be getting most things right now but I'm not convinced he has everything right as yet.  Unfortunately, when/if he does that will be when Real or Barca turn up for him ... fortunately he bleeds claret and blue so he would, of course, turn them down flat.

However, even if you had the perfect manager, as you point out, you can still not necessarily combat a bad day at the office.  And maybe that's just what happened the other Friday night v Leeds.  However, I would have hoped that once we had gone a couple down and were starting to get overrun, Dean might have tried something a bit more radical than switching Trez for Traore.  We probably had nothing to lose at that stage??  I'm also not sure Barkley was fit enough to play against a high intensity team like Leeds given his comments after the Leicester game and his performance on the night but I don't think Dean had a plan to replace him that would have worked in straight swap in a 4-3-3?

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2 hours ago, barry'sboots said:

However, even if you had the perfect manager, as you point out, you can still not necessarily combat a bad day at the office.  And maybe that's just what happened the other Friday night v Leeds.  However, I would have hoped that once we had gone a couple down and were starting to get overrun, Dean might have tried something a bit more radical than switching Trez for Traore.  We probably had nothing to lose at that stage?? 

I agree.

2 hours ago, barry'sboots said:

I'm also not sure Barkley was fit enough to play against a high intensity team like Leeds given his comments after the Leicester game and his performance on the night but I don't think Dean had a plan to replace him that would have worked in straight swap in a 4-3-3?

Barkley or McGinn unfit and injured are comfortably more use than Hourihane. Ramsey could have been tried maybe? He may have been steamrollered and had his confidence knocked. Balancing game.

With so many off it, getting anything from that game was unlikely. And yet, we had one off the line and should have made it 2-0 with Grealish's run of the Gods.

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2 hours ago, TheFirstMan said:

Dean has played both 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 this season.

 

Maybe he has more than one approach?

hopefully Deano will learn from the master Steve Bruce and get around to playing the good old 10-0-0 with at least 4 right backs in the first 11.

next level stuff.

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On 27/10/2020 at 20:42, KenjiOgiwara said:

After one loss and 12 of 15 points. Sweet jesus. 

We clearly were not up for it. We looked less interested than Leeds, had less energy and personally I felt we looked slightly arrogant and took the match a bit to easy. 

Thus they schooled us. Which is a lesson in itself. We simply had an off day. But to go from there to Deano not having a plan B. I dunno. Not for me. 

I love the man, just never felt the changes he makes in a game such as substitutions or half time team talks really change things, most substitutions are like for like, occasionally he would take a midfielder off for a striker, last season he was often making attacking substitutions when the game was already out of reach. He certainly doesn't like to change things, even when we are losing.

But this could also be down to the squad he has had available, I think he now has the team he wanted to play the way he wanted, I feel he is still growing and learning as a manager.

And of course after doing so well in the opening games, the question is why would he want to change things, he has new players bedding in and learning how to play together and the tactics Dean wants to play. So the lack of a Plan B is probably more to do with the new signings bedding in and the existing players learning how to play with them.
 

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I think he is very basic tactically.

It's all well when his pre game tactics are working but when they aren't working he doesn't have the in game tactical nouse to change it.

Not complaining about the start though. Long may it continue.

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1 hour ago, Tomaszk said:

 

Barkley or McGinn unfit and injured are comfortably more use than Hourihane. 

This is professional sport an 80% fit player is not better than 100% fit player, unless those players are McGrath and Lescott, not mcGinn and Hourihane.

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14 hours ago, Tomaszk said:

Ramsey could have been tried maybe? He may have been steamrollered and had his confidence knocked. Balancing game

If he's in the squad and fit he should get his chance, we can only protect players for so long. 

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13 hours ago, Stratvillan said:

This is professional sport an 80% fit player is not better than 100% fit player, unless those players are McGrath and Lescott, not mcGinn and Hourihane.

I agree to an extent.  Hourihane replacing a knackered SJM and asked to play as the no. 8 in a 4-2-3-1 is not much better and that is why we need to look at other tactical changes to accommodate other players when we haven't got our first XI e.g. moving to a diamond (getting an extra man in CM) or more of a 4-2-3-1 with two sitters and a more out and out 10 (that could be Jack if Ross is not fit with AEG playing LW) rather than 2 x "8"s with one pushed slightly further forward?? 

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46 minutes ago, tinker said:

If he's in the squad and fit he should get his chance, we can only protect players for so long. 

I agree.

Look forward to people panning Smith for picking Ramsey when not ready if we don't win every game. 

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21 hours ago, Tomaszk said:

I understand what you're saying.

I disagree.

Wolves at Leeds is not a good enough performance to try and replicate.

Mourinho's Chelsea they were not. Leeds mauled them first half. They didn't restrict them of chances or the ball, if they had, I would probably agree with you it would be a good idea.

Luckily for Wolves, Leeds didn't score, and they nicked a deflection at the other end. Lovely stuff for Wolves, doesn't mean everyone should go to Leeds with that plan.

Here's your problem.

No it doesn't change the result, but you need to look at all matches from multiple angles, not just the final score.

1-0 win good. 0-3 loss bad. That's not groundbreaking. 

Remember the 3-2 win at Goodison? Ashley Young. Is that a good performance for team's to use as a blueprint? You battered us for very close to 90 mins, we deserved nothing yet stole three points, great for us, crap for Everton. I wouldn't recommend other sides go to Goodison and get thumped for 90 mins thinking they'll pull out a 3-2 win because Villa once did.

You make a good point.....but over a fair period of time we have relied on Moments in a game where we have scored and little else to talk of......In my opinion, if we are to seriously move forward, we have to improve our intensity to raise the odds of scoring, rely less on moments, and stop the opposition from securing the initiative in a game.....possession is not everything, too many examples has proved that but over 38 games, it does play a part.

In boxing as an analogy, you can't keep relying on a knockout, you have win on points too......we do not very often win the battle of the pitch, by winning all the duels and key stats, which subsequently wears teams down......Leeds did.

In fact, in the early exchanges we had some of the clear cut chances, after that they applied the pressure and their tenacity, which we couldn't match, wore us down and our organisation dissipated.

When things go our way and we are in the ascendency, we are a fine, fine side..more so now with the new signings......but IMO despite the talent Leeds have, they are more robust and durable as a team and more inclined to be able to "mix it" when called upon.

As I see it, its not a problem, we just need to learn from it and when we are signing new players, be mindful of it.....we need more pace, power and agression as a pre-requisite, to comlement our other talents.

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2 hours ago, TRO said:

You make a good point.....but over a fair period of time we have relied on Moments in a game where we have scored and little else to talk of......In my opinion, if we are to seriously move forward, we have to improve our intensity to raise the odds of scoring, rely less on moments, and stop the opposition from securing the initiative in a game.....possession is not everything, too many examples has proved that but over 38 games, it does play a part.

In boxing as an analogy, you can't keep relying on a knockout, you have win on points too......we do not very often win the battle of the pitch, by winning all the duels and key stats, which subsequently wears teams down......Leeds did.

In fact, in the early exchanges we had some of the clear cut chances, after that they applied the pressure and their tenacity, which we couldn't match, wore us down and our organisation dissipated.

When things go our way and we are in the ascendency, we are a fine, fine side..more so now with the new signings......but IMO despite the talent Leeds have, they are more robust and durable as a team and more inclined to be able to "mix it" when called upon.

As I see it, its not a problem, we just need to learn from it and when we are signing new players, be mindful of it.....we need more pace, power and agression as a pre-requisite, to comlement our other talents.

That may have been the case for large parts of last season, but i'm not sure that's the case now, or even going back to the last 5 or 6 games of last season, where we saved ourselves by really tightening things up.

This season our average possession is less than Leeds, but shots for we are pretty much equal, we have slightly less shots against per game, we have less tackles but more interceptions, more aerial duels won, slightly worse passing stats but better dribbling stats. We've both played Fulham and Sheffield Utd, both played a top side in Liverpool or Man City (although i think Liverpool are again the better side this season), and both played a good side in Leicester/Wolves (and i'd argue Leicester are the better side out of those 2) .

Against Leicester, who are a very good yard stick, we matched them in pretty much all of the key areas. Against Liverpool we were massively out possessed, but much more equal elsewhere, and had more shots.

This season and the last few games of last season is a massive turn around from where we were pre-lockdown. Just from watching us you can see we are much more competitive in all facets, we are not just hoping for a bit of luck. We just need to make sure we continue that and don't let minor setbacks start us off on a downward spiral.

 

 

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3 hours ago, andym said:

That may have been the case for large parts of last season, but i'm not sure that's the case now, or even going back to the last 5 or 6 games of last season, where we saved ourselves by really tightening things up.

This season our average possession is less than Leeds, but shots for we are pretty much equal, we have slightly less shots against per game, we have less tackles but more interceptions, more aerial duels won, slightly worse passing stats but better dribbling stats. We've both played Fulham and Sheffield Utd, both played a top side in Liverpool or Man City (although i think Liverpool are again the better side this season), and both played a good side in Leicester/Wolves (and i'd argue Leicester are the better side out of those 2) .

Against Leicester, who are a very good yard stick, we matched them in pretty much all of the key areas. Against Liverpool we were massively out possessed, but much more equal elsewhere, and had more shots.

This season and the last few games of last season is a massive turn around from where we were pre-lockdown. Just from watching us you can see we are much more competitive in all facets, we are not just hoping for a bit of luck. We just need to make sure we continue that and don't let minor setbacks start us off on a downward spiral.

 

 

I agree....but against Leeds i think we went back to the features similar to pre lockdown of last season.

I agree, up until the Leeds game we had become more competitive since  post lockdown, but i think we played similar to pre lockdown......i just hope its a blip.

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On 28/10/2020 at 17:51, andym said:

Just off the top of my head from the 2nd half of last season:

  • Norwich at home, brings on Hourihane, he scores we win
  • Watford at home, brings on Luiz, he scores, we go on to win turning around a 1-0 deficit
  • Newcastle away, brings on Elmo, he scores, we grab a point

Against Leicester the other week there was a slight adjustment with Barkley and McGinn that helped us play better 2nd half, i remember being at the Sheff Utd game in the championship where we came back from 3-0 down - he made a tactical switch in midfield in the 1st half when we were losing, and it did help.

Could he use subs a bit better and a bit quicker in general? Absolutely, there's been times fresh legs have been required and not making changes has cost us, but then in slight mitigation our depth on the bench was poor last season.

The knock of 'no plan b, can't make in game adjustments' is one that is probably seen on every message board of every sports team tbh. As @Zatman said, it is a bit of a myth. For every in game change that actually works, you are looking at a lot more that ultimately have no effect.

Not directed at you @Enda, but i've never seen a game so over analysed as the Leeds one. Sometimes you just play shit; you look lethargic, not on it, and you get punished.

For all the praise that Bielsa is getting, he is someone who sticks rigidly to his plan - and then his teams burn out. Smith is often criticised for his teams being streaky and long bad runs - Bielsa went on a run of 1 win in 11 games over the Xmas period last season with a team that was pretty overpowered for the Championship. As well as his teams can play, as good as they look pressing and putting in so many miles more than the opposition at the start of the season, is that actually overall good management long term if you come up short at the business end of the season? Because that has happened several times with him.  

Its a really good point.....both of them.

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