“A set piece is likely to decide the outcome of this one” – that was how the preview for this game was titled. Furthermore, I also mentioned the important nature of Gaetan Bong and the influence he has on this Brighton side, especially down the left. Lo and behold, where did the goal come from? That’s right, a throw-in on the left-hand side. Despite this and in complete contrast to the game last week against Watford, we should’ve beaten Brighton. With ease. There were a number of reasons why we didn’t, but the biggest one was our lack of conviction in front of goal. This was partly down to our two best chances falling to Ryan Bennett and Matt Doherty, both on their weaker side and partly due to us not getting enough bodies in the box. Before we dissect the game, let’s have a look at some team news.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the afternoon came when Traore was named ahead of Jota and Cavaleiro in the starting XI. Traore is explosive, fast and a total nuisance when he wants to be. The harsh reality is, he’s better coming off the bench when the game is stretched as he’s got more room to run into. Nothing I saw on Saturday changed that impression of mine as he often found himself running into trouble. Perhaps one of the more glaring stats was that he only had the ball in Brighton’s penalty area on three occasions. One time, he was pulled up for a debatable handball, the other he laid off Neves and the last one he had a shot right down Ryan’s throat. Is that good enough? Not really.
Saying that, it’s not overly fair to single out Traore as Costa wasn’t at the races and at times, Traore and Costa were on top of each down the left-hand side. Whether or not that was a lack of communication or all part of a master plan, I’m not entirely sure. If it was the latter, it certainly didn’t work. It was one of those games where we had a lot of the ball, albeit, we didn’t create many clear-cut chances.
Get In The Box!
As you can see by the clock, this is in stoppage time when we are already a goal down. Excluding Cavaleiro, who is on the ball, there are six players in and around the area. This was the most we had in the box all game. Time and time again, the ball would be played into the area and Jimenez would be in there on his own. He’s good, but he’s not that good. The Mexican attempted an audacious overhead kick at one point, that’s how desperate it was getting.
Let’s look at this from a logical point of view. (I’ll use the starting XI so it’s easier) Scenario #1: Adama Traore is putting a ball into the box from the left. Jimenez should be in the box, Costa should be in the box and so should Doherty (opposite wing-back) and one of Moutinho or Neves, probably the former. That’s four players. It’s not difficult. Let’s go for one better. Doherty is putting the ball in from the right-hand side. Traore, Costa, Jimenez, Moutinho AND Jonny should be in the box. Neves sits deep enough to make four in defence should a quick counter arise. Alternatively, he’s got the ability to put one in the top corner if the ball was to break to him.
Just bouncing back to the above chance, it fell to Bennett (#5) on his weaker foot, although he did make Ryan work in the Brighton goal. Anyone else in the penalty box would have been better suited to striking that ball. Such is the way of the world.
To Be The Best, Your Concentration Can’t Afford To Lapse At All
That was all it took. One lapse in concentration. We peppered over 20 shots on the Brighton goal. Seven of them on target. On the other hand, Brighton had seven shots, one of which was on target. Yes, that’s right, they scored with their only on target attempt. As was the case last week against Watford, it was totally preventable. It all began with Bong taking a quick throw-in on the left.
You can see Moutinho looking at Bennett and he’s moving towards the Brighton player, nevertheless, it’s all a case of too little, too late. The ball is played over his head to Murray who is patiently waiting by the six-yard box. A similar thing happened against Everton earlier in the season when Neves passed the duty of marking Richarlison to someone else and he ended up scoring.
Murray plays an almost identical ball over his head to Bruno who somehow manages to get half a yard on Traore. In the above image, the ball is moving towards Bruno, who is lingering over Traore’s right shoulder. From this image, there’s not a great deal we are doing wrong. Murray is in between Coady and Doherty, however, Coady is aware of Murray’s presence. Doherty is a bit flat-footed and having a stroll, either way, it shouldn’t prove too problematic.
Too Much Room
A measly one second later, look at how much has changed. Doherty is still flat-footed and Coady is pre-empting Bruno’s shot being on target and covering the goal line, which is fair enough. Murray has found a gap, though.
You could drive a bloody double-decker bus through that gap. Doherty has finally realised, too late, that he should be picking up Murray and the Brighton man says thank you very much and puts it away. Yes, you could say what’s done is done, that’s not going to sell the papers though, is it?! One of two things, amongst others, have gone wrong here. #1, Coady has told Doherty to pick him up and Doherty has ignored him or #2, Coady hasn’t told him and Doherty was half asleep, didn’t realise and that’s how we lost the game. Neither #1 or #2 are acceptable and rather alarmingly, it’s the second goal in two weeks that has come down our right side.
Doubts Over Doherty?
Don’t get me wrong, Doherty is a valuable member of the squad, there is certainly no doubting that. Looking at it all with my Doherty-tinted glasses on, do we have a weak link? As mentioned, that’s the second time in two weeks that we’ve let in a goal down his side. Last week, he got caught horrifically out of position as Watford nicked the ball in the middle of the park. This week, it’s almost as if he’s not even paying attention. Upon further inspection, it turns out that he lost the ball five times more than his closest ‘competition’, Costa. What jumps out the most is the three ground duels he lost in his own half. I’m not saying we should sound the alarm just yet. If Spurs exploit that side as well, I’d shift Jonny to there for Arsenal and play Vinagre on the left.
Of course, circumstance has to be taken into account and if Doherty had scored with his chance in the first half, the dynamic of the game is totally different and we’re talking about how we’re going to launch an assault on the top four rather than licking our wounds. Fine margins are what win games. At least the pass map was an improvement this week.
Is That A Forward I See?
You’ll be only too aware that last week saw our defenders take centre stage on the pass map. It’s much the same this week, with one difference. Costa appears! A lot of that will be down to Traore and Jimenez getting taken off, it is what it is. One of the more worrying things about the pass map is Bonatini’s average position. He’s number 33, in case you’re wondering. He’s also a centre-forward, apparently. In his ten minutes (including stoppages) on the pitch, he touched the ball a whopping THREE times. Let’s not beat around the bush, that isn’t good enough.
All in all, a much better performance than the one against Watford. There are plenty of positives to take from the game, then again, there are a few negatives that need to be addressed, as well. Our wingers, inside forwards, whatever you want to call them, are still not firing on all cylinders and with us nearly a quarter of the way into the season, questions need answering.
Up next is Spurs and nothing would surprise me in that game. We’ll probably end up winning it, such is the way Wolves work.
Until the next time.