If leagues are won late in games then they are frittered away in the long brutality of entire games with barely a shot on target. How does a team with so much firepower in it fail on every level on days like today? Their keeper was barely tested; indeed, someone remind me if he was tested at all? Hibs offered nothing up front, but they did what they had to.
That was abysmal. It migh prove to be costly. Extremely so in the context of a season like this. On four occasions we’ve scored late this season to win 3 points; that’s great as far as it goes, as long as it is winning you points, but the two nil-nil draws in the 20 games before today bore a striking, and awful, resemblance to a couple of those … and were exactly like today.
This team still lacks a workable Plan B. Ange wants to play pretty football and its is great to watch and great when it works but when teams can get their players behind the ball and lock us out this is what it looks like instead; dire, dour, unimaginative, awful.
Plan A is brilliant to watch. But on its own it may not be enough. Most weeks we will have enough to break teams down … the concern is that we cannot afford too many days like this, and even with our penchant for winning games late we still have too many of them.
Today we used one substitute. One. Watching a game which, with the team on the park, was clearly going to end in only one way. The manager has to carry the can for that; that’s two dropped points and that’s down to his decisions. When this guy gets it right boy oh boy it is something to see, but without a better plan for breaking down these teams we will drop points and if we drop enough of them then titles are lost and questions start getting asked.
There are two types of manager; pragmatists and ideologues. I am terrified of Ange the Ideologue at times because in Europe his tactics leave us terrifying vulnerable to counter attacks and in the league it creates days when you continue playing tippy-tappy football long after it becomes obvious that it isn’t going to work.
I think the ideologue will win out … we will win this title because the ideas are good and the team he’s assembled is the best in the country, but at a club like this you also want to see ruthless pragmatism win the day some of the time … his team selection in midweek showed some sense of that. His decision making today … I don’t even know what to say.
This never looked to me like a performance where we would win three points. Too much of the game was spent with the tactic I lament most; crossing the ball into a packed penalty box. Teams can read that play all day every day and you are basically reduced to hoping for one lapse to win you the points. In Europe you saw how Bodo defended; at that level you’ll be lucky indeed to get that one lapse if they can hold a defensive shape. And so it will prove in Scotland today where even the bare minimum of concentration can keep us out at times.
Would a more direct style get us results on days like this? It couldn’t hurt to try. He risks turning an ideology into a tyranny instead though, where the team is forced to keep doing the same thing over and over and over again even when it isn’t working simply because of his rigid adherence to one idea. More flexibility is required here in a league where teams more and more come to view us as too great a threat to attack and sit behind the ball instead.
If we’re going to win this title we cannot afford many days like today and if this guy seriously isn’t interested in trying something new, and especially on a day when we haven’t even properly tested their keeper, then we are not going to do it, it is really as simple as that.
As good as it is to watch Plan A, when it is so obviously not succeeding what else does this guy have in his locker? I love this guy and I love what he’s trying to do … and as much as it appals me to write this, I saw what Van Bronckhorst did at half time in midweek against Dortmund when his team was under the gun. He didn’t just hook players and put other players on in a like for like swap. He altered the entire system and it got them the result.
Worryingly, I have yet to see Ange win a match due to a substantial tactical alteration. Tell me where I’m wrong. Show me the match which he substantially changed with a different style or tactical approach. If I asked you to show me games where we’ve done the same thing for 90 minutes until our patience was tested to destruction I can show you several; Dundee Utd, Livingston, St Mirren and now Hibs. But for Ralston’’s late winner you could have added Ross County.
This manager will be judged on a lot of different criteria. This will be one of them. I think often of Lennon’s cluelessness at changing his team-shape to get a better result than we were looking at, and then I think of Rodgers, who even at Ibrox with ten men had enough savvy to change the formation and system and secured three points.
When you looked at the bench late in the game what you saw was not a lack of options but a lack of like for like swaps to change the outcome, but that is not the same thing. This manager is enjoying the long honeymoon, but to persist with that today leaves him no defence when it comes to explaining away why we dropped two points.