Was that the moment? That’s the question, isn’t it? Right now it seems to me that we are all, every single one of us, waiting for the moment. The game that flips this season on its head, the one that puts us back on track and back on form. The one that makes all the stresses and concerns of recent months fade into the background. The one where we get what the politicos call The Big Mo. Momentum. That sense of a machine starting to roll.
I thought we were there, or at least on the brink of it, as the window opened and the football went on a hiatus which came at the worst possible time for us. We had just beaten the Ibrox club and with that result re-asserted our authority. I knew it would take this team time to get back up to speed. The question was always how long it would take and whether, when we did, that our best under Rodgers would be good enough. Today was more like it … but is it definitive?
Well, let’s start with the obvious. The boss changed his tactics and in the end gave them more than they could handle. A tactical change is not like it’s often portrayed in fiction. It never makes a difference instantly.
Any shift in the dispersal of forces means that people have to organise in a different way, and take new positions and assume new shapes and adopt a different mentality. You cannot just expect people to pick that up. The smallest change has to be drilled into a team. Recall the players talking about Brendan’s finest hour, at Ibrox, where we won the game with ten men; the players worked on that possible development for weeks before it so that when the moment came every single person knew exactly what to do when it did.
The second we brought on Edouard – and I remember it like it was yesterday; I watched that in excited disbelief – you saw how the whole team re-organised to fit that change. That wasn’t done on the fly. It was thought out and planned … that’s why it worked.
Think about It like this; in a synchronised routine you know roughly where everyone around you is supposed to be in any given scenario. Change even one element of that and suddenly everything works in a different way. People aren’t where you expect them to be, or when you expect them to be there … it takes time for anyone to adapt to that, and longer for a team. So you work on it in training, you practice those routines relentlessly … and eventually it’s second nature.
So two up front is not a new idea. We’ve actually watched the boss put that into practice over the last few weeks and the last few games, and that culminated today where we played it for the full 90 minutes. When we next take the field with that system the boss will expect everyone to be on point and to know exactly what they have to do.
We saw that today, or something like that. Those tactical shifts to two up front don’t now look like the random chasing of games but of something thought out and planned in advance. Look at Kyogo today. How many times have we him seen in the withdrawn role this season? And it made no sense at all, did it? But put Idah up front, sacrifice a midfielder, play him as a ten … and doesn’t it look like something after all? Why hasn’t it made sense up until now? The presence of Idah, the target man, who could link all the pieces together and make it work.
So maybe, just maybe., this is it. Maybe this is where the Rodgers plan starts to make a bit more sense, with the missing piece – and it usually only is a missing piece, like any complicated puzzle where nothing seems to fit until you fit that central point where it all starts to come together – now in place. Idah might not be the calibre we were hoping for, or that the boss himself was hoping for, but perhaps he doesn’t have to tick all the boxes … just that handful of them (pace and power and whatever else) that makes the whole system work.
The evidence is circumstantial, not non-existent. We are entering a new phase of this team, that is for sure, but we grew into the game today and I expect us to keep evolving down this same road. Kyogo gave us his best performance in a while, the wide players got into good positions and the whole operation seems that much more compact and composed.
So is it a turning point? Maybe. That’s what tantalises us. The question. The maybe. But we’re not where we were, we’re somewhere better for sure. The machine isn’t firing yet on all cylinders but a number of key questions about the manager and his tactics have been answered; all the time we’ve been wondering whether he was going to change the system … and that was in progress right in front of our eyes. Not an elite manager though, eah?
Yeah, I think those of us who have defended the boss are entitled to be happy. That was a good win today. It may prove more significant that just a place in the next round of the cup.