The season has started with a...whimper. A very poor defensive display by Rovers was utterly predictable and could have been avoided;
- Bennett is not a right back. He is not defensively sound. He is weak in the air and today was all over the gaff. We got hit on the break a few times in the first half and he found himself in an almost number 10 position. I had always thought he was reasonably quick but he got nowhere being able to chase bake and recover.
- Mulgrew simply inst good enough anymore. Again several times he was caught out of position a number of times and his weaknesses easily exposed by a one dimensional Charlton. Get the fella on the turn or get him to deal with high balls and he’s all at sea. He should either be used as a back up CDM or ship out.
- Bell is a very one dimensional. Tries to rely on his physical attributes too much which aren’t remarkable enough to make up for his other defensive frailties. Simply hes a goo L1 defender and that’s it.
- Lenihan seemed poor to me today. He too was getting out muscled and along with Mulgrew looked susceptible to being caught in the turn and looked very short of pace.
The fragilities have been abundantly obvious to most for 12 months now and they still aren’t resolved which seems somewhat alarming. Tosin has obviously been brought in but he is a completely unknown quantity...and as the saying goes “one swallow doesn’t make a summer” and similarly one defender wont cover the 4,000 holes in Rovers defence! I was immediately alarmed when I saw Bennett in for Nyambe yesterday I was worried. Ryan may not be the greatest but his speed and physique alone would have helped shore up the creaking back line. I’m fairly certain now that we will see a couple of defensive additions added before Thursday
Despite the defensive issues I thought there were a few very big positives today;
- Bradley Johnson looks mustard. He looks like he could easily be our best midfielder since Jermaine Jones. Combative, resilient, composed and driven. He wasn’t too shabby with the ball at his feet either.
- Personally speaking I thought Downing looked good. Some nice touches and flashes of class cut through. I think he, Johnson and Travis could be our best 3 for the centre of the park. I see Downing received a bit of stick yesterday on social media but he certainly wasn’t one of the culpable ones.
- Gallagher looks hungry like a wolf! He was desperate to make a mark yesterday but I don't think he’s a lone front man. Despite the talk of big To changing the way we setup, we looked one dimensional. Gallagher paired with Armstrong and a shift in shape might suit him and us better.
We played in-front of Charlton too much. We moved the ball side to side and and then basically sat camped 25 yards out from their goal. It’s a repeating theme and its akin to the struggles England had a few years ago. “Transitions" is the phrase coined in the England coaching manual, moving the ball between defence and midfield and subsequently attack. And it works up to the 25 yards out but then what? Just moving the ball around slowly and doing nothing with it ultimately achieved nothing other than eventually losing the ball and as you’ve squeezed so far up the pitch to ‘overload' you’re found wanting when you get hit on the break. The answer? Move the ball quicker and have fast forwards. That way when you’re out of position you move the ball in these phases quickly and break with lightning speed. Again; look how England now make it work.
I personally have faith in TM and I think he should be given PLENTY of time before there even any signs of grumblings. He has done a lot of good since he arrived but he really has to get away from this stubbornness to persist with Bennett in particular.