It’s taken me until Sunday morning to finish writing this to let go of some of the emotion attached to our first game of the season and really break down what went well and what we could improve on. Let’s start with the negatives and end with the positives – in reality it wasn’t the worst game for Blackpool and there’s plenty for us to build on.
1. The first 10 minutes
I have no idea what happened in the first 10 minutes but everything fell apart before it had even begun. Judging by Critchley’s response after the game he wasn’t quite too sure either, highlighting that it had been uncharacteristic of Blackpool to look so nervous and uncomfortable on the ball. Throughout pre-season we had played out from the back, looked calm under pressure and started on the front foot. Before the game we were confident, throwing money at CJ Hamilton for first goal scorer and for Blackpool to win outright, which we posted on social media. Unfortunately, that’s not how it played out and that’s solely down to how we started the game.
2. We lacked a cutting edge
It’s not that we weren’t creating enough chances, it’s that we weren’t finishing them. Too many times CJ got himself in brilliant positions but failed to finish. If you don’t finish your chances you get punished – it’s simple. Plymouth were a well organised team, who threw their bodies on the line and have spent a long time playing together compared to us, but we made them look better than they were by not being clinical enough in front of goal.
3. Some players went missing
Some players went missing, and yes, I’m going to call them out because I know they are better than that. I don’t think CJ had a poor game but I know he can play and finish better than yesterday’s performance showed. His goals against Everton and Liverpool showed his capabilities, so I have every confidence that in future he will be able to produce the goods. Sullay Kaikai was another that didn’t stand up and be counted when it mattered. He has bags of ability but when all our attacking play was coming through CJ it highlighted how much we didn’t utilise Sullay. Grant Ward was also lucky he wasn’t replaced earlier and when facing a team like Argyle, that are difficult to break down, I would argue that we need a more combative midfielder starting in the likes of MJ or ideally, when fit, Matty Virtue.
4. The subs were too late
I’m not going to linger on this point too much because at the end of the day we know Neil Critchley is one of the most qualified coaches and I’m not. He must have felt that he had the best team out there on the pitch and that a goal was close-by. He was tactically astute enough to know to swap the wingers when Danny Mayor was taunting Ollie Turton with his skills and after that change we once again grew into the match. But, giving Bez Lubala 8 minutes including stoppage time just isn’t enough to have an impact. The tempo dropped well before this and I felt changes should have been made on the hour mark. If they had we may well have been looking at a different scoreline.
5. Where was our assist king?
When we spoke to Matt Scrafton in our recent podcast he highlighted that it’s unlikely Pool will have a Plan B and if Plan A isn’t working, then it’s a case of making Plan A better – as Liverpool do. In theory that’s great, but the performance at Plymouth showed that work is still to be done with Plan A. I hate to say it but should we have just tried something else? Should we have thrown on Liam Feeney and Gary Madine to try and break them down? I wholeheartedly trust Critchley and the philosophy because in the end, it’s this style of football that we will get us promoted. We shouldn’t abandon that after one game, and that’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting Plan B at 80 minutes to try and get something from the game.
Now for the positives from yesterday’s performance.
- Demetri Mitchell
The attacking left-back showed a few people up because he was our best performer on the pitch. Like we thought he would be, he was direct and looked to make things happen with passing and pace. It was really encouraging to see how confident he was on the ball in contrast to some of the other defenders and so many times he took it upon himself to bring the ball forward from defence. Apart from a questionable wayward shot, he had an excellent game and it’ll be interesting to see how the fight for the left-back spot continues when both himself and Husband are fully fit.
2. We dominated possession
Are you watching Klopp? Blackpool absolutely controlled large periods of the game through their passing and physical presence. After they had settled they looked comfortable and began to mount attack after attack. It’s rare that you will see sides with this much possession lose the game, but there are always anomalies. You only have to think of Blackpool v Oxford last season to know how painful it must have been for Oxford fans not to come away with three points. Karma’s a bitch.
3. We created chances – and a lot of them
Let’s remember there are plenty of new faces, who have all had different levels of game time throughout preseason to try and maintain all fitness levels, and there have been some injuries which have thrown our preparation into further disruption. It’s amazing that throughout all this we have still shown how incredibly creative and talented we actually are. It’s not a one man job like it was so many times last year, and we created chances through various players – Jerry Yates, Keshi Anderson, CJ and even Marvin Ekpiteta all had their hand in some lovely build-up play, which resulted in attacks. We’ve become pretty good at this and we shouldn’t forget that last year we had absolutely zero creativity – just a reliance on Feeney and Armand Gnanduillet to do a job, which they could only do for so long.
4. It was entertaining again
Yes, I am entertained. It was better than average football. Pace and one-touch football it was great to see. Plymouth couldn’t handle it at times and they’re not a bad side. Think about what we may do to teams who aren’t organised at the back. It won’t be long until someone is on the back of a heavy defeat from us and when it happens I won’t be surprised. To see Plymouth holding the ball in their corner because they were scared of losing possession in the dying minutes of the game spoke volumes. We are feared and respected by our opposition and rightly so.
5. We’re highly rated by the opposition
This could work either way and has been also seen as a negative by some. Yes, players and teams know we are stronger and will not underestimate us like they have in the past – so how is the fact they rate us a positive? In my eyes I think it helps us in recruitment. We are becoming a well-know brand due to our manager and style of play. So, opposition, and most recently Ryan Lowe, giving us further credit will put us in good stead for nicking players of quality from other League One teams. Randell Williams, are you sure you want to go to Hull?
We shouldn’t lose our heads. We know we need a few tweaks and yesterday’s performance shows you don’t always get what you deserve. The sooner we experience these painful episodes and move on, the better, because I believe this team will learn from that. Just wait until the first opening minutes of the Swindon game and I’m sure they will be a huge contrast from today.
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