Blackpool were able to arrest the slide of straight defeats with a 1-1 draw in a frustrating fixture at Gresty Road against Crewe. A dominant Seasiders display was not enough for victory as Mikael Mandron opened the scoring for the home side early in the second half, with Grant Ward providing a vital equaliser later on to ensure we took a point away back to Bloomfield Road.
Neil Critchley will take a lot of confidence from the performance, but questions surrounding the lack of cutting edge continue to fester as yet again the forward line left the game goalless. We were straight on the front foot from the off, playing with a much higher tempo than in previous weeks, something we saw a lot of in pre-season. It was clear that there was a ploy to quickly switch the ball from left to right to disrupt the Crewe organisation and allow for more creative movement in the midfield areas.
Our lineup sprung a couple of surprises, most notably Keshi Anderson’s absence due to a knock leading to MJ Williams starting in the defensive midfield berth. Given his uninspiring previous performances, I was wary of what Williams’ impact would be, however he had a fine display, keeping things efficient and simple and more importantly allowing Ethan Robson the license to push further forward.
This was the first occasion in which Robson has been able to play in a more advanced position and it was clear to see he fits more naturally higher up the park. It allows him to be rewarded more for his combative and aggressive approach, leading the rest of the midfield and really setting the tone in terms of a high pressing line. In the analysis below we have used detail from whoscored.com
Robson and Yates’ work rate
As you can see from the Successful tackles table, Robson came joint 1st with Jerry Yates with five tackles and there was an evident correlation between the most successful tackles and the players who set the tone with their work rate off the ball. We clearly improve as a collective when more advanced players put in a shift off the ball from the very first whistle. It gives our defenders confidence to take more risks knowing that the rest of the side is working well to cover when required.
Whilst Jerry Yates had yet another frustrating day in front of goal, his work rate and positional movement is something that simply cannot be questioned. The fact he made as many tackles as Robson is testament to the success we had with our high pressing system today, probably the most success we have had since pre-season, although Omar Beckles certainly helped us out.
Having praised his off the ball work however, Yates had the least touches in the Blackpool side apart from Luke Garbutt who unfortunately came off injured after 5 minutes, with only 48 touches compared to our highest in Oliver Turton with 114. So it is clear that when Yates does get the ball, he tends to get it in difficult areas and is either forced to play it back into the midfield, or receives it long and has to knock it down into an open area. We don’t look to give Yates the ball in space where he is able to drive and, now he tends to be in more of a wide area, it is a lot more difficult to get him in behind a back line.
And it shows above in the successful dribbles stats that when you do actually give Jerry Yates the ball in the right areas, he will do something with it. With two attempted dribbles in the game, Yates provided two successful ones. So 100% of the time Yates was provided with possession in an area where he was able to run at the Crewe defence, he beat the man in front of him and got himself into an attacking area. So, even though on the face of it Yates is not doing the job for Blackpool in the final third and in a goal sense that is definitely true, for a player wide in a front three he is actually creating problems when he gets the ball in the right area.
Lesson number one is definitely that we need to give Jerry the ball early in his movement to allow him to run on to it and drive at the Crewe defence. We seem much more willing to give CJ Hamilton the ball in those areas because he has provided goals in doing so, but now he is being doubled up on much more often, it is vital that the side mix it up so that the opposition are no longer able to double up on one side because it would leave them short on the other.
Gary Madine in the air
Now on to Gary Madine – a very vocal and frustrated figure up top for us today. As expected he provided the most aerial duels won on the pitch by far with eight headers won, with a 62% success rate out of the aerials competed. However, he simply did not provide the real threat we require if we are wanting to make a real mark on the League. He consistently complains when the ball is not played into his feet, and he is not prepared to make the groundwork to run on to balls in behind, or to be more fluid in his movement to mix up how he receives the ball. Yet, when he finally does get the ball into his feet, his first touch on many occasions is lacking. He simply is not enough of a threat.
Hamilton went missing
Hamilton had quite a quiet game in terms of actual quality. Whilst he looked quite busy and received the ball much more frequently than his counterpart on the other side Jerry Yates, he was dispossessed on 4 occasions, the highest amount on the park. You can point to CJ’s lack of strength in this case as well as the areas he received the ball, there were a few occasions where he looked for a foul when pushed off the ball when it was clearly just a strength issue.
He also only had one successful dribble in the 90 minutes. Now it was clear from the outset that he was a marked man by Crewe with them doubling up on pretty much every occasion in the game. And this quiet afternoon from Hamilton pays testament to my previous point surrounding the need to mix up where the midfield feed the ball. In a strange sense, giving Hamilton the ball less frequently would more than likely lead to a more successful performance from him, simply because it would mean the game is more stretched and the opposition would be less likely to double up.
The final player I will pay attention to is my Man of the Match Oliver Turton. He by far had the most touches on the park with 114. For me, Turton looked much braver in possession than he tends to also providing the most passes on the pitch with 75. He was much more calculated with how he used the ball, mixing up his approach based on the situation, whereas in previous fixtures he has looked more aimless and one dimensional simply feeding the ball up the line trying to find CJ Hamilton.
A lot of Turton’s success I think is down to Ethan Robson sitting in a more advanced position. This gave Turton another progressive passing option whereas usually the midfield is more congested as Keshi Anderson would drop deep quickly when frustrated about a lack of service. Kenny Dougall’s arrival will be interesting in this sense to see if he can take command of the defensive midfield position and offer even more variety in spreading the play.
In summary, there are a lot of positives to take from this performance, not least the fact that the defence looked a lot more composed both on and off the ball, particularly in the wide areas. With a number of new signings of a much higher standard to come into the side and with Matty Virtue still to return from injury, the tempo and creative outlets in the side will only continue to improve as well as the defensive stability. However, the real concern is the lack of goals from the forward line, a real lack of cutting edge is apparent and I was very surprised not to see an out and out number 9 brought in on deadline day. Time will tell but I feel goals from midfield will become much more vital as the season progresses.
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Image: Football League World
Stat Images Provided by: WhoScored.com