Bournemouth 2 - West Bromwich Albion 2
A really enjoyable game to watch as we were introduced to the Ismael era.
The decision to start Kipre was surprising… you’d have to assume Ajayi is attracting offers and it looks like Sawyers is off which is okay providing we have replacements lined up.
I thought first half we were much the better side although we were rushed and over excited when we got the ball which was understandable given there being a new system, manager to impress and having fans back.
Second half there just seemed to be an invitation for jeopardy to try and open things up, but again overall I thought we were stronger.
Both goals we conceded were cheap and contained multiple errors but the main commonality was neither the right wing back or centre half covering a run/leaving it to each other and simple cut backs causing chaos. We need to address that quickly.
On the positive side we scored 2 good goals, had 1 ruled out somewhat harshly and we looked a constant threat - horrible to play against for sure.
There was a pleasing simplicity in our set plays - almost no variety, just consistent 7/10 delivery into the edge of the 6 yard box at pace with bodies attacking the ball for either throws, corners or free kicks.
Overall it was a promising start and if we add a top striker at this level and go with a better back 3 we should have a good season. We will need a plan B though… you can’t do that for 46 games
Desperately needs one signings in of the quality that might make it in the league above. Yokuslu and Gayle anyone?
Early days of the season: early hours of the morning.
If there was a need for any statement to be made to show that Valerian Ishmael's "I don't need the best players, just some players who can operate in my system", then the front three for this season's opener was surely it.
It's long been obvious that most of the strikers that Albion have brought in, in recent times, are more in the wide-left forward category than that of a true line leader, and so seeing our best wide-left player, Diangana, lined up to the right of Robinson, so that Grant got to play in his preferred (only?) position, wide left, while Phillips, prior to Ishamel's arrival considered a right-sided player, not even starting, effectively set out this season's stall. Then again, when you think that Diangana was often surplus to requirements under the failed fireman, seeing him start should be considered a major plus.
I guess one could add to that stall setting the sight of O'Shea lining up on the left of the back three, rather than on the right where his previous outings at full-back suggest he would be best deployed. Kipre got the right-of-the-three nod, with Bartley as the heart of the spine behind a born-again Livermore and a newly baptised at the Shrine, Mowatt. No suprises in seeing Furlong and Townsend in the do-a-width-shift roles, not least as the squad currently seems a bit short in the full-back options.
Albion started brightly and their first offensive free kick, at around the ten minute mark, suggests that Mowatt, as befits a player the manager chose to bring with him from Barnsley, is going to play a big part in a Barnsley style this season, getting the dead-ball delivery nod ahead of players with more of a club history in those duties.
A minute later though and we got a glimpse of what hopefully won't be a common sight this season, with Kipre coming out of the back line, diving in but failing to win the ball, which was then moved into the space where the right-sided centre-back, or maybe full-back, should have been, with the resultant cross finding the player that the left-sided centre back O'Shea had lost completely, to head home past Button.
Then again, perhaps that kind of poor marking in the back-line is merely something to be expected down in the second-tier, as the Cherries completely lost O'Shea after Townsend hung up a ball towards the back post on the right with around ten to go in the half. Hmmm? O'Shea, the left-sided centre-back scoring from the right side: makes you wonder if he could do a job on the right?
If going behind had seemed to soften the high press a little, the equaliser saw it firm up again, and as a result we got see Mowatt being given corner taking duties as we pressed and Robinson pulling out a good save from a shot from the edge of the box, just before the break, that was on target.
Noticeable also that we seem to be throwing defenders forwards at the slightest hint of long-throw range having been achieved.
Seven minutes after the re-start and Bournemouth got in behind Albion's right again, with a smart reverse pass allowing the overlapping attacker to pull back a ball resulting in a shot that Button could only palm out to a player who was able to sidefoot back in.
Ten minutes later and Diangana must have got enough of a knock to see him replaced by Phiilips, and although it looked like a simple like-for-like right-sided swap, it turned out to be no such thing, with the left-sided-preferring Robinson being moved out right, so as to allow Phillips to reprise his central striker role from the pre-season warm-ups.
Only took him three minutes to make a difference though, although it came by virtue of a slick one-two with Mowatt, running into the box ahead of Phiilips down the inside-left channel, and his pull-back gave Robinson the opportunity to side-foot in from the kind of fairly central position he'd occupied, prior Phiilips coming on.
Five minutes after we'd levelled, Button got a chance to show that he's more than capable of pulling off the same kind of blinding saves that we've become accustomed to Johnstone making, so as to spare O'Shea's blushes, after he completely lost his man at the far stick again.
With fifteen minutes to go, Grant finally appeared from out of what could easily have been a COVID-dictated isolation from the game on the left, and got off a shot that went wide of the far right post, although his next mention in commentary would come as Zohore came on to replace him with about five to go. I'd like to say that I noticed whether that was a like-for-like left-sided swap or whether the front three all swapped around again but it was getting on for four in the morning by then and so I can't.
What do I recall hearing, was that VAR isn't used in the second-tier, and it's probably a good job too, given that material of a lesser tensile strength would surely have been ripped off a Bournemouth striker's torso, and had the shirt come away in his hand, then the referee would surely have been able to notice that O'Shea had indulged in a blatant bout of shirt-pulling at one point.
One point, away point at Bournemouth though, has to be seen as a satisfying result but, although early days, the other take-aways from this one, for me, were obvious.
First up, Diangana, now the club's best player, has to get the nod, ahead of a once again fairly ineffective Grant, in his best position, on the left up front, and of course Phillips would do an excellent job to the right of Robinson, until such time as we finally acquire a goal-scoring central striker trusted to play there for the full ninety. Along a similar, playing out of position, theme, O'Shea surely has to play on the right at the back. Kipre, brought to the club as cover at a time we were playing with two centre-backs, may well be able to do a decent job there, but on the right of a three, which is how the starting XI, and every other XI throughout the club come to that, will be lining up for the next four years at least, he's not going to cut it, and not cutting there is not going to give enough cover to allow Furlong to get up and down, as the system requires, and with O'Shea looking all at sea on the left, why waste his talents by moving him over from the right.
Of the "new boys", Mowatt looks like he can do a job at this level, though perhaps that's no surprise given he's been playing in this system for longer than anyone at the club now, and with Diangana ahead of him and to his left, would probably have looked even better, as would the whole team. Button too, looks like a keeper who get his defenders out of the occasional brain-fade, though, in keeping (no pun intended) with Johnstone, some of his distribution fell a bit short (again, no pun intended) of fully clearing the lines.
And finally, that part of the style, the long (rather, the "vertical") ball that allows us to start the high press, really does need at least one man up the front who might win, and/or flick on, the occasional one.
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