The Blues slumped to just their second defeat of the season as a rudderless second half display cost us in a game which should have been wrapped up prior to the interval…..
The below average position visual shows our first eleven in comparison to Reading’s. Both sides attacked predominantly down the left with their right sides mostly defensive. With Neville out, Leon Osman moved from left of centre to Neville’s more defensive right sided slot with Hitzlsperger filling Osman’s more offensive left of centre role. The bulk of the game was played in Reading’s defensive third hence our defensive line is significantly higher up than our hosts.
First half v Second Half
As the below chart shows we made almost 50% less short and forward passes in the second half as we did in the first half. In contrast, Reading made more short/ forward passes in the second period and tellingly more accurate crosses. This was as a result of them getting significantly more territory in the second period with Federici’s long kick out’s looking for Roberts to win flicks on our right side with Shorey and Robson Kanu looking for the second balls; the left sided duo combined 18 times – more than any other duo in the home side and this was considerably more so after the break.
On this morning’s Goals on Sunday programme, Moyes bemoaned the’ worst’ international break this season in terms of preparation with most of the squad only coming back on Thursday evening. The only game we have won following an international break was the opening Monday of the season when we benefitted from a couple of extra days prep. Whilst fatigue is no excuse it could have been a contributory factor in explaining how our display deteriorated so badly as the game went on.
Defending dead balls
A recurring theme of our recent woes has been conceding from dead balls. We’ve already shipped goals direct from corners against wba/soton and have conceded 4 goals in our last 4 games following fouls conceded in or around our 18 yard box. The below visual shows the fouls we conceded yesterday, with six in our defensive third. Reading in contrast only conceded one in their defensive third. A lot of this is down to the attacking emphasis of the side and us often getting caught out numbers wise to quick counter attacks.
Hitzlsperger looked decent going forward but was suspect going the other way; his foul for the free kick which led to Reading’s equaliser was for a tackle he was never going to win. From the resulting free kick there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with our defensive shape. Like most clubs in the top flight we use a mix of man to man and zonal marking when defending set plays. In this instance Le Fondre’s movement is good and his marker Seamus Coleman’s is not so good; he doesn’t get goal side and lets the ex Rotherham forward run across him. Coleman was also rash in Reading’s winning goal. Again the ball came in from our left with Hitzlsperger standing off and inviting the cross to be whipped in – a long standing Moyes tactic – and following this Coleman slams into Le Fondre for a penalty which was duly dispatched. To be fair to the Irishman he did make a goal saving tackle in between the two incidents which was commendable.
Whilst you can’t doubt the commitment of Coleman his decision making is poor and he lacks composure. He is not alone in making mistakes but the ones he is guilty of committing are significant ones and are happening regularly. With the injuries to Neville and Hibbert however, Moyes is unable to take him out of the firing line for the next few weeks at least.
There is also an argument to say that Moyes would have known before the game that the big threat with Reading is wide deliveries into the box and therefore Distin would surely have been the better selection than Heitinga. There is little worth in singling out any scapegoat though. The key fact is our defending is utter gash at the moment and we are incapable of withstanding any type of pressure from the opposition. Yes, Reading came on stronger in the second half but with no disrespect to Nicky Shorey / Adam Le Fondre we aren’t talking about players of the standard of a Cazorla or Aguero who we will be facing in the coming weeks. Going forward it was a similar tale of woe as we missed enough opportunities to have won 3 games. On a positive Naismith played well and looked capable of creating and scoring more than the one goal he did register.