Parker had said that our recent standard of play has been excellent, despite losing two matches after the COVID-break, and I actually agree with elements of that…
The issue has been that we’ve judged our manager and players based on the current climate of results and forgotten how well we were playing before the unfortunate break.
The doom and gloom is validated because that’s the culture we live in, where the power of suggestion tends to become a more convincing argument than what is contextually proven on the pitch. This is why it makes the first 3 points post-break incredibly satisfying for me. We played pretty well at stages during our two recent defeats but just weren’t converting our chances and it’s these small margins that were the ultimate difference between us, Brentford and Leeds. Neither side created that many more chances than us but they were clinical. Is it really that simple? In my opinion, yes, it is.
Our wingers haven’t scored goals to the same level as other teams near, or above us. This makes it more ironic that we’ve won against QPR by way of goals from Harry Arter and Cyrus Christie who hadn’t scored in the league this season. In addition, they’ve scored from well out of the box, with some exceptional quality to boot. To me, Scott had a game plan versus QPR and stuck to it. Some say we never interchange our wingers, yet tonight we’ve gone ahead and started Knockaert on the left and Cavaleiro on the right when they are usually the other way round. It didn’t really make much of a difference to be fair but it was refreshing to see us try something different. Personally, I feel our game plan is too dynamic to really care where we start our players because eventually Knockaert and Cavaleiro find themselves on their inverted winger spots throughout the match anyway.
Another talking point when the team news came out was that Parker had chosen to keep faith with Harry Arter. He’s another player who was in top form before the break and seems to improve each game when he is given a run in the team. I re-watched the 90 minutes of our last two games before the break, the Preston win and the draw away to Bristol City, just to make sure. He buzzed around like he does and kept the ball moving the way he’s known to do. Against QPR, he pivoted with both Reed and Cairney, but his aggression allowed Cairney more license to stay forward so that we could start more counters up the pitch in transition. It was Arter’s aggression that allowed him to pick the ball off a QPR midfielder and find his trusty left foot for a dipping, venomous strike into the bottom corner of the goal.
The ratio of shots-to-goals has to be higher for some, and the likes of Christie only needing 3 total shots to score 1 goal says something about the priority of our tactics. Knockaert, Cavaleiro and Bobby Decordova-Reid each need more shots to get their goals – which I believe is the number one issue that we have. It’s not that we play Parker ball, or that we play inverted wingers, it’s simply that we have three players with high match-time minutes, in attacking areas that are not pulling their weight. This is why Christie’s goal is more than just a match-winner. It should serve as an awakening to those three players that putting the ball in the back of the net is not only an obvious priority – but it needs to be made into an identity.
In the end, we got the three points that were so badly needed. I love tactics and well-orchestrated combinations as much as anyone, but even if Geoff Cameron had scored an own goal for us to win, I would’ve taken it. We have a bit of momentum back now and it should give the players a boost. Sure, we’re not in 3rd as Brentford’s winning streak continues, but we’re getting there. I’m still not 100% convinced by Parker but with just 6 games left to play, sticking with him until the end of the campaign seems the right thing to do in my opinion. The players available are who we have – and there’s no changing that at this present time.
We play good football, and it’s about time the results sync up with it. Let’s keep it going against Birmingham on Saturday. COYW!