Seaside Strategy – West Ham United Away

Quite how this game finished 0-0 is hard to comprehend for anyone who witnessed it, but in the end a point each was probably fair. Both teams will argue they could have won it, and Blackpool did have the better chances (plus the wrongly-disallowed Harewood goal) but a share of the spoils away from home anywhere this season has to be a respectable outcome. What do the stats tell us about the game?

I decided to do something a little different this week, and take a look at how some of ‘Pool’s attacks developed at the weekend, using the match action tool on ESPN Soccernet. In possibly the most exciting 0-0 draw Blackpool will be involved in for years to come, one aspect of the game was just how end-to-end it was, both teams attacking with pace, taking it in turns to have their go. I’ve hand picked three chances during the game.

Grandin chance – 7th minute (click for large version)
The first example I’ve picked out was Elliot Grandin’s missed chance after seven minutes of the game. Neal Eardley starts off the move at right back, but it’s worth noting how the midfield three of Grandin, Charlie Adam and David Vaughan move up the pitch together at the heart of this attack. Ian Holloway stated in his post-match interviews that the reason Ludovic Sylvestre has yet to break into the team is down to how well those three have gelled, and the above diagram is testament to this. While Grandin has shown flashes of brilliances since signing, some have questioned his end product. In this instance he has done well to get in a forward positions but not for the first time his finishing let him down, making only minimal contact with his head, glancing it well wide. The 11 pass move deserved better, but was a sign of things to come for ‘Pool breaking quickly.
Eardley chance – 33rd minute (click for large version)
This chance involved one fewer pass – 10 overall – and had the ball dropped to a striker rather than Neal Eardley, the deadlock could have been broken. It does help highlight the improvement in Eardley’s game this season however. His long diagonal to the left is one pass in his playbook that he often favours, and the pass early in this move to Crainey is indicative of this. Eardley is also learning to get forward to support Blackpool’s attacks, and he’ll hope to add to his goal against Everton as more opportunities will surely come his way. See also how DJ Campbell was involved in the link up play, not only on this chance on two occasions, but also during Grandin’s early chance. Campbell had few chances himself, but still contributed elsewhere.
Taylor-Fletcher chance 74th minute (click for large version)

The glaring miss from Gary Taylor-Fletcher comprised only three passes in the build up, but came at a time when both teams were stretched going for the win. As the space opened up, the chances became ever more regular. With more gaps to exploit, it became possible to break forward within a matter of seconds, as was the case for GTF’s glorious chance. David Vaughan, as he often does, broke up an opposition attack before neatly starting a ‘Pool attack. Matt Phillips, on at this point for Grandin, popped up on the left hand side and calmly clipped in an inviting cross and…well, we all know the rest.

All the above diagrams do nothing to dispel the theory that Blackpool favour attacking down the left – Marlon Harewood’s sitter also came from the left, created by Luke Varney who received a long ball from Charlie Adam. The first two diagrams will certainly please Ian Holloway – they both demonstrate a willingness to progress up the pitch with a mix of short and long passes – and there were plenty of other examples of this I could have called upon. From the other side of things though, West Ham also carved out a number of opportunities where they quickly broke from their own box to have a shooting chance mere seconds later.

Next week I’ll hopefully be back to the more familiar Guardian Chalkboards when analysing the crucial match at home to Wolves. As Tangerine Dreaming mentioned in their match review, the game at the Boleyn Ground was a difficult one to analyse from the stats, given the frantic end-to-end nature of the match. I’m hoping I can fall back on the chalkboards next week for a more traditional review of ‘Pool’s tactics.