Blackpool 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion – Four Thoughts

Blackpool slumped to their fifth defeat in six matches with a home defeat to Brighton to complete a miserable December. Here are my thoughts on the game…

1. Chopra on his own…again

It’s a famous quote of Albert Einstein’s that insanity can be defined by doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. After a fruitless start for Michael Chopra in the lone forward role against Leeds, he was asked to reprise this role only for a similar outcome. Unsurprisingly, Chopra was isolated again and of the five headed duels he contested, he failed to win a single one.

When Chopra did get the ball, he managed to complete only 11 of his 20 attempted passes, all of which were sideways or backwards, demonstrating a lack of support with overlapping runs from midfield few and far between.

Chopra had little support up front from midfield. Image from Squawka.
Chopra had little support up front from midfield. Image from Squawka.

The passing map below shows the distribution from goalkeeper Matt Gilks, with only two of 14 passes into the Brighton half being won by a Blackpool player. The futility of going long to a forward not suited to winning aerial duels seems blindingly obvious, but nonetheless was used once more in Ricardo Fuller’s extended absence.

Long balls from Gilks rarely found a Blackpool shirt. Image from Squawka.
Long balls from Gilks rarely found a Blackpool shirt. Image from Squawka.

It’s difficult to know what more can be said on this topic in all truth. The fact that Paul Ince saw fit to go with the same tactics really ought to be noted, but it’s now clear to all that this cannot continue. The manager further aggravated the home support when removing Chopra like for like with Steven Davies – a change of personnel when a change of system chasing an equaliser might have been more appropriate. This prompted a chant of “you don’t know what you’re doing” from the stands and at least in this instance, it was hard to disagree.

2. Square pegs in round holes…again

After Nathan Delfouneso failed to achieve much on the left wing from the bench against Leeds, Stephen Dobbie got the chance to show his value in this position – Neal Bishop moved into a central area in place of Chris Basham who found himself back in defence following Kirk Broadfoot’s suspension. However, the position was an unfamiliar one for Dobbie, who saw little of the ball before being taken off after an hour.

Dobbie's hour on the pitch failed to yield positive results. Image from Squawka.
Dobbie’s hour on the pitch failed to yield positive results. Image from Squawka.

Dobbie attempted just 17 passes during his time on the pitch, completing only 12 – again mainly backwards and sideways. The on loan Crystal Palace player has failed to really sparkle during his third spell at Bloomfield Road, although it’s difficult to attribute too much of the blame this time around as yet another Blackpool player was asked to fulfill a role that does not come naturally to them.

Extraordinarily enough, when he was substituted, it was Delfouneso who replaced him – one non-left winger for another non-left winger, required to play on the left-wing. Confusing barely begins to cover it.

3. 4-5-1 turns into something more jumbled

This time around, the Delfouneso substitution did at least involve a slight change of formation, although for a team trailing 1-0 at home with the clock ticking, it could hardly be termed as gung-ho. Instead, Tom Ince took up position behind Chopra in a sort of 4-4-1-1. All that really meant however was two players in unfamiliar wide positions in midfield, with Chopra and Ince still unable to assert much influence.

Later changes of Davies on for Chopra and Tom Barkhuizen on for Bishop altered some of the personnel, but not really the shape as 4-4-1-1 looked to be largely retained, but with Delfouneso moving in behind Davies and Ince coming out wide.

At one point, Gary MacKenzie saw fit to stay up after a set-piece and for once it seemed like Blackpool might really look to go for it and chase an equaliser. Hopes were soon dashed though when the manager ushered MacKenzie back into his own half and the game fizzled out with nary a chance to recall.

At the moment it’s plain that the manager’s main strategy is not working, but he does not seem to know how to change it when Blackpool need to find an equaliser or even a winner. This is a squad that Paul Ince had a lot of say in assembling during the summer, yet he has somehow accumulated players he is either unable or unwilling to use in any system other than 4-5-1, and even using that formation requires several players to adapt. Something has to give, and fast.

4. Paul Ince post-match comments

If the performance and the manager’s attempts to change it went down like a lead balloon, then Paul Ince did little to endear himself further as he came out fighting in his post-match press conference:

“The reaction from the fans was very poor. If we are rubbish then boo us after the game, but they shouldn’t be during it.”

Rounding on the fans, and it was a good proportion who voiced their displeasure, is never a good strategy, and winning those supporters back around will now be even more difficult for a manager who has quickly found himself on the backfoot. It was always the case that the poor performances would only be tolerated while results held up, but to expect no reaction after months of relegation form is naive at best.

Ince also sought to draw attention to fine margins being the difference and it was just one mistake for the Brighton goal which led to the defeat, but if anything it was those narrow margins which prevented a more comfortable win for the visitors, as the Seagulls saw the woodwork deny them on a couple of occasions.

The constant downplaying of the club’s resources also ruffled plenty of feathers, as if fans should be grateful if we just manage to escape relegation. Nobody will know what this year’s budget is in comparison to other sides until March 2015 when this season’s accounts are made public record, but this club have defied expectation before, so to point to our supposed minnow status is hardly motivational for anyone involved.

“We can’t go and play open football against QPR and teams like that, we haven’t got the personnel to do that, so we have to play a certain way, and we have to be hard to beat and try and nick things”

Paul Ince has signed 15 players since the end of last season, as well as having the final say on which players to keep or retain for those who were out of contract last season. Given it’s a squad he’s been able to have so much influence in putting together then, the above comments are disingenuous at best and at worst insulting. Ince will find that fans can forgive a lack of ability, but not if it’s matched with a total lack of desire to attack teams. It’s a long road back for Ince from here, and failure to win one of the next few games will only see the pressure amplified.

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Credits: The graphics contained within this post come courtesy of the good people at Squawka. Squawka is a web application that delivers real time football data. You can visit their website here, or download the Squawka app on iOS here.

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