I’d like to start by saying I apologise there is no remarkable photoshopped image to match the title. Secondly, this is by no means a knee-jerk reaction to our recent loss at White Hart Lane. To put it simply; we were as abysmal as Tottenham were impressive. Thus, making them look even better than they unfortunately did. Now that I’ve said that through gritted teeth, could our defensive issues be solved by changing our formation?
Pedro Obiang, although not fit to make the bench on Sunday, has returned to full training recently. It is no coincidence that he played in two of our fabulous away wins at Anfield and the Etihad. As well as his imminent return, Alex Song also made a brief appearance on Sunday. One of two ‘real’ highlights from the game, the other of course, being Manuel Lanzini’s superb goal.
Could either of these two men come into our midfield to sure it up? Would this added steel in the midfield benefit our defenders? Of course, it would not rule out the possibility of defensive individual errors from our back five, but, with that added protection – would it be a less likely occurrence?
A quick trip to WhoScored, and a look at our top three rated players from a defensive point of view reads as; Cheikhou Kouyate (1), Alex Song (2), Mark Noble (3). I know Song has only played 10minutes but still… Not one defender is in the top three. Is that testament to the work of Kouyate and Noble with their defensive responsibilities, or, a damning statement to the defence? I’ll let you flip a coin on that one.
This may surprise some people, but, when Kouyate, Song, Noble and Obiang are all fit – for me – the first player given a spot has to be Obiang. Yes, he is still settling into the league, but, he offers a much more rounded proposition than any of those mentioned.
Kouyate is better with his lung-bursting surges forward, but he struggles at times to really utilise the ball well in terms of his passing. Noble is better at breaking up play, and, whilst his pass completion is always admirably high – he does falter somewhat with playing more incisive passes, as well as his speed. Song is better with the ball at his feet, his close control dribbling is arguably only rivalled by Payet and Lanzini in our squad – his downfall though is his lack of attacking prowess and pace. Obiang possesses all of these qualities in abundance; able to dribble with the ball, break up the play, and possesses a wide range of passing abilities.
It begs the question, after another week of full training for both, but how long until Song and Obiang start a game? Sunday poses an interesting dilemma for Bilic. With Noble suspended it seems the easy option is to put Song straight in, but, could Obiang stake a claim for the spot with another week of training under his belt?
Regardless of who takes Noble’s place on Sunday against West Brom, rest assured they will be looking to put in a mammoth shift to keep his starting spot. If Song/Obiang (delete as appropriate) do put in a brilliant performance would Bilic keep his captain on the bench? As all of our sitting midfielders start to return to full match fitness, we could be in for some interesting XI selections from Bilic in the next few weeks, here’s hoping they pay dividends and see us get back into our groove!