Let’s look at where we went wrong, and how Neil Lennon’s tactical approach caused us to suffer against Middlesborough
We lost 3-0 to Middlesborough. Of course, very few people expected a win (yes, I know I stupidly said we’d win 2-0) and we were absolutely awful in the first half.
Lennon was happy to take the blame for our failures and quite rightly so- our tactics were all over the place. It’s all well and good to say that 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 or 3-5-1-1 or whatever three at the back modern, ‘trendy’ formation doesn’t work but that’s not true. There are plenty of examples of the formation working. However, they key is to use it with the correct group of players and against the correct team.
For starters, we do not own a right wing back! We only have one senior right back- Lawrie Wilson who would be the closest we have to a wing back and he didn’t start.
Our left wing back was completely to blame for our third goal. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll talk you through it. Step 1) Middlesborough player takes a shot which is deflected and lobs Amos. Step 2) Amos pulls of a remarkable save to tip the ball onto the underside of the bar. Step 3) Middlesborough player scores. Let’s look at what Dean Moxey was doing while this happened. Step 1) Sees Middlesborough attacker making a run. Step 2) Moves about 20 cm. Step 3) Looks very angry when they score. This is explained superbly on the Bolton Nuts website
Another very notable feature of our three at the back formations are that we need three centre backs! Yesterday we player Dorian Dervite, Rob Holding and Prince-Desire Gouano. Dervite by all accounts had had quite a good start to the season prior to this match. However, he is very very prone to errors and he’s our senior right back who is currently fit. While Holding may well prove to be a good player for us in the future, I don’t think we can be thrusting players who have only ever league football in League 2 (and that was only a few minutes for Bury) into the starting lineup against ex-England players! With regards to Prince, he may well be a good player but without proper full backs, what do you actually expect?
The three at the back formation did work well for us against Liverpool and that it mainly because 1) Liverpool weren’t at their best and 2) because David Wheater was an absolute brick wall during both legs, blocking everything that came his way.
Another reason it worked against Liverpool is because Liverpool play the exact same formation (except they do it with proper wing backs!).
Now, since it did work against Liverpool it seems to have become Lennon’s ‘go-to’ formation for any match where we’re playing against a very strong attack. While I can understand why he might have wanted to have more players back to defend against their multi million pound front line, that is not how it works.
If we’re having to adjust our playing style to combat well against the other team then at least think it through! Ghana international Albert Adomah was on one wing; England international (and in my opinion, the best player in the league) Stewart Downing was on the other.
What our lack of traditional full backs did was allow these two very dangerous wingers a lot of space to work their magic. It makes the outer centre backs very vulnerable as the attacking players can easily work past them.
You wouldn’t have to be a tactical genius to work out that Middlesborough would play with two wingers, namely two of their best players.
Fair enough though, Lennon does accept that he got this completely wrong and promised that it would ‘never happen again’.
I hope you’re a man of your word, Lenny.