We won away. That sentence doesn’t get old no matter how many times you say it to yourself. With the win came what can be considered the performance of a team that actually might end up pushing for promotion this season, and that was very encouraging. However, the performance wasn’t without its flaws, and the area that concerned me most was both full back positions.
True enough, the system we were playing away at Sheffield Wednesday doesn’t make life easy for them. Having two sitting central midfielders in Andrews and Spearing gave Mark Davies and Eagles the freedom to venture forward and be more creative. Neither stuck to their side of the pitch and both would often make runs inside.
This worked very well in an attacking sense, but the drawback is it requires the full backs to come forward to create any form of width to our play, which can give the opposition space to get in behind our central defenders. More than once Alonso or Mears had joined in an attack and left space behind them, meaning Zat Knight in particular had to come across to cover, leaving space at the back. So the system we played doesn’t flatter full backs, but I still don’t think either covered themselves in glory.
How do you solve a problem like Marcos Alonso? When I first saw him play for us a few seasons back I thought he looked exactly what he was, a young inexperienced left back with plenty of talent. In all honesty, he probably still is that. Watching him play, particularly as he goes forward, you can certainly tell that the boy has potential, but I can’t help feeling that from a defensive perspective he’s the weak link in our back line. Although Coyle says that the recent arrival of Warnock is as cover for the defensive midfield positions, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Aston Villa man replaces Alonso for a period of time.
But the dilemma lies in the fact that, he has talent, and needs games to truly nurture it. When we got relegated many fans said that if Alonso had anything about him he’d make that position his own in the Championship. They’re right, and he needs the game time. But do we take the risk of playing him despite his current defensive weaknesses? Or do we let the potential go untapped on the bench whilst a short-term loan signing covers? Obviously it’s better in the long term that Alonso gets a season of being first choice under his belt, but nobody wants that to mean missing out on promotion!
On the right Mears had a decent game, but I feel he’s a little rusty. He spent almost all of last season injured and there was always going to be some wear and tear to shake off. The problem here is similar to that of left back. Do we play Mears even though he’s not at his best and may make a few mistakes, or do we play Ricketts? Coyle obviously has faith in Mears having signed him from his former club, but Ricketts is the one that is in better shape. There is also the much younger up-and-coming Joe Riley that many of us hope to see some more of this season. Having said that, how will Mears shake off his rustiness without match practice?
I’d pick the same side again this weekend as I don’t think we should change a winning team, and neither full back was at fault for the goal we conceded. Playing fullbacks that aren’t our best ones at the moment could leave us with gaps at the back, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. What are your thoughts on our fullbacks?