Firstly before I explain where I think things have possibly gone wrong this season I want to clarify that this is my own personal opinion based on extensive experience, both as a player at semi-professional level, a coach at academy level with a premiership football club and a UEFA B qualified coach and a qualified recruitment officer for local professional football clubs. My opinions are not meant as a personal criticism of any individual at the club and are meant as constructive feedback, which hopefully will be welcomed by the Club.
Now to try and explain areas for improvement or where things may be going wrong over the past few games:
1. Our general play is restricted because the only option players have is to play into the feet of the two forwards owing to their lack of pace. The strikers may have vast experience and many skills, such as, holding the ball up, which is important, but as a team you need to have the ability to mix up play, for instance, short, long, through and over. To overcome this the manager has to be brave and play players up front with pace and the ability to get down the channels and play off the shoulders of defenders. Key factors of a defender, Can I see my opponent? Can I see the ball? And with static forwards this fulfils these criterias for the defender. Perhaps it is time to give our two younger forwards, both with pace, who are both currently playing out of position a chance to see what they can do. But not just give them half a game or a game but several games to get to know each other and how each other play. Like the other forwards have had. And then has a team we should be able to reap the benefits of this.
2. Midfield is disjointed and it appears that players are not familiar with their defensive responsibilities. Again the team lacks a strong central midfield player, unfortunately Smurf is injured at the moment, but he fulfils this criteria, to protect the back four and break play down in our defending third. There is a player in the Academy at this moment that is more than capable of performing this role and he has experience of playing in the Northern League Division 1.
3. We also lack a creative midfielder who has the ability to pass both long and short and get defenders facing their own goal with their passing ability.
4. Defence which has in my opinion been left exposed because of the lack of a holding midfield player and wide players not understanding their role when our opponents have the ball. This needs to be addressed quickly otherwise our back four will experience much more of the same in future games.
5. I have watched with interest at times when we revert to the 4-5-1 system to protect a result. If the players don't understand this system of play or only understand part of how this system of play should work then the system will not be effective. For example, when we play with the one striker this allows our opponent's full-backs time to dictate play and if our defending, as already stated, is lacking then we will be exposed. It is important to note that the system reverts to a 4-3-3 when we are trying to stop our opponent’s dictating play. This means the two wide players should press and support the lone striker in pressurising our opponent's full-backs, causing a break down in their play. Also one of the three central midfield players should try and support the lone striker. In effect creating a diamond formation for our counter attack. However, this all needs to be worked on during training sessions so that players fully understand the system and their role in it.
Some of the above are only part of my observations made over the past few weeks and an attempt to clarify what I think based on my experience has gone wrong.
On a brighter note it was good to see ex Northallerton Town legend Jimmy Lagan down at the club and listening to his observations which were not too different from my own. And also good to listen to the views of an ex-professional footballer and UEFA A coach Andy Toman.