Over the past few days I have read nothing but an onslaught towards our current regime. Both on the players and on the manager (granted he's pretty much dug his own grave). But through this tirade of non-stop abuse a very interesting point has been brought to my attention: what exactly does Ashley Young offer playing behind the striker?
I was in agreement with the majority of fans that he was being wasted attacking through the middle, and that his ability to take a man on and whip a cross in was far better than anything else he could offer. But the rebellious little self in me said it wasn’t right and that there has to be a reason why we keep playing him down the middle. Then recently I noticed something very unique over the past few games that I hadn't before. Passing!!! -- and it is all thanks to two players (well 3 if you want to add in Makoun but still early days on him) Ashley has been instrumental in most of our attacking movement.
Let's look back to the game vs the all inspiring Manchester United. From the first kick of the ball Ash can be seen coming deep for the ball, commanding orders to Marc, closing down space and always opening himself up for the chance to receive a pass. But since that time he has added a certain element to his game.
Earlier this week, Houllier stated in his presser that even if he had fielded his strongest XI we still would've had no shot vs. Man City, I agree. The argument starts with Ash, Stewart Downing, and Marc Albrighton all being benched whent they are game changers. While this is true, the lack of presence of a certain Darren Bent really changes our main attacking movement.
Just take a second and remember the first half of the season. We would cringe at seeing Emile Heskey on his own with Ash behind him. It offered our side next to nothing unless Heskey decided he wanted to go Drogba on defences. Our defenders would often find themselves just launching the ball to Heskey and he'd try to give some sort of distribution to his support players but it rarely worked. Ashley would make the runs but if he tried to hit a pass or take a run, Heskey wasn’t as mobile and would not create gaps in defnces that we could exploit. But with Bent we find ourselves playing the ball up through the defence (largely credited to Clark) and creating more chances from it. This might be from a subconscious level where they don't feel Bent would win every header, but who knows or cares. I love our current style of play.
So to sum it all up, If Bent is available we should be creating a ton of chances through Ashley’s passing, direct running, and ability to help dictate our attacking movement. But if Young does decide to go, he’s not the only trequarista in the world who possesses these traits in our side ;)
(Editor's Note: something tells me this last sentence was directed at me and my Bannan love -ks)
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