Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Dom discusses all things Yellows
Four games so far and four points, am I alone in thinking this is a predictable start to the Gulls season?! Replacing half the squad after losing 5 of our best players is never, I repeat never ideal and although I’d love us to come off the blocks flying and scoring goals for fun, this subdued reality was always more likely. Mixed results and performances, with a fighting spirit intact but a team missing the presence of Joe Lewis at the back and the imagination of CLE/Armani Little going forward. My expectations have been met, that’s not to say I’m happy though and there is a number of factors to improve on as we all know. Let’s delve into them shall we…
COHESION AND TRUST
Unless you are very lucky, 11 or 12 players don’t just come into a squad and suddenly click into gear. Understandings take time to be forged, a real trust in what your team mates will do is not an overnight occurrence. With the ball, that can mean an understanding in each others movement, an understanding of where passes should be made and a quick cohesion that allows you to create chances and hopefully score goals. Without the ball, that trust can mean an awareness of which positions other players will take up, who will take charge of marking players and clearing danger. The squad will only improve these facets by playing together in proper matches, and finding out the hard way! It’s all a ‘getting to know you’ process at United currently, such is life when you reconstruct a squad for the second summer in a row.
It feels like the team is almost playing with the brakes on so far this season, a rather conservative approach where the chaps are working hard and doing their jobs, but not taking enough risks with their play, too worried about making mistakes to take the game to the opposition. Someone who I felt bucked that trend on Saturday was Tom Lapslie, who scurried around in usual fashion rushing into tackles and also running into the opposition’s penalty area. We need some more of that gung ho attitude. Keeping things tight and digging out clean sheets can be fantastic, but do we have a defence capable of carrying that out game after game? I’d suggest the answer is no. The second half saw glimpses of a team pushing forward more, and although the play remained scrappy, we were rewarded with some chances just by being simply more aggressive and proactive. Much more of that please.
We see wing backs most weeks at Plainmoor, some teams utilise this better than others, but what most of these opposing teams do is get the ball wide quickly and early to players who motor up the wings. In a 3-5-2 these wing backs are very important, and on Saturday Wood’s looked far more dangerous than ours. Young Dylan Crowe is just starting out in his senior career, and is now finding out the strength and pace you need to be a senior pro. On Saturday he was nervy, hesitant and found the strong and energetic Eric Sousa a very difficult opponent. On the other wing, Ben Wyatt looks a capable defender, but an unlikely attacker lacking in speed and go-forward confidence, meaning that overall neither wing back added anything in the final third. With Dan Martin out injured, could a change to 4 at the back be made by GJ? Well, I’m not sure we have the personnel to do it, but I wouldn’t count it out.
What’s our best three in midfield? Hanson, McGavin and Lapslie struggled on Saturday to take control of the game, with key man McGavin on the periphery of the game for too much of the 90 minutes and Hanson looking a little lost at times. If we are to stick with those three, I’d like to see McGavin forward more and Lapslie forward less! Tom doesn’t have the passing range around the strikers, and suits a more defensive role where he battles for possession and feeds others with simple balls. Alternatively McGavin appears to be our most creative player, and has already shown a scoring touch around the penalty area. I do wonder if Asa Hall may come back into the first team reckoning again next weekend, a back to basics approach of sitting in front of the defence, whilst Tom Lapslie does the running. It may mean we are somewhat agricultural, but Hall’s leadership in midfield could be vital as we stutter along in the early stages of the season.
I have to admit that one of the most disappointing aspects of my pre-season was the sight of Corie Andrews huffing and puffing around the football field against Exeter City. His signing got my pulses racing over the summer, and I was surprised just how far the striker looked off the pace. He wasn’t much better on Saturday, but even lacking in pace (a startling lack of acceleration) or sharpness, Andrews still almost scored 2! If United are to start finding the net regularly, we need to get this guy in shape asap. Otherwise it seems to me like GJ’s game-plan has been disrupted very much by the absence of Aaron Jarvis and Dan Martin. Jarvis for his strength and hold up play, and Martin for his suitability to the wing back role. I don’t know when these players will return (‘Official TUFC Injury Secrets Act 2018’), but they could definitely make us a tougher proposition to deal with.
What does strike me about the squad this season is that A) We have a good bunch of lads who will listen to their manager and work hard, and B) Many of these chaps can, and will improve under his guidance. The likes of Crowe, Marshall, Tomlinson, Hanson, McGavin, Evans and Goodwin all possess potential, and time spent increasing their knowhow, their fitness, their mental strength and qualities with or without the ball should bear fruits for Torquay United. I don’t know whether this will be enough to make us contenders for 2022-23, but with only four games played I refuse to become panicked by what has happened so far, and I look forward to seeing better performances in the future. Stick behind these lads, there will be more bumps along the road, but what did you expect at Plainmoor…