Date: 9th May 2011 at 12:26pm
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As we agonise in trying to find rational explanations for irrational events as in the apparent claim that two ricocheted goals conceded means that we lack fighting spirit – or more bizarrely our play is so predictable that teams know how to play against us as though they deliberately plan to score from ricochets – we invariably end up looking at our shortcomings from the wrong end. Much credence has been given to a statistic that we have apparently conceded more goals from set pieces than some others have. I`m not sure of the makeup of the stat, presumably it includes the 6 penalties we`ve given away, but if true it means that we`ve conceded fewer goals from open play than the average which is a defensive strength I would imagine?

Doubtless, though we accept that keepers must find it difficult to read the flight of the ball from 25 or 30 yards but not apparently outfield players from corners or free kicks, there are improvements that can and must be made in the art of defending that hasn`t really been the main reason we have fallen short in the title challenge this season.

Defensively our poorest performances have come away from home. We`ve shipped more goals away from home than any other team in the top four and pretty close to the average number of away goals conceded for the whole league. Yet we lead the away league by a healthy margin by virtue of the goals we`ve scored which is almost double the average number of goals scored in the premier league this season away from home.

By contrast our home form has been better defensively having conceded only one goal more than those around us with the exception of ManU who have conceded 2 less than we have. Defensively we have performed far better at home conceding far fewer than the league average for home goals conceded but we`ve scored at a rate only slightly above the home average and some way behind those above us in the home league table in which we currently sit fourth, behind Liverpool and slightly ahead of City who have a home game in hand over us. Even Bolton has scored more home goals and partly thanks to the weekend`s failure Stoke are just a goal off our total for the season so far.

The conclusion then that our attack has failed us as much as if not more than our defense has this season is a compelling one. Relevant though it is, instead of getting too exercised about our defensive failures, the questions we need to be addressing should focus as much on the relative shortfall in our creative play at home.




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