First up, we saw some very pleasing play last night and another good team performance. Okay, it was against lower league opposition but we dispatched them with relative ease and the goals were very well taken. It was nice to see Andi Weimann get off the mark (always important for forwards) and Fabian Delph continued his fantastic run of form with a man of the match display and a very well taken goal. People were surprised that Lambert named a virtually full strength side but, with no game for two weeks, the need to give people a rest was minimal. This leads me on to my topic for this week quite nicely.
I heard a few grumblings before and particularly after the Liverpool defeat about Paul Lambert changing the team. Our manager decided to replace Karim El Ahmadi with Leandro Bacuna and with this came a change of system. From what I could see, we were playing a 4-2-3-1 with Bacuna and Agbonlahor wide and Weimann playing off Benteke. I believe this was done to match Liverpool who were playing the same system with Henderson and Coutihno wide and Aspas playing off Sturridge. However, this was pretty interchangeable with Aspas sometimes switching to the flank and Coutihno (what a fantastic player) dropping in the hole.
Now I don’t for one minute think Bacuna had the game of his life but I thought he got better with time, showing some neat play and making a couple of decent runs before he moved to right back. I did think it was strange he came in as I thought a fresh Sylla would have come straight in for El Ahmadi but, after analysing it, I genuinely think Lambert was trying to match the Liverpool system, hence why Bacuna came in rather than Sylla.
As I mentioned above, I heard grumblings about us changing a side that had been playing well. In my opinion, you quite simply cannot play at the intensity we do and not make changes through the season, especially with three tough games in a week. I’m not Paul Lambert but I’m guessing that El Ahmadi was slightly fatigued so he came out of the starting eleven for a game. I believe this will be a regular theme throughout the season as the squad looks a lot stronger this year, with better options and more flexibility.
There will be games when we see Andi Weimann or Gabby on the bench, not because of form but because of a need to keep players fresh. Although different types of players, we now have Helenius, Tonev, Bacuna and Albrighton who can come in and take their spots. If we had a game this weekend then I don’t for one minute think Benteke and Agbonlahor would’ve been starting against Rotherham.
The changes will not just apply to the final third: so often last season we were hamstrung by only having three centre backs available in the squad. We now have options, we can change things around and freshen things up there when we need to. Can you imagine losing Baker and Clark to injury at the same time last season?
We play a very energetic game, we play good, fast-paced football and we get in and around the opposition. These things combined mean that however fit the players are they will most probably need to be taken out of the firing line every now and again. So I expect there will be games when people criticise Lambert for making changes (especially if we lose) but I believe these changes will take place out of necessity and with the bigger picture of the whole season in mind.
Under O’ Neill (spit) we would often be going well but towards the end of the season we would run out of steam because that stubborn man would never change the side. Players were running on empty because they had played every week and I remember fans were crying out for him to rotate a little bit. Lambert will change personnel and he will also change systems depending on the opposition.
So let’s embrace having a squad as I truly believe a couple of changes here and there will not harm us in the long run and that they will actually do a lot of good.