Tranmere v Walsall In-depth Tactical Analysis

The joys of supporting a football team in the lower leagues means that you get to travel to provincial towns dotted around Albion. Saturday took me on a journey to Tranmere, with a population of just 11,668 (at the last census) it may be difficult to believe that a football club could survive in this area, but it does, thanks to the English obsession of paying to watch a football team from your local area.

I am never one for going on a supporters coach then going straight to the game before heading straight back on the coach, I like to see the surrounding area. This trip to Tranmere afforded me a trip to Port Sunlight, a model village built by Lever Brothers to accommodate workers in its soap factory. A lovely couple of hours was had in the sunshine, meandering around the neighbourhood and eating a spot of Scouse for lunch. 

Since I started doing the tactical analysis, I have developed more respect for the pundits on Match of the Day as I end up writing the same thing every week. This, however, is mainly because Walsall play the same way every week, particularly away from home. Our plan A is to contain the opposition whilst hoping to score on the counter-attack. Our plan B, should we be losing, is to shove Andy Butler up front for the last five minutes. This is a tactic I have been watching from Walsall since the days of Derek Mountfield.

This game saw Walsall line-up in their usual formation with the same sort of personnel you would normally expect accept that Martin is no longer with us so Jamie Paterson came in on the left-wing.

Again, Walker pulled off some great saves, particularly in the first-half and as it has got to a stage that this is expected of him it never comes as a surprise.

Again, the defence was solid enough with Butler the pick of the bunch. He stands out more as he appears so confident and committed and spends a lot of time gesticulating. One tackle he made in front of the home supporters when he had come up for a corner sums up his level of commitment perfectly.

Again, the midfield was barely there with the exception of Paterson on the left who had a superb couple of minutes as a great run and shot saw him achieve a corner which he took and was then allowed to create another chance to provide the cross for Butler to score. The way we are set up in midfield means that we won’t concede many goals  but we will not create many chances either as we struggle to keep possession for any length of time or try to get our wingers into a good position to cross the ball into the box. Neither of the central midfielders ever seem to want to get into the oppositions penalty area as they are content just to do their job defensively or shoot from distance.

Again, up front we had nothing at all. Grigg doesn’t appear to fit into the system as he is there to link up the play from midfield but hardly ever receives the ball and when he does do he has nobody from midfield supporting him. Nicholls was just constantly waiting on the shoulder of the last defender for the through-ball that never came for him to use his pace like he did last week against Preston.

For Tuesday’s game I hope to see Macken in for Grigg as he will be the better link-up player between our midfield and attack and Gnapka in for Hurst as at least he does something in the game and we have more of a sense of urgency when he is playing.

A trip to Southport on the Sunday for a few games on the arcades rounded off my excursion to the northwest and meant the end to another weekend trawling around England supporting the Saddlers.

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Wycombe v Walsall In- depth Tactical Analysis

First of all, I will start with an appreciation of the crowd today. After the awful atmosphere at Colchester I was expecting the worst, but on the bus on the way to the ground I got talking to a local Chelsea fan who told me it was a community day today and there should be a bigger crowd. There was over 7000 fans there with, I estimate, 300 loud Walsall fans, which really made the day.

The atmosphere served to hide a multitude of errors and inability on the pitch from both teams as the first-half disappeared in a blur of aborted attacks, awful passing and very few chances. The defence was as sound as it has been all season with Butler being at his commanding best but now the midfield was much improved from Colchester as Peterlin, playing alongside Chambers, actually had some time on the ball instead of watching it sail over their heads. Martin, although lightweight, showed some good touches and will hopefully get his loan extended. The main problem was up front as there was no pace whatsoever form Jarvis and Grigg. 

Then, just after the restart, Wycombe scored through a good bit of wing play on the right from Beavon to get the cross over and a superb finish from Ben Strevens who slipped his marker, Manny Smith, for a split second. Although I do believe the majority of goals conceded are defendable, this was not a goal that caused me much pain to view as there were no major errors in the lead up just good play from the opposition.

This goal meant that the atmosphere suddenly changed from being so positive into something very negative as many players were now being singled out for misplaced passes and bad control. Jarvis got a lot of unneccessary stick but throughout the game he never got the service he required as there were not enough crosses coming into the box. Jarvis’ nadir came when, finally, a decent cross came in and with a free header from eight yards out he put it well wide. Straight away Jarvis was substituted to a chorus of unneccessary cheers.

Dean Smith’s saving grace was that all the substitutions worked today. Gnapka came on for Hurst who had done nothing all game and made things happen straight away. Nicholls and Paterson came on up front and injected some pace into the forward line, with McDermott being the most impressive. Nicholls scored the equaliser through anticipating a bad back-pass and having the speed to beat the keeper to the ball, yet still the crowd by me said that it was an easy chance.

The atmosphere became more positive from then on as the last ten minutes continued as they had before with both teams cancelling each other out. The most obvious observation from this game is that a Walsall forward line of Grigg and Jarvis is too slow and not good enough for this division so we need Macken back as soon as possible. The midfield was a lot better with Peterlin playing instead of Taundry and Gnapka is now back from his injury so he should make a difference in the next few games. The defence is perfectly fine and there are no worries there.

Stay positive!