Our players need the time to adapt to a new system

Noel King’s brief tenure has shown that viable tactical alternatives are available to us

Republic of Ireland interim manager Noel King: in just two games,  King tried to address the serious issue of been outnumbered in midfield.

Republic of Ireland interim manager Noel King: in just two games, King tried to address the serious issue of been outnumbered in midfield.

Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 10:00

I feel last night’s system is definitely the way to go or at least a viable option to remain competitive in international football. Far too often we’ve been outnumbered in midfield.

In just two games, Noel King tried to address this serious issue. Unfortunately no system is going to bridge the gap in class with top-tier nations like Germany but we can dominate a team like Kazakhstan with 4-2-3-1.

King’s caution was understandable though, as victory was his primary aim. I suppose the lesson is to use players in their natural positions. Square pegs in round holes can’t always go on.

The problem is there aren’t too many round pegs around these days. It’s hard to fault a coach who only had a week to overhaul a system, renew morale and get a result.

Valuable contribution
And all this despite Ruud Dokter peering over his shoulder without the sufficient knowledge of our players to make a valuable contribution.

Three mixed and scrappy goals resulted in a strange game in front of a small crowd. It was nothing spectacular; a few old heads were back in the jersey but there was little else to talk about.

Watching this largely irrelevant match, besides the obvious need to climb back up the Fifa rankings, I wondered if we would see all of these players again.

Is there another campaign in Robbie Keane? Until someone like Anthony Stokes, Kevin Doyle or Shane Long gets somewhere near his goal- scoring rate the new manager will keep calling Los Angeles.

Robbie isn’t usually effective when playing up front on his own. He needs ball played into his feet. That’s what made this team, with Darron Gibson, James McCarthy and Andy Reid in midfield so interesting. But it didn’t really work out.

The players clearly needed more time to adjust to the system that could be shelved by a new manager. But it’s a workable template.

The positioning of Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes in wide roles made for a difficult opening 45 minutes. So did the pitch.

We were winning this game in every department but needed to stretch the visitors.

Doyle and Stokes did get up and down the line a few times, but we looked very narrow, which made it easier to defend and block Reid’s space to be creative. Both players have been used in wide roles for Celtic and Wolves but in a different manner. Certainly not with as much possession.

The understanding between a wide man and his full back is crucial to the fluency of this system. It takes time.

Also, Roger Waters’ recent performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall album took something from this spectacle. The giant stage for that concert meant the pitch down the Havelock Square end was bare and bumpy. It contributed to the team’s lack of crispness.

After a poor start – when Gibson, David Forde and Richard Dunne all put the ball needlessly out of play – McCarthy dropped deep and began to control the game’s tempo.

Reid suddenly dinked a pass over the Kazakhstani defence. His set-pieces have been so badly missed these past five years. They weren’t anything spectacular last night but this very poor Kazakhstan side couldn’t deal with them.

Opening goal
But just as Ireland seemed to be settling into a night dominating possession, Dmitry Shomko showed an even greater example of left- footed striking than Reid. The goal can be put beside anything we’ve seen at Lansdowne Road. It originated from a lack of understanding between Stokes and Marc Wilson and then Coleman’s poor clearance fell into Shomko’s path.

Thankfully Robbie’s penalty brought us back to all square before any panic could set in.

It was hardly a surprise what transpired after John O’Shea put us 2-1 ahead.

The match then fell into a malaise and never really recovered – especially after Darron Gibson was carted off. That can make players cautious. They see Gibson in agony and remember it’s only October.

We needed to see a change. Seven of the starting team had put in a 90-minute shift in Cologne. While still narrow after half-time, Stokes got on plenty of ball but Aiden McGeady seemed like the only tonic for a game that was awfully hard viewing.

McGeady, finally, came in for Reid after 74 minutes as Stokes went up alongside Keane. Almost immediately McGeady got to the end line and won a corner. A minute or so later he had skinned a defender after a backheel by Stokes that led to the third goal. We had right-footed players on the left all night – until McGeady arrived. He is still right-footed but he’s a winger so he adapted better.

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