Light & Dark Blue Monday: Wycombe 4-3 Southend

This team. This bloody team! I’d say I can’t believe them but I can. I’ve never known a side, a squad like it in my 16 years as a fan. Southend were poor and never looked like holding on, but that shouldn’t take away from what was another glorious comeback. It’s the 26th* time under Gareth Ainsworth that we’ve come from behind to win, and the 11th in the last two-and-a-bit seasons. I don’t know what he does behind closed doors, but Gaz must be one one of the greatest motivators in the English game – and by now, that motivation is deeply ingrained in the psyches of the players. We don’t half make it tricky for ourselves sometimes, but when we do, we don’t lie down; we don’t even sit down or bend down. I wouldn’t have it any other way – the Wycombe way.

*27th if you include the penalty shootout win over Blackpool in the 2016/17 EFL Trophy

And here’s the usual:

LIGHT BLUE

4-3 Is the New 3-2

I’m not going to say anything here other than…will 5-4 become the new 4-3 and so on?

Scotty Kashket Scores Another Couple of Goals

The little genius’ inclusion in the starting 11 came as a bit of a surprise, but oh how he seized his opportunity. His brilliantly taken brace puts him on 25 goals for Wycombe – at a rate of exactly one every three appearances – and he’s one off his 2018/19 league total already. He held his own in his first season at this level, particularly during that sustained run inside in April and May – but he was mainly playing on the wing in a 4-4-2 then, so he wasn’t necessarily able to show off his best.

On Saturday, he reminded us – as if we needed reminding – of what he’s all about: flair, elusive movement in and around the box, and sticking the ball in the back of the net. The 23-year-old was the coolest man in the house as he tucked away the winner with the composure of a bomb disposal technician. Whether as the central striker in a front three or as one of a pair, he could, fitness depending, have a prolific campaign; he’s our most natural finisher, for sure. His goals per 90 stood at a mightily impressive 0.59 before kick-off. Don’t ask me to do the maths for the updated figure, but it will have gone up a smidge. He’s a man who just loves scoring.

One other point of note: how close did Scotty come to preventing the opening goal? While the defence were slow to react, he appeared out of nowhere to dispossess Ethan Hamilton, only for his tackle to poke the ball through to scorer Brandon Goodship. Commitment.

Nick Freeman Being Superb

He’s done it again! He came on in the 78th minute but made even more of a difference than against MK Dons, when he entered the action on 72. Then again, players with Freeman’s quality don’t usually need time to get going in a game. His nonchalant, outside-of-the-foot pass to Kashket for the winner was as composed as the latter’s finish, while his exquisite, full-back-bamboozling wing play and cross which ultimately to led Anthony Stewart‘s equaliser just oozed class.

That’s two home games running in which he’s assisted the winner in style. Dom Gape has a ball like Freeman’s to Dave Wheeler in his locker – although he only has six Wycombe assists to his name – but I don’t think any of our other midfielders possess the natural talent to so deftly slot it through from the edge of the box, especially not in that moment. That’s class and it can’t be coached. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again: Freeman must start; the ability to pick apart a defence and skillfully, silkily glide through midfield are not the qualities of a mere impact sub.

Great Attacking Intensity

It’s something we’ve seen in the last three games in particular, not least late in the second half, regardless of the scoreline. Below are the Attack Momentum graphics from SofaScore for those games, showing pressure by the minute. Green = home team; blue = away team; higher bar = higher pressure.

Attack Momentum v Southend
Wycombe 4-3 Southend
Attack Momentum v Fleetwood
Fleetwood 1-1 Wycombe
Attack Momentum v MK
Wycombe 3-2 MK Dons

So we battered a struggling Southend side, but we still peaked relatively late in the game, with much of our threat arising from long balls up towards Adebayo Akinfenwa and Dave Wheeler. At Fleetwood, we were really pushing for a second goal for the best part of ten minutes – and that wasn’t a case of just pumping it long, as the Beast had been replaced by Alex Samuel by then. In the dramatic ‘Bucks derby’ win, the introduction of Bayo, Wheeler and Freeman turned the tide in much the same way as it did this Saturday just gone – only more markedly on that occasion, as we’d really been under the cosh for much of the second half.

We’ve been a second half sort of team for quite a while, but this feels different; it feels like we’re always in control in a way, no matter what the opposition throw at us. If we can keep this intensity up, we’re going to cause problems for every team in this league. I’m not going to get carried away less than an eighth of the way through the season, but it’s exciting.

We’ve averaged 17.4 shots (5.4 on target) a game so far, by the way. What’s more, excluding blocked shots, we’ve had more per game than any other side in the top four divisions. What does that mean? Basically, we’re better than Man City – which we already were anyway, what with our 100% league record against them.


DARK BLUE

More “Lessons to be learned” at the Back

Stephen Humphrys’ opener was a belter and his second wasn’t bad either, but we gave him the freedom of Sands to get his shots off. Whether Darius Charles – who, hardly surprisingly after his midweek efforts, looked jaded – and Stewart naively thought that Humphrys wouldn’t shoot, or whether they thought they were sufficiently closing down, I don’t know, but it was poor defending in both cases, however you look at it. You don’t give anyone that sort of time there, let alone a striker with Humphrys’ ability.

For much of the game, the back four sat too deep, affording too much space between themselves and the relatively high-lying midfield, which was also responsible. Stewart and Charles were exceptional when it came to 50/50s, winning 2/3 and 3/4 ground duels respectively, and 8/8 and 9/10 aerials, and the former redeemed himself by grabbing the equaliser, but the centre-backs – whoever they are – simply have to close down better. Humprhys is a great League One forward, but there are others who will shred you even worse.

I also think it’s possible that Ryan Allsop‘s apparent lack of confidence transmitted to the defence in some way. Rocky was bound to be disappointed after his costly error in the week – especially after his great start to the campaign – but his body language wasn’t that of someone who’d picked themselves back up – not that it exudes confidence at the best of times. He can’t have been held accountable for any of the goals this time, but it can’t help the back four to have an inconsistent ‘keeper behind them who doesn’t come off his line – even Sido Jombati on commentary was suggesting that his team-mate needed to be more commanding. 43 league games is plenty to go on; we can do better. Whether we will is another matter.

Matt No Longer in Bloom

Yes, Blooms won a 50/50 to feed the ball to Freeman to set up Kashket, but we’re clutching at straws if we think we had a good game because of that; he had an average one. ‘Mr Wycombe’ is a club legend, but he’s not a starter anymore, not at this level. His commitment and work rate can’t be doubted, but you have to look at what he actually brings to the table in a footballing sense.

He looked off the pace for the most part and in need of a rest after about an hour again. It feels a bit ‘yer da down the pub’ to sum his performance up as ‘a lot of running around’, but that’s largely what it was. He doesn’t show for the ball enough for a midfielder or offer the kind of creativity needed by someone playing in that more advanced role. He does create some chances – 7 in 333 minutes in 2019/20 – but give Freeman an extended run in the side and he’ll blow those numbers out of the water; he’s already created 4 in 133. For what it’s worth, Joe Jacobson is joint top of League One on chances created with 18 – alongside none other than Peterborough’s Marcus Maddison – even if he’s yet to provide an assist. Bayo has already racked up 12.

Minutes Per Chance Created: Bloomfield 47.57 | Freeman 33.25 | Jacobson 25.00 | Akinfenwa 24.83

Blooms is great to have around the place and not a bad option for closing out games – he still has some energy, the reserves just aren’t as long-lasting, as you’d expect for a 35-year-old – but in Freeman and Alex Pattison, we have clearly stronger options. Whether those who defend Blooms’ inclusion until the cows come home are experiencing confirmation bias – perfectly common – or genuinely don’t rate the other two – particularly Freeman, which I’d struggle to comprehend – I don’t know, but the time has come for a changing of the guard.

Fred’s Injury

Let’s wait until we hear from Gaz what the full extent of the problem is, but please don’t be long-term 🙏

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