I’ve made a creative decision for this Inverness match preview. Before I look at tomorrow night’s trip I need to do a bit of a reflection from the Dunfermline game. I will split my thoughts about Saturday’s game in to three sections – The Good, The Bad and The Bizarre…
It is important in life to see the positives in any situation so lets start with some of the good things that we witnessed at Tannadice on Saturday. First of all the team on the park, whilst not exactly providing us with liquid football, did show a bit more character. They looked like players who were trying to work a bit harder and although that is the bare minimum we should be expecting they did at least show a bit more grit and determination. One player in particular stood out in the second half. I have been quick to criticise Scott McDonald in the past so it was nice that during the second 45 we saw the sort of professionalism that we expect from someone so experienced. The other stand out performer was debut man Bilel Mohsni. We were all secretly expecting him to be red-carded for a wild challenge after 40 seconds but he actually ended up being the most composed player on the pitch. The giant central defender was rightfully given the Man of the Match award from the match sponsors but his awkward slip in the build-up to the Dunfermline goal did prove costly (more on this later).
The other thing that pleased me on Saturday was the crowd. I’ve been getting quite worried about the downturn in attendances and also the negative atmosphere on match-days but to be honest if you were at Tannadice on Saturday and you took that game in isolation then both the attendance and the atmosphere were actually fairly positive. Generally speaking the fans got behind the team and there were fewer rumblings of discontent in the stands. Regardless of how United are doing in the league for me the important thing about going along to a game is that the mood amongst the supporters is good. Unfortunately this is difficult to achieve given the current climate but if the fans continue as they did on Saturday then at least the match-day experience might be a bit more positive in the remaining weeks.
Despite the higher energy levels and the positive move to a 5-3-2 it became evident towards the end of the game on Saturday that we still seriously lack a bit of quality in the final third and out wide. Both Jamie Robson and Athony Ralston tried to act as wing-backs but in Robson’s case he isn’t experienced enough or technical enough to provide cover both going forward and in defence. On the other side Ralston did a decent job but we didn’t have enough firepower to take advantage of the chances he created. With Scott McDonald so keen to get involved in everything he dropped back far too often which left Matty Smith isolated upfront. In behind them Scott Fraser is way short of match fitness and the defensive frailties were all too evident again, especially at the Dunfermline goal. The performance was slightly better but it still wasn’t great.
If, like me, you watch Csaba Laszlo’s interviews on ArabZone you will know two things. Firstly, he goes on and on and on and on. His interviews normally last about 20 minutes and when answering questions it always feels like he uses 20 words when only 6 will do. Secondly, Laszlo speaks multiple languages and part of his ‘charm’ is his use of certain phrases or analogies in broken english. When I started reading on Twitter late on Saturday night that he wanted to “kill” Bilel Mohsni then I simply cast it to one side assuming that he had either been misquoted or that he had been joking around. Then I watched the ArabZone interview the next day…
Csaba Laszlo, maybe rightly, thinks that Mohsni was at fault for the Dunfermline goal (he was but so were two or three others). Privately if Laszlo has a word with Mohsni then that is fine. To publicly announce that your new signing “will be punished” is very, very bizarre. We all know that conversations take place behind closed doors but the negativity and anger in Laszlo’s voice was quite disrespectful to a new player who, when you look at the whole 90 minutes, played very well. If it was meant as some sort of motivational thing then it came across as quite spiteful and it once again paints the club in a bad light as the story was picked up by all the newspapers and published very quickly. Right now Dundee United do not attract much good publicity and this only adds to the negativity surrounding Tannadice. It was an ill-timed and badly judged outburst from a very experienced manager.
One noticeable change for the Dunfermline game was the introduction of a previously untested 5-3-2 system. Personally I quite like the formation but it needs dominant wing-backs and a creative midfielder to do a great deal of work in behind the strikers. I would probably give the shape another go against Inverness given that it did seem to stabilise things at the weekend and it doesn’t do much good if the players are constantly being asked to play different systems. What we do need to see is Jamie Robson upping his game and either Scott Fraser or Scott McDonald taking the lead in that number 10 role behind the strikers. Laszlo has told us that once again he will make some changes to the personnel but the system is something that needs to be nailed down over the coming weeks. It looks like Tam Scobbie will be missing for tomorrow and although Stewart Murdoch didn’t do much wrong against Dunfermline it would make sense to have Mohsni as the middle, ball playing, central defender alongside maybe Durnan and Edjenguele.
My favoured lineup against Inverness would be…
GK – Harry Lewis
RWB – Anthony Ralston
CB – Mark Durnan
CB – Bilel Mohsni
CB – William Edjenguele
LWB – Jamie Robson
CM – Grant Gillespie
CAM – Scott Fraser
CM – Sam Stanton
ST – Scott McDonald
ST – Thomas Mikkelsen
Subs – Deniz Mehmet, Stewart Murdoch, Craig Slater, Willo Flood, Emil Lyng, Paul McMullan, Billy King.
Key Man – Bilel Mohsni. Not only did he have a very good debut but he also looks like the only defender who is comfortable enough on the ball to introduce a bit of composure at the back. A big gripe I have is meaningless sideways passing between defenders who have limited ability. The ball invariably gets launched up the park at the slightest hint of pressure from the opposition. It looks like Mohsni might have the technique to be able to bring the ball forward or spot more opportunities for starting an attack. He also has a point to prove after the unnecessary criticism from Laszlo.