I was hoping that the Premier League final day would be full of drama. It was not.
Even though it took 28 minutes and going a goal down for Manchester City to score against Brighton, it was always going to happen.
The first 15 minutes saw City take four shots and forced into five clearances. If City kept up that trajectory they’d have got 24 shots over the match. The chances of hanging on in those circumstances are, to say the least, slim.
City’s first goal is a bit of a sign of the dangers of defending that deeply for the amount of time Brighton were planning on doing it for (ie, the whole game). A bit of interplay, the ball going through a centre-back’s legs, a wonky offside line — suddenly Man City have the ball 8-10 yards from goal. Oh, and Aguero’s put it in the net.
Almost immediately afterwards, City got another chance, a header for Bernardo Silva that was open, but saved. It was an open header, in part, because Brighton were playing so deeply.
As the ball went in, City had five players in a position to attack a potential cross. Brighton had a number of players back — almost two banks of four inside their own 18-yard box — but their midfielders weren’t tracking back as determinedly as the City forwards were preparing to attack a cross.
While this is arguably just sloppy defending, it’s also a symptom of spending prolonged periods with your backline well within the box. If the midfielders were to chase back properly, they’d have left an extraordinary amount of space on the edge of the box. Brighton could’ve had a flat back 7 on the edge of their own six-yard box.
Now for picture fun time with Diogo Dalot.
This is the lead-up to the penalty that Dalot gives away in Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat to Cardiff City.
It looks like Dalot should have it under control, yeah? The 20-year-old is side-on, fairly well-positioned, has a man to help him. He just needs to show the man down the line and be ready to give chase.
But somehow, Mendez-Laing easily gets past him. I have a suspicion that Dalot’s right knee is too square. Part of his body should be already facing the direction he’ll have to run in down the line. It isn’t. He looks ready but he’s not ready. Still, he has time to learn.
Another kid who made mistakes on the final day was Bournemouth’s Jack Simpson, having a torrid time of it against Crystal Palace in a 5-3 defeat. He left a high, dropping ball completely for Crystal Palace’s first, assuming that Steve Cook would deal with it or just chickening out.
Then Palace’s third goal was a save deflected onto his knee and in for an own goal. And then for Palace’s fourth he was caught checking his shoulder, where he already should have known nobody was, at just the time that Patrick van Aanholt broke into the box.
He was then subbed off for another centre-back (just before Palace’s 5th). Poor kid.
Last thing in this end-of-Premier-League-season round-up isn’t actually to do with the Premier League. Although I didn’t watch the match, I saw that there was a bit of diving controversy in Derby vs Leeds in the Championship play-offs.
There was some brief moralising, or counter-moralising, about diving on my Twitter timeline which I, of course, have thoughts on.
There are two types of diving: signal-diving, and deception-diving.
Signal-dives are ones where a player’s been impeded and fouled, but referees aren’t likely to give a foul unless they go down.
Deception-dives are the bad ones. They’re the ones where there’s not been a foul or there’s no reasonable expectation that there will be a foul.
Unfortunately, the line between them is grey and fuzzy. If a defender dives into a challenge, the attacker might dive out of the way in anticipation of being fouled. That’s fine. But at what point does anticipation of a foul become a premeditated dive? Similarly, at what point does drawing contact from a defender become going out of one’s way for it?
Anyway, I think that this is important in the discussion around diving. Some dives are a symptom of the way that referees referee the game. Some are deception. It’s hard to tell. Who’d be a defender. Who’d be a referee.