Where is it, really? Three pre-season matches – poor shows, boring affairs, struggling to create and score, no new attacking manoeuvres, no new playing style – hardly any positives. Are you checking the pre-season progress of our rivals – Liverpool scored 7 goals in a game, Man Utd won 6-0, Ronaldo gets a hattrick in a 3-0 win and even Arsenal won 4-2. And here we are struggling score a legal goal against young Malaysian side!
Well, that’s one side of the story. Since when we started following and worrying about pre-season matches so much? Most of the pre-season affairs are just marketing gimmicks anyway. The seasons that we won the league, were there blinding performances in the pre-season or in the seasons we didn’t win anything, were we terrible in the friendlies? Do these pre-season friendlies have any correlation to the season performance at all?
The way I see it, Pre-season is all about getting some extended practice in a more competitive scenario than your seven-a-sides at Cobham. There are a couple of reasons why they are called friendlies – one, they don’t count, two, the objective is not to win. And you know what, we have won three in three and have conceded none, despite playing in multiple combinations.
I’ll list down the positives that we’ve seen so far:
• Boas seems to be the experimenting and risk-taking type
• All promising youngsters have got nice playing time
• Many, if not all, of our young players have impressed
We really don’t know what instructions were given in the background. Boas might have told them to take it easy on the pitch. We know that the training sessions have been very heavy and tiring. There’s still some work in progress. It was hot and humid at Kuala Lumpur yesterday. It was probably the wrong day to go all the guns blazing.
Plus, Boas is still using 22 players for every friendly match. At no point would you have had a team that had played together before. Basically, an experiment is going on.
If you’d seen the match, you’d know that we really weren’t caring too much about scoring or winning, though we were playing towards the opposition’s goal. It is a shame because it was a sell out crowd of more than 84,000 people and they had to sit through a boring match.
My only concern is Boas said that he would assess the players before he goes to the market. As soon as we return from Asia, we will start talking about the ins and outs. While the training sessions can be great assessment centres for Boas, the performances of players in these pre-season friendlies give you no clear indication or very premature conclusions.
Season after season Man Utd make a bad start in the premier league and goes to win the league. And here we losing sleep over the pre-season friendlies which in summary is three wins out of three with no goals conceded.
We’ve got a new manager. There is some work going on in the background. Boas is busy preparing for the first premier league game at Stoke. In fact, this whole Malaysia tour would be such a distraction for Boas and his coaching team. They might see this as an unwanted travel, commotion and interruption during a well-planned scheme of training and assessment.
This is what Boas said about bringing out the best from all players:
You free them from the limitations that they might have in a different kind of system but, in the end, you make them believe in their qualities and this is the most important thing. For you to exploit the potential of every player to the full, you have to give them a certain amount of freedom, or else they will never test it.
So we encourage them to make better decisions, give them freedom of choice a lot. Once you go towards finding that talent, you can end up with players transcending themselves and doing things they thought they could never do.
Do you think any of these is possible in a matter of few friendlies? Or do you think it would be pretty when it’s work in progress? I don’t think so. Any change in mindset is going to take time. And the early days of the transition phase is not really going to tell us how good or bad the end product will be. So, just chill.
Just two more matches in the Asia tour and our transfer business must start. Despite the lack of activity from Chelsea, I’m not overly concerned. Probably, I’m very confident that we will do the right thing. We have another 40 more days of the transfer window. That’s enough time to sign new players. Like I had said earlier, a number of top players have signed on the last hour and I don’t think we will ever ‘run out of’ good players to sign. So, I’m happy to wait.
This weekend, we have the game against Thailand All Stars and there is also the Copa America finals between the Guay teams. I’d love to see Urugual win it. I was rooting for Diego Forlan in the world cup. He’s a superb player and he deserves to win something big. Plus, with Luiz Suarez having joined Liverpool, his only chance to win a trophy is winning the Copa America. So, Go Uruguay!