What Peterborough United’s first game of the season taught us about home form, formation issues, new signings and the value of patience
Five things we learned from Peterborough United’s first game of the League One season, a disappointing 3-1 defeat at home to Fleetwood Town (August 3)
1) Posh remain too easy to play against at home. Only once in the last four seasons have Posh won 10 or more of their 23 League One home fixtures. Last season the three promoted teams, Luton, Barnsley and Charlton, also won the most home games so it’s a problem that’s needs solving quickly.
Saturday was a bad dose of deja vu. The build-up was too slow, the forward passing accuracy was poor (74% possession was achieved by knocking the ball sideways and backwards) and a deep-lying defence ensured the sheer speed of Mo Eisa and Siriki Dembele never became a factor.
Patient passing is supposed to draw opponents out, but it will only work if Posh manage to score the first goal, They did in the opening two home games of last season and won them both, but they couldn’t keep it up and suffered as a consequence. Shipping two goals inside the first 14 minutes wasa receipe for disaster against a well-organised outfit.
It’s a source of great frustration that rarely seem to manage to put sustained pressure on teams at London Road even when they are chasing the game.
2) 4-4-2 seems awfully old-fashioned. To play successfully in that formation the two central midfielders need to be exceptional. George Boyd and Alex Woodyard both played okay compared to some, but one is a rookie in that position and the other’s strength is not the defence-splitting pass. Many times Woodyard was in possession running towards the Fleetwood defence, but he usually stops and passes safely. Boyd was seen picking the ball up between two centre-backs and pinging long diaginal balls, not always successfully. The patient approach is pointless if the ball is going to then be propelled long distances. We saw that too often under Grant McCann.
Manager Darren Ferguson’s dilemma is getting his gifted wide players in the side. A midfield diamond probably means Dembele misses out and takes Maddison away from his most effective position, while a 4-2-3-1 means either Mo Eisa or Ivan Toney is left out. Ferguson might have to do one or the other.
Midfield diamond possibility: Knight: Woodyard, Boyd: Maddison.
Midfield 4-2-3-1 possibility: Knight, Woodyard: Maddison, Boyd, Dembele: Toney.
3) I felt, and I still do, that Mark Beevers would prove to be the signing of the summer by Posh. An experienced centre-back who dominates his own penalty area (and scores goals) is always handy, especially with a small-ish goalkeeper behind him. I didn’t expect him to be muscled off the ball by an opposition centre-back (admittedly a massive one) or to then let a ball bounce in his penalty area, both of which led to goals. He didn’t exactly look comfortable with the ball at his feet either, a pre-requisite of how Ferguson likes to play. It will be interesting to see how he plays away from home. Posh need him to become Chris Turner not Phil Chapple.
4) It bothered me when he signed, and it stll does, that Posh paid over a million quid for a striker in Mo Eisa who last scored a Football League goal in April, 2018, 16 months ago. He may turn out to be another Britt Assombalonga, and it would be daft to write him off after one game when the service to him was appalling, but his failure to link up with strike partner Ivan Toney despite them playing together for most of the summer was most disappointing. Eisa has explosive pace and may be seen to greater effect away from home, but who, apart from Marcus Maddison is likely to play him through on goal? After one game it’s safe to say Maddison remains the most important member of the squad.
5) Social media can be a nasty environment and no surprise to see Twitter among Posh fans going into meltdown after just one game. Yes, I was surprised how poor the new full-backs were, how sloppy the new centre-backs were and how impotent the attack was, but it was the first game of the season and confidence must have been knocked back after conceding twice in the first 14 minutes. Posh have started like Usain Bolt in each of the last two seasons, but, as the cliche sort of goes, running well over longer distances like Mo Farah is far more important. Patience among fans would good to see.