Peterborough United won a game 6-0 with (apparently) only 34% possession yesterday (September 14).
That’s right, for just over two-thirds of the game Rochdale had the ball and yet were stuffed out of sight. They were 6-0 down after 62 minutes. They did well not to concede double figures, but what did we actually learn from the game?
1) Most obviously Posh have found the successors to the club’s fabled ‘Holy Trinity’. Hat-trick hero Ivan Toney, the mercurial Marcus Maddison and the improving Mo Eisa are a ‘Fab three’ for this standard of football. They fill the three top scorer spots in League One with 17 goals between them. It’s a frightening strike force.
Toney is a beast (he has three hat-tricks in just 14 months at the club), Maddison is simply a genius and Eisa looks like he will score all sorts of goals.
Others will need to step up as the season develops, but the other likely goalscorers (Siriki Dembele, Idris Kanu) are sitting on the bench. There is no Dean Keates in this Darren Ferguson side, someone who will pop up with goals from midfield, but Posh might not need one assuming the in-form forwards all stay fit and the inevitable January bids are rebuffed.
2) The sheer ruthlessness of the forward line means Posh should never worry about the sort of possession stats that caused a raised eyebrow or two after yesterday’s match. If anything the numbers emphasised Ferguson’s tactical skill and the intelligence of the players able to carry out his plans.
I sat in the main stand for 20 minutes wondering why Posh were standing off and letting Dale pass the ball about. The press in the first-half was stop-start, Posh were sloppy when they did win the ball and yet keeper Christy Pym didn’t make a save of note in the whole game.
Ferguson had seen how Dale had ripped Southend apart with their free-flowing football. He neutered it with the help of a defence splendidly organised by skipper Mark Beevers in the certain knowledge his team would create more from less.
As it happens visiting goalkeeper Robert Sanchez gifted Posh the opening goal and only one team looked likely to score after that.
3) Posh were absolutely relentless, tenacious and brutal for the first 15 minutes of the second-half to double their half-time score. They went for the kill against demoralised opponents. There was no coasting until Toney and Maddison were withdrawn 20 minutes from time. Impressive stuff.
4) Anyone who believes Pep Guardiola has no influence on English football is a fool. Rochdale tried to pass their way out of some tricky defensive situations and often succeeded thanks in part to a flamboyant goalkeeper. Sanchez eventually got caught out, but kudos for Dale who tried to play for the entire 90 minutes and didn’t lose their discipline like Sunderland and start booting opponents two weeks ago when they realised they were outclassed.
5) It certainly wasn’t perfect from Posh. They were very careless in possession in the first-half and Joe Ward (one cracking assist notwithstanding) is clearly not a natural in George Boyd’s position on the left of the midfield diamond. They wouldn’t want to give up those sort of possession stats against a team with decent forwards.
6) Just over 5,500 Posh fans attended this match despite no game for two weeks and a fine win over League One title favourites Sunderland last time out. The owners have invested heavily in the squad again. They deserve more support from the city. It will surely come if this standard is sustained.
7) Ferguson dedicated the win to club legend Tommy Robson who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. It was a classy touch. Robson was at the game and you wouldn’t have known he was ill from his demeanour whch was typically cheerful. There’s just giving page set up for Tommy with a £5,000 target. Details are online.