Carl Robinson and the Shadow of Forgotten Ancestors

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

-Carl Sagan

How does genuine change occur?

Well, one way is by seeing the past as not so much a template for what is to be and more as one specific instance to have played itself out from a multitude of possibilities.

What’s happened may indeed have happened but that doesn’t mean that it had to happen and it certainly doesn’t mean that the future can only be defined in the narrow terms imposed by what has been.

(You will soon be able to sign up for my weekly newsletter “Random phrases that seem quite deep but really mean nothing upon closer analysis)”. 

Anyway, this is a very all around the houses way of saying that whatever anybody may have thought of him before the Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson has displayed a somewhat remarkable degree of tactical flexibility this season.

Gone is the rigid belief (and fear) of the power of the first goal and gone too is the stubborn adherence to 4-2-3-1.

It’s only May in 2017 and Robinson has already trotted out a greater varieties of tactics than he did in all the previous years of his tenure.

It’s true that this doesn’t always feel like the perfect fit for his (football) personality and there’s still the sense of a man desperately trying to come to terms with a belief system that he doesn’t quite buy into.

No coach who genuinely believed in pure attacking football would leave Fredy Montero quite so isolated for example, but it’s also true that often the most zealous adherents to any faith are those who have converted late in life.

So the long awaited return/debut of Jordy Reyna and even the moment when Bernie Ibini is fully match fit may see the coach push the envelope even further and deploy two forwards in the same starting eleven.

The biggest problem he faces is that the squad he has assembled just doesn’t seem to have either a natural starting eleven or even a natural starting formation.

There’s no way that Bolaños, Shea, Davies, Techera, Tchani, Reyna, Montero et al can all fit into a lineup that makes any kind of sense and while the argument for depth is always a persuasive one there exists the distinct risk that Robinson will confuse adaptability with fitting square pegs into round holes once he has a full roster to choose from.

So perhaps the biggest change that needs to occur (And there have already been signs of this in both the Manneh trade and one or two of his post game comments) is that he moves further and further away from being the players friend and closer and closer to being their manager.

It seems harsh to say that a coach is too involved with his team but following the terrible penalty call against DC United on Saturday it seemed as though Robinson lost his focus on the game for maybe ten to fifteen minutes.

Now I get why that should be because we all probably reacted in the exact same way, but that was the moment when his players really needed a clear head from the sidelines.

There was still plenty of time (And plenty of chances) to go but it could be that the Whitecaps lost a few valuable minutes because there was nobody on or off the field who could gather their collective heads together.

By this stage of this ramble it kind of feels as though I’m damning the coach with faint praise but that’s genuinely not the case.

It’s far more interesting to watch a team coached by a man who is willing to take chances than one who always adopts the safety first approach and the next two games will be a little tactical adventure in and of themselves.

First Robinson has to select a group of players capable of coming away with at least a tie in Montreal on Tuesday without damaging his team’s chances against Atlanta on Saturday.

And the Atlanta game should be fascinating.

They play the kind of high pressing game that, on one hand, could be catnip to a Vancouver team who must be sick of opponents sitting back at BC Place but, on the other hand, that high pressing game could be kryptonite to a Vancouver back four who regard any pass longer than five yards as more of an aspiration than an attainable goal.

But how Robinson must be relishing pitting his wits against “Tata” Martino (Ex Barcelona and Argentina coach).

In the past the Whitecaps would treat this visit with caution and simply sit back waiting to see who made the first mistake.

But now there’s a chance (There’s at least a chance!) that Robinson will try something fresh yet again and that would be (Has to be) a very good thing indeed.

Time for him to invent yet another new universe!

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