One of the more annoying traits of us human beings is our capacity to not do anything about a problem until it gets completely out of hand.
That road junction everyone in the neighbourhood has been complaining about for years? It won’t get fixed until somebody gets killed.
Foreign government interfering in an election process? No way it will make any substantive difference to the outcome.
And it seems we’ve reached that stage with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
There are so many reasons to not change things (playoff games last season, length of Carl Robinson’s contract, the worry of getting it wrong again) that inaction is a far more welcoming bedfellow than action.
But anybody who has watched this team closely over the last two or three years knows there are underlying issues that can’t continue to be covered up by sneaking victories on the road every now and then.
So let’s list them.
Tactics– Faced with the absence of both Kei Kamara and Anthony Blondell against LAFC on Friday evening Carl Robinson said that he toyed with the idea of three at the back or playing Yordy Reyna as a False Nine (because “everybody talks about those”) but in the end, and with crushing inevitability, he stuck with playing a lone striker even though Erik Hurtado isn’t suited to the role.
And can anybody figure out where Efrain Juarez is supposed to be playing? A defensive midfielder/right back/number eight might be impressive in a Pep Guardiola team but for a team that’s supposed to be as rigid as Vancouver it’s a mess.
Friday also offered the chance to see Felipe play in a more advanced position but the supposed playmaker on the field didn’t complete one succesful pass into the opposition penalty area.
Actually that’s not true because he didn’t even attempt to make a pass into the opposition penalty area. At home. Against one of the worst defences in MLS.
Defensive Frailties- It’s perhaps reasonable to grant a little bit of a pass on this given how early it is in the season but the lack of cohesion in front of them seems to be throwing the defence out of kilter.
Stefan Marinovic has become a man torn between the Scylla of the punch and the Charybdis of the catch and Kendall Waston is back to doing what he was doing two seasons ago.
Trying to solve everything and thereby solving nothing.
If the Whitecaps don’t have a defence that works then they have nothing.
In Game Decisions- Carl Robinson has never been a man to make an early substitution and he somehow retains the ability to watch his team play dreadfully for sixty-five minutes before even thinking about making a change.
But that’s been exacerbated this season by his compulsion to move Alphonso Davies to left back when his team need a goal.
This isn’t so much tactical thinking at this stage as it is a kind of muscle memory of something that sort of worked once but really hasn’t since.
Maybe somebody else on the coaching staff could have a word? But that seems unlikely because, against LAFC, most of them seemed too incensed about a foul throw that should have been given in their favour.
They were right. But to still be arguing about it fifteen minutes later (with the fourth official no less) indicates a bizarre sense of priorities.
There are times when it seems the whole narrative of officiating injustice and lack of tactical flexibility is all they have to fall back on.
Style of Play- “If it works it works” has been the best defence of Robinson up to this point and that’s fair enough. But as better players arrive (and they have arrived) he needs to have the option of a Plan B. Just the glimmer of a thought that good players could play good football.
But when was the last time you saw Vancouver string a series of passes together? Or even move for each other in a meaningful way on any area of the field let alone around the opposition penalty area?
That should be one of the basics of any team but it’s not for the Whitecaps.
Sense of Their Own Worth– This is a two-edged sword because it’s hard to say whether Carl Robinson does actually think his players aren’t very good or whether he just keeps saying that as a way of protecting his own position.
But for a coach to be so content (even eager) to talk down his players is bizarre, especially when he’s coaching a team that are in the top half of the salary spending league.
And it’s bizarre the Front Office don’t seem to mind this. “Come and see the not very good Whitecaps try to get a result against a much better team” is an odd marketing strategy to hang your hat on.
And it’s odd the ownership group don’t seem to mind this inaction from the Front Office either.
To Conclude– Let’s just say the whole situation has become like a Carl Robinson substitution.
Pretty much everybody else can see things need to change before it gets out of hand but the people in charge of making that change seem content to allow mediocrity to slide into chaos.
It’s just so much easier to do nothing.