Writer: Mike Field
Date:Sunday February 14 2010
Martin O'Neill has praised Ashley Young for his work ethic and dismissed comments that he has struggled this season for form.
Speaking on the Official Site ahead of our FA Cup tie against Palace, Monny has backed the winger for improving his overall game this season, especially his defensive qualities and his willingness to track back and help out in defence.
'This idea that people say he has not had the season as before - I disagree with that.'
It's almost hard not to disagree with that comment in itself. It's not that Ash is a one trick pony, or that his confidence has overly taken a battering, it's just more the case that season more than ever before teams know what to expect from him. Players know his tricks more, and he's being double marked far more than in previous seasons.
We've all seen him not hang on the line like he used to, he's coming deeper for the ball which means most of the time when he does get the ball now he has to turn first, so hasn't quite been able to get into his stride of just running at defenders anymore. Whether we like it or not, losing Barry has also had a great affect on that. Nobody in the team now pings it with such speed to him anymore.
In some ways it's ironic that our typical route one in previous years was 'wide to Ash' left us crying out for a Plan B, and now that we sort of have a Plan B with Milner and Downing we've lost our effective Plan A.
So I do agree with Monny that Ash has varied his game, I think he works harder now than he did before, but we just aren't set up for him to play to his best strength which is receiving the ball facing the goal, so he can go at speed to a fullback.
Hopefully as we work out the new system better, see more positional crossing and movement between Ash, Milly and Downing all switching sides and rotating to keep defenders confused, we'll see the best of Ash again.
On form, happy and flying he's a delight to watch. So whilst Monny is right that he's working harder and helping out in defence more than before and in that way being less selfish as a player, you still have to acknowledge that he hasn't been as influential as we have come to expect.
For me Martin Laursen has it spot on about why Ash hasn't been the flying winger we expect.
'Everyone knows about him in the Premier League and because of that, the defenders are hard on him.'
Laursen adds that Ash is always trying to learn and is a fighter, so will be doing his best to overcome this 'dip' for want of a better phrase and come back stronger and show what he's capable of.
Date:Sunday February 14 2010
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