Another week, another game for Carlton, there for the taking and they let it slip.
This time against premiership contenders the Western Bulldogs. It must hurt for Carlton fans, as their team shows so much promise but once again fails to stop opposition momentum. This tendency with Carlton to give up big leads was one of the first talking points we ever discussed on our blog and it still holds true a third of the way into this season.
Carlton give up leads because they allow teams to score consecutive goals in a row.
On the weekend, they lead by 12 points at half-time, and even increased their lead to 14 at thee-quarter time (it should have been more given they conceded two late goals to the Bulldogs). The Bulldogs then kicked six unanswered goals in the last quarter to win the game.
I’ve noted the statistic twice already this year yet it keeps popping up in my mind every time I watch Carlton. Under David Teague, the Blues have conceded a 30-point swing in 20 of his 30 games (before the start of the year) - 66% of games! Add the game on the weekend to the stat sheet…
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To be fair, if the expectation had never been placed on Carlton to make finals this year (this is a fair expectation given the recruits of Zac Williams and Adam Saad), you could be excused for remaining positive on their outlook as a club.
While there are no such thing as honourable losses, the signs are there. Per Champion Data, as of last week, Carlton’s expected ladder position was sixth compared to their current position at 13th.
To make sense of this, essentially when you consider the amount of scoring shots a team has had, combined with the difficulty of those scoring shots, the expected ladder tells us where they should be placed based on the average AFL score conversion in the last decade.
So, Carlton are generating high quality shots on goal. It was evidenced on the weekend where they scored 56.8% of the time they went inside 50 – their highest conversion rate of the year.
Part of the reason they are letting teams score so easily with momentum whilst being able to generate good shots on target themselves is their ability to transition from turnover. As soon as a turnover has been committed (especially in the middle of the ground), Carlton’s off-ball forwards surge forward. Look at Matthew Owies in the bottom of screen and how he bolts forward off a turnover – eventually getting on the end of a goal.
This is risk / reward type football.
Owies is lucky that Marcus Bontempelli doesn’t spot Bailey Dale – who has five metres on him. He’s also lucky that the ball gets turned over leaving Dale out of position and allowing Owies to surge forward. Some would call this ‘front running’, where players either don’t run back, or run ahead of the football anticipating a turnover, before the turnover has occurred.
Yet, there are times where Carlton’s work rate from a free kick or turnover is defensively sound and challenges opponents.
Sam Walsh pushes ahead of the contest once he realises Ed Curnow has won the free. He runs a dangerous pattern through the corridor. However, it’s only once he is certain that Curnow hits that corridor kick that he bolts forward and out of defensive distance of Patrick Lipinski – not before the kick has been hit. By waiting until Walsh is sure the kick is effective, Walsh can still push back and defend Lipinski if it is a turnover.
It’s less risk/reward than the previous example and is certainly better from a defensive perspective. Walsh’s man Lipinski trails and Walsh sets up a goal off his work rate.
There are significant learnings out of a game that you should have won. Again though, allowing teams to score multiple goals in a period of a game has been an issue for Carlton for years now, and it still has not been rectified. At some point you have to question David Teague and whether Carlton will ever learn to halt opposition momentum by executing a game plan in that exact moment when the heat is on.
They failed to control the tempo of the game when the momentum was turning and their leaders failed to step up in an area of the ground (-16 centre clearance differential) that relives pressure by having the football in your forward half.
It doesn’t get any easier this weekend against Melbourne.
Carlton should take a lesson out of the Demon's book – who have been challenged in every single game this year, yet have had the maturity and trust in their system to halt momentum and get the game back on their terms.
This article was originally published at Footy Talking Points.