Sunday, 20 October 2013

One down, three to go…

The first of our quartet of away games FINALLY saw us gain a vital 3 points to keep up with Arsenal and Chelsea; as Liverpool and Manyoo gain just a point each at St. James Park and Scaffold Trafford respectively.


That was the word I used in a text message shortly before KO yesterday evening as it was announced that Lescott was on the bench and in his place in the back 4 alongside Nastasic? Javi Garcia! I was nervous and couldn’t shake the memories of our first away game of the season away to Cardiff City

But in fairness to the often-dodgy – and certainly very average – Spaniard, he played well; although it could be argued that West Ham’s 4-6-0 formation didn’t offer TOO much threat to the centre of our defence for large parts.

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce, most people are aware, literally has the biggest head in football - even larger than our very own Vinny! But there was also a touch of the cockiness about his selection against us yesterday - who did he think he was managing, Bayern Munich? Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on him; I’ve never liked him but perhaps he looked at our threat and despite being the home side, expected to cope with us better by swamping the midfield and playing with no recognised striker.

Recovering - Vincent Kompany
But in doing so they gave us LOADS of time on the ball; FAR too much time in fact to play out from the back. Simply put, they allowed us to dictate the pace of the game. And despite the crowded ‘middle of the park’ we appeared to find all the space we required to pass it around to good effect for the majority of the game; certainly in the first half, although we created plenty of chances across the whole of the 90+ minutes. It should have been more than 3-1.

No, I’m sorry Sam; unless you have players somewhere near the quality of the afore mentioned German side you’re more often than not going to come unstuck playing that system. Thankfully – but not taking anything away from the quality of our own football - we were the beneficiaries of his tactical miscalculation.

I thought the M.E.N.’s player ratings were a little on the low side…here’s mine:

Hart:                7
Clichy:             6
Nastasic:         7
Garcia:            7
Richards:         7
Fernandinho:   7
Toure:              7
Nasri:               7
Silva:               8
Aguero:          9
Negredo:         7

Milner:             7
Kolarov:           6
Jovetic:           On too late to mark…

Looking ahead

Perhaps I’m being a little pessimistic here; perhaps I’m just being realistic. If we get 2 points – one in the Champions League and one in the Premier – and beat Newcastle in the League Cup I’ll be happy with that.

But regular readers will know that if we were to be offered a defeat and a win in our next two games right now, I’d take the victory over Chelsea every time over 3 points in Russia on Wednesday (5:00pm KO BST by the way in case the time might catch one or two out).

We have no injuries following our trip to London; another 90+ minutes under his belt for Richards, Kompany is closer to a return, Lescott & Zabaleta will be fresh and raring to go if needed for CSKA and Rodwell & Demichelis are also ready if/when required.

And yesterday we did all of that without the assistance of Navas, (mostly) Jovetic and Dzeko. Not sure why Navas wasn’t even on the bench but I can’t find anything to suggest he that was injured, fatigued or ill…


So 8 games in, we’re 4th (before today’s game of Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur), a point ahead of Everton and Southampton, a point behind both Liverpool and Chelsea and within 3-point-striking distance of leaders Arsenal. Goal difference is looking good too; leading as we are with +11. All good stuff!

It’s amazing what an away win can do to supplement your home form – let’s hope we can keep it up!

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