Hmm – I honestly think that we owed our win last night in large part to the presence of Jermaine Jenas.
Alright, alright – I’ve clearly gone mad. Too many booze-fuelled late nights, not enough sleep, not enough oxygen to the brain – these have all contributed to some severe form of dementia. I’m obviously crazy. I’m obviously talking the gibberish of a lunatic. No team on the planet can benefit from the presence in its ranks of Jermaine Jenas.
However, continuing the crazy-talk theme – I began to appreciate him once he was absent, injured. As mentioned previously on these pages, in his absence our central midfield comprised two deep-lying types, in Thudd and Zokora. Last night, Jenas was back and the midfield seemed to have a better balance. Unlike Thudd and Zokora, Jenas is happy to assume a position some 10-20 yards in advance of the halfway line, with his midfield partner sitting deeper. As such, whenever we won position we tended to have an attacking option in addition to the strikers, and this helped to drag the oppo around a bit.
Returning to sanity, Jenas’ return to the team did also remind us all of why he is so reviled by his own. Bless him, he works his socks off, makes lung-bursting runs, occasionally dribbles past midfielders, generally does the difficult part – and then always, always messes up the finish. This would also be why he doesn’t have his own song (http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=65). There was one notable jinking run in the first half yesterday which ended in a shot so tame you wanted to feed it berries from your hand. Then in the second half he caused panic in the oppo ranks by picking up the ball from 20 yards and determinedly burrowing towards goal – only to scuff his effort into a pathetic dribble that barely had sufficient momentum to make it into the arms of the goalkeeper. Honestly, to paraphrase from Bruce Willis’ wife in the first (and best) Die Hard, only Jermaine Jenas can make you that angry. Bizarrely, the only time he’s complemented the effort and determination of the build-up with a suitably successful end-product was away to l’arse earlier this season, when he scored an absolute peach. Any other time, that shot would have been so mis-hit and weak it would have stopped rolling out of embarrassment.
However, his presence and positioning improved the shape of the team. I assume that ‘Arry hastily read my last blog posting just prior to kick-off, because as well as addressing my concerns about the midfield balance he also addressed my point about resting key personnel, by picking a pretty darned strong starting XI.
They began with all the energy and verve of a moribund sloth, and the nightmare scenario of conceding early and away from home to a lower league team duly materialised. (The goal encapsulated our early sluggishness in a microcosm – Lennon beaten to the ball by a far hungrier opponent, Jenas and Woody wrong-footed and lumbering with the turning speed of a pleasure cruiser while the oppo striker swivelled and buried it). However, this had the pleasing side-effect of sparking us into life, and also prompted Watford to give us possession on halfway and sit back in their own half. We duly attacked, Lennon in particular looking good, O’ Hara not so, and the goals duly came. Pav, Bent, yadiyadayada, job done.