I’m willing to make a placard, but a whistle and go on a little march along the High Road suggesting to the world that this was our best result of the season.Before you all go spluttering coffee over you computer screens and rolling in the aisles, consider the evidence. Sure, we have raised our game and earned draws against the top four – but those were fairly anomalous results, swiftly followed by apathetic defeats to teams that might well in the Championship in few months time.Wins against the teams at the wrong end of the table were always welcome, but frankly it’s a little embarrassing to get too excited about a win against a team of Sunday-leaguers and students. Like Hull, bless. For me, the real acid tests of our ability have been the games, particular those away from home, against Villa, Everton, and to a lesser extent Man City or even West Ham.
Bizarrely, we’ve taken maximum points from these away days so far. I’ll discount the Man City game, as that turned on a red card, and we haven’t yet travelled to Goodison, but the win at West Ham was a fitting result for a very impressive performance – and yesterday’s against Villa, falls under the same category, but with a bit more treacle on top. Solid defensively and creative going forward, against capable opponents. Far from just a backs-to-the-wall Alamo effort. Second half in particular we were in charge for long periods. It bodes well for next season.
Where Did It All Go Right?
A stat popped up on the screen yesterday noting that in all four league games in which we’ve led at half-time we’ve gone on to win. That can now read five in five. Here’s the technical bit – scoring the first goal forces the oppo to commit men forward. Genius! Maybe they’ll try that every week. It leaves great big open spaces of green, upon which Lennon and Modric gaze with the greedy glee of the Hudd let loose in a cake factory. All wonderfully reminiscent of the all-action-no-plot days of 5-1 wins and the like. So rocket science it most certainly ain’t, but the fact remains that we look mighty impressive on the counter-attack – best facilitated by scoring first.
Jenas, Jenas, Infuriating Jenas
One of his better days, and it still had me screaming at the TV and searching for someone defenceless to strangle. The burst into the area for his goal was reminiscent of Scholes or Lampard, and reminded us all of how good Jenas has often threatened to be. Credit also for his role in the second goal – having lost possession he tracked back 30 yards to win the ball, thereby starting the move which led to Bent’s magnificently-executed finish. I happily acknowledge Jenas’ work-rate and attitude – both first-rate.
And yet, “Jenas” remains a modern-day byword for infuriating, exasperating and the senseless infliction of violence by the infuriated and exasperated upon passing simple-folk. Which Spurs fan hasn’t burst into a torrent of the most foul-mouthed abuse upon seeing the lad sprint 60 yards, do the hard work and get into position, only to pass instead of shoot, or miss an open goal, or miss the ball completely and tumble over?
As well as that, he simply concedes possession too often. I was on special Jenas-Watch yesterday, and although he had some excellent moments around the oppo penalty area, his ability to misplace six-yard passes around the halfway line remains frightening. As mentioned above, I think we’re benefitting from a settled team selection, but in theory I’d still prefer Palacios-Modric in the centre and someone else out left.
Corluka. The lad defies physics. Visually, everything about him suggests that he’s as slow as an overweight sloth that’s been shot with horse tranquilizer. His legs just don’t move that fast. Watch Bent or Zokora – or, obviously, Lennon – and see how fast their legs move. One of the strange abiding memories in my head is of England-Switzerland at Euro 2004, when we scored our third – Beckham played the ball down the right, and Gary Neville shot into view, his little legs going like the clappers (0.25 on this clip). Corluka’s legs never move that fast. The dictionary defines the term “lumber” as “to move like Corluka”. And yet he’s always on hand to help Lennon on the right. They’re an amazing combo, and were brilliant yesterday. Trying to understand it is making my head hurt.
Date For Your Diaries
Credit to ‘Arry for taking off Didier. Yep, that’s right. On the 16th day of the third month, in the Year of Our Lord 2009, AANP Towers bestowed a shiny gold star upon the lapels of ‘Arry’s jacket. Our glorious leader may put the “Ary” in “mercenary”, and may blame everyone else for anything that goes wrong, but his substitution was brave and possibly saved us the game.
Although I rather like do-do-do-Didier at right-back, he was being ripped to shreds by that pesky Ashley Young. If Zokora were a dog I’d have marched up to Villa Park myself, pulled out a gun and shot him (to end his misery, not just because I hate dogs). It took bravery – and a yellow card – for ‘Arry to yank him off the pitch a good ten mins before half-time. A pat on the back, sir. Pats on backs all round, in fact – although not for Jenas. I just can’t, I physically can’t.