The adage has it that winning while playing poorly is a sign of a good time, but the sentiment in this corner of the interweb is that we win these games because our forward line between them just have more quality than most others in the division. Lennon’s, Defoe’s and even Bale’s ability in the way they took their goals were of the highest order; Fulham for all their pressure did not have that class and clinical touch to apply the coup de grace as necessary. ‘Twas a similar story last week against QPR, when for all the opponents’ huffing and puffing at 2-1 we still had the flair to conjure up a third; ditto, one might suggest, the wins against Blackburn and l’Arse.
So it was the usual stuff from our lot – leading at half-time (albeit far from our best this time); emerging in the second half with an infuriatingly negative approach of sitting deep and heartily encouraging the other lot to apply pressure as they saw fit; a chronic inability to defend set-pieces that saw unadulterated panic sweep throughout the ranks every time the ball was dropped into our area from the heavens (in fact, winning long-balls at either end proved completely beyond us today, Hangeland constantly beating Adebayor, ensuring precious little second half respite; while at the other end the ball frequently stuck with Zamora, despite Ledely’s attentions); but ultimately three more points for the N17 pot. ‘Arry is presumably not alone in suffering heart problems brought about by this sort of performance, for it cannot only have been at AANP Towers that pulse-rates soared and fingernails were gnawed to the bone, during that tortuous second half.
Vindication of Our Summer Signings
That said, the contribution of kindly old Brad Friedel also helped, ever so slightly. I have liked the chap so far this season because he just gets the basic stuff done with no alarms and no surprises, a wonderfully calming alternative to that mental Brazilian chap. While there were probably not any full-stretch acrobatic saves in there today, his reflexes and concentration were impeccable throughout, and each of the countless saves that needed to be made were duly made with no hint of error. Bravo sir, or whatever equivalent is preferred by our cousins over the pond.
Also worth noting that for our first goal Adebayor held up the ball in a manner that was generally beyond Crouch last season, and Kyle Walker showed a turn of pace that would have been completely alien to Vedran Corluka. Our summer signings have advanced us a level, be ye in no doubt. (Yes yes, I’m fully aware that Walker was already strictly speaking a lilywhite last season, but really, since when has a moot point like the truth been allowed to disturb the weekly gubbins around these parts?)
The usual stuff from another summer signing too. I rather hope that, like Ledley, Scott Parker is given the entire week off in between games, and packed off to Butlins, or Benidorm, or wherever he fancies, with a couple of energy drinks and a good book, while a crack team of surgeons re-attach the relevant body parts and generally do whatever they did to that Six Million Dollar Chap back in the 70s. Put yer feet up fella, you’ve earned a rest. (Incidentally, I asked the venerable AANP Senior today whether Parker really did compare to Dave Mackay – the latter having been a particular favourite of my old man – and the response was that the question was invalid, as Mackay would not have made it through a game in the modern era without getting sent off.)
I still rather hesitate to suggest that we are now a team capable of rolling up our sleeves and grinding out results on these away days, for this seemed to owe as much to luck as defensive ability. Nevertheless, away wins such as these – so gruesome to behold that they probably made the midwife shriek – are very much the stuff of which a Top Four finish is made.