Desperately sad news about Gary Speed – RIP
Within a day or two it will inevitably be swallowed within the black hole of wondrous statistics about just how darned good the current crop are (best start to a season since the ’61 Double-winners, since you ask), but the win at West Brom has muscled its way into AANP’s exalted list of Most Hard-Earned and Pleasing Little Gaggle of Wins This Season, or “MHEPLGWTS” as we like to call it for ease of reference.
To win 3-1 away is one thing, but to do so having gone behind and been largely out-played and out-muscled in the first half, by something resembling a team of Scott Parkers, is quite another. Moreover, in the absences of both Modders and VDV this whole bally thing was achieved in the absence of half of the heartbeat of our team, if you excuse the invocation of a tenuous and frankly impossible medical metaphor. A quite sterling effort, rewarded not only by three points but also by the dropping of points by Man Utd, Newcastle and l’Arse. A fine weekend’s work indeed.
First Half Struggles
As noted, our vanquished opponents deserve some credit or making life quite so awkward. Rather than kick and hack their way through proceedings, or lasso all eleven back to the edge of their own area, they had quite a pop at our heroes in the first 45, pinning us back and making life jolly uncomfortable. ‘Twas noted with a raised eyebrow at AANP Towers that Ledley looked a little less than his usual stately self at the back, and the defence in general seemed to exude more than just a whiff of general panic in the first half. Mind you, the struggles of Ledley were suitably expiated for by the performance of Kaboul, fast maturing from reckless man-child with weirdly sculpted eyebrows into full-blown colossus, and not just because he can head the ball further than I can kick it. The odd mistake still creeps in – ball-watching, needless fouls – but these days he waves that “Thou Shalt Not Pass, You Swine” placard in convincing manner.
Life Without Modders and VDV
Things perked up after the break. Scott Parker continues to charge around as if playing each game in the knowledge that his parents are watching him for the very first time; while Sandro displays an infectiously boyish enthusiasm for things (albeit an enthusiasm that very nearly earned him a second booking). Sandro has a bit more to offer in terms of moving forward, and the pair generally seemed to take it in turns to supplement attack, with Parker even eschewing the safety-first sideways/backwards keep-ball approach that usually constitutes his ball-playing diet in its entirety. However, despite the best efforts of these two we did lack the je ne sais quoi that Modders and VDV typically offer.
In the absence of these two particular talisman, our heroes made hay through the aesthetically sublime approach of moving the ball quickly. It may have lacked a little of the cutting-edge provided by Modders/VDV, but by pinging the ball around quickly we got ourselves back into the game, patiently it hither and thither until the spaces appeared, and the little legs of Walker, Lennon, Bale and Defoe sped blurrily into the great big swathes of greenery in front of them. It is a credit to the on-ball technique and off-the-ball movement of our lot that the man in possession always has a couple of options.
Cutting-Edge in Attack
Ultimately however, the difference was probably that, as against Blackburn, QPR and Fulham in recent weeks, our attacking types have that little bit more quality than the opposition. Whereas previously it has been VDV, Bale or Lennon, yesterday it was the finishing of Defoe that was a class above. Where West Brom were profligate, we were clinical. As has been discussed ad nauseam, he has his critics, of whom AANP is not one, but no matter how selfish, one-dimensional or ignorant of the offside law one considers him to be, he is one heck of a finisher. (Curiously for one who has now scored four goals in a week, I still think that Adebayor needs to work on his finishing, but his overall contribution remains immense.)
And so it continues. There remain a good two third of the season left to play – but who amongst us would not have taken this situation back in August, when City were thumping their fifth past us?