Some would possibly consider it poor form to wish a thousand violent and irreversible curses upon the new baby Bale, but new mewling, puking wretch will have a few things to answer for as it comes of age. (As luck would have it AANP’s latest newphew was born in Wales a couple of days earlier, so will be instructed to steal Bale Jr’s crayons by way of retribution, at the earliest opportunity). Every inch the modern man, our handsome young Welshman ignored the folk who churn out his millionaire’s salary each week, and instead prepared for kick-off by scarpering off to the homeland to witness the debut of the fruit of his loins. One can hardly prevent such lunacy I suppose (although as Ms AANP pointed out, come the birthing hour in her native land of Modric the menfolk are consigned to the waiting room anyway, while the fairer sex do the hard work).
So with Bale’s gallops directed elsewhere, and Moussa Dembele already out injured, the game was practically ceded before kick-off. Minus Bale and Dembele our heroes looked fairly bereft of attacking ideas in the first half in particular, particularly given the curious game-plan of carefully rationing Aaron Lennon’s involvement to an absolute minimum. Hudd retains possession well enough, but he does tend to do things rather slowly, and the breakneck counter-attacks on which we have been brought up consequently petered out prematurely, epitomised at one head-scratchingly baffling point when Dempsey opted to spin round and dribble back towards halfway.
Having struggled to put two passes together in the first half our lot did buck up a bit in the second, but AVB will have to earn his corn to solve this little tickler, because without our two leading lights the supporting cast do look decidedly less potent. Matters were exacerbated somewhat by our lot’s complete impotence in the face of Chelsea’s slick passing triangles. Be it their back-four or that jolly dangerous attacking triumvirate of Oscar, Mata and Hazard, there were far too many occasions when that horrible mob simply six-yarded their way out of trouble and right up into our area.
Elsewhere on the Pitch
The returns of either BAE or Kaboul cannot come quickly enough, as Gallas chipped in with his now customary sprinkling of lapses. A handy chap to have around the squad, days like yesterday suggested that the visit of the league-leaders is not really the time to be relying upon his creaking limbs. The sooner Kaboul or Vertongehn can replace him in the centre, the better.
Dempsey and Sigurdsson also still look a bit too much like squad players at the moment; and young Master Walker presented the world and his Twitter followers with the most bizarre brain meltdown in the closing stages to seal our fate; but at least Defoe remains in fine fettle, responding to his controversial axing from the AANP fantasy team with the sort of predatory strike that had AANP Senior murmuring something about Greaves. Seeing Torres fluff his lines at t’other end only made it sweeter.
Irritatingly, the nagging suspicion remains that at full strength we would have fared a darned sight better, but such is life, and by the time Match of the Day started we were still in fifth, which was an unexpected bonus. Already this season we have played worse and won, so one rather hopes that Southampton will feel the wrath – and joys of fatherhood – of the lilywhite heroes next week.
(Apologies again – comments box remains unco-operative)