Frustrating stuff. A couple of months ago I was fairly sanguine about points dropped at home, reasoning with sage, Yoda-like calm that as long as we kept playing well the goals and wins would eventually follow. Never folk to take decisive action if we could get away with thrusting our heads into the sand and waiting, we at AANP Towers reasoned that there was no need to panic – the problem would take care of itself.Not so, it appears. Week after week we seem to turn in a strong performance but draw a blank, and as well as making for an unhappy trek down the High Road this is now beginning to derail the top-four push. The notion of turning White Hart Lane into a fortress seems to have been wildly misunderstood by our heroes, currently labouring under the misapprehension that it requires clean sheets for both sides. Future visitors to the Lane include Everton, Blackburn, Bolton and Pompey (as well as l’Arse and Chelski), and more ten-man lock-outs are on the agenda.
The team of monkeys here at AANP Towers has been hard at work brainstorming ideas as to what the devil we are doing wrong at the moment. And so, in no particular order…
Not Playing Good Football?
A Different Forward-Line?
Controversial perhaps, as the problem seems to be that the opposition penalty area is just too darned crowded these days before we even get the ball to the front-two. Defoe’s raison d’être is simply to put the ball in the net when given a chance, and few are better at the art. Crouch has his limitations, but he had a decent enough game on Saturday, winning his fair share of headers and holding it up, giving us the option of the aerial route. As a combination, the pair work fairly well. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing Gudjohnsen given a chance to stretch his legs, and provide something a little different in attack, especially in those games in which the opposition back-line looks to have the measure of us.
Bentley is doing a good job, but when it comes to Aaron Lennon, as that closely-cropped lady from the 80’s used to warble, nothing compares. For all the neat passing and technical ability, our team lacks pace. At the moment, opponents seem able to line themselves up in formation and repel. A burst of pace would help us actually get behind them and have a dig at their soft underbelly. Bale on the left gives glimpses of the panic this can cause in opposition ranks, always looking threatening when he hares down to the by-line.
Such hastily garnered suggestions are unlikely to go down in history as the footballing equivalent of neurosurgery, but are a selection of the wonderings swimming around the AANP mind. More pertinently, what solutions can ‘Arry provide? He may have assembled a coaching team to cover every eventuality, but, worryingly, after each shut-out he seems to repeat the same line, at least publicly, that he could not have asked any more of the players, and that they tried everything they could. Almost, one might suggest, as if he himself is out of ideas as to how to win these games. If only he had had a couple of capable and creative substitutes to whom he could have turned on Saturday…
A Grumble About Substitutes
It seemed a little strange that ‘Arry did not look to the bench for some fresh attacking inspiration. Retaining the on-pitch status quo would have made sense if all were going to plan and we were romping home, but circumstances rather strongly suggested that a case could have been made for a change or two. Each of Hudd, Modders and Bentley were performing fairly well without ever scything open the massed ranks of Villa defenders, yet Kranjcar and Gudjohnsen were left to twiddle their thumbs on the bench.
And while I’m having a grumble, here’s another point that struck me on Saturday – our ratio of goals-scored-from-corners to corners-taken must be appalling. The statistic, whatever it is, is all the worse for the fact that we have a whole army of big, sturdy six-footers marching forward for each corner these days.
Elsewhere On The Pitch
An honourable mention to Gomes, now one of the finest ‘keepers around. A cracking double-save in the first half crowned yet another solid all-round performance, secure on crosses and always keen to prompt attacks hastily. Sergeant Wilson showed again that his bite seems to be returning, but his doings when actually in possession remain erratic. There was also another good showing from the handsome young Welshman on the left on Saturday, doing all that was required defensively as well as offering his usual potency in attack.
So yet again we have to rely this week upon other sides to do us favours. Hull, unbelievably, obliged, turning over Man City, but Liverpool have, for this weekend at least, capitalised upon our failing. I still cannot see Villa lasting the pace in the race for fourth. Utterly bereft of attacking ideas, it seems the principal reason they remain in the hunt at present is their goalkeeper, the ever-magnificent Brad Friedel. However, we ought to be capable of stringing together a run of wins that would render academic the form of our rivals. A draw against Villa, while disappointing, is not calamitous, and the blow would be softened by a few consecutive wins in future weeks.
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