Optimism to follow, but it would be remiss to begin proceedings with anything other than the nasty business of a post-mortem…The Arnie Approach
In the absence of our recognised midfield enforcers, our glorious leader adopted the cunning tactical ploy of leaving the back-four without any protection to handle a City front-line so shiny and expensive they had Tevez on the bench, while the rest of our team was crammed with attacking types . While it is easy to denigrate in hindsight, I must admit that ‘Arry’s decision to go for a tackle-lite but flair-heavy central midfield combo of Kranjcar and Modders earned him a whole-hearted and meaty up-raised thumb from the denizens of AANP Towers pre kick-off, on account of its stirring levels of equally measured gung and ho. In an excited flurry of mixed metaphors we settled down to watch our heroes either live by the sword or go down in a blaze of glory, unable to criticise the manager for weighing up the likes of Jake Livermore or Kaboul for defensive midfielder vs the Nasri-Silva-Dzeko-Aguero combo, and instead deciding it would be a dashed sight more fun to watch our own Lennon-Kranjcar-Modders-Bale-VDV-Crouch combo try to out-attack City instead, while poor old Friedel et al simply sighed wearily, closed their eyes and prayed for mercy.
Alas, simply outshooting the other lot, re-loading and doing it again, until they all drop down dead and you rescue Chenny is a ploy that may have worked in wholesome Arnold Schwarzenegger action films of the ‘80’s, but in the nascent days of the 2011/12 football season such a ploy does not cut it, particularly against a City team whose gazillion pound summer outlay enables them to produce vastly superior triangles to ours. The slick little diagonal passes around our area, positional interchanging and off-the-ball movement of their front four sliced our slightly ponderous defence to ribbons. By contrast, our front-line did not have quite the same ingenuity, or speed of thought or foot, to cause similar damage. Put bluntly, our triangles just were not as good.
Poor Form, All Round
Who knows how the game might have panned out had Bale not aimed for the moon in the first half when it seemed easier to score? Crouch too might have changed the game had his flying header pinged the right side of the post, about 30 seconds before Dzeko scored his second. (The elongated one is excused criticism for that miss, for it was a jolly difficult one to have directed better – but if I see him one more time react to a miss by grinning, my lip will positively quiver with rage I tell ye).
However, the performance, as much as the result, was rather soul-destroying. Substitutes Livermore and Defoe at least showed some passion when they arrived, but of the rest possibly only Friedel emerges with any credit (although the goalkeeping pedants in this corner of the interweb think he might have done a mite better with Aguero’s goal). Worryingly, Daws produced a rather convincing Corluka impression, all lumber and awkwardness; while Kranjcar seemed to model his central midfield performance on Jermaine Jenas, with plenty of backwards passing and scant defensive cover; and the sooner Modders is given a slap around the face with a wet fish and told to jolly well buck up his ideas, the better.
Onwards. With Optimism
And in this area I still fancy us to fare relatively well. The arrival of Adebayor will offer us a darned sight more in attack, while either or both of Parker/Diarra will add some of the bite so desperately lacking in the absence of Sandro (Parker in and Palacios out is a fine trade). Royally thrashed we may have been, but in both games so far we have shown glimpses of attacking ability that suggest we will still outscore the majority in this division, and therefore challenge for the top four again.