It is becoming a bit of a pattern. Win ugly, then lose beautiful.
There must be a game soon when we win whilst playing the beautiful football of which we are more than capable, and in fact that we displayed earlier in the season, if never quite for a full 90 minutes. Maybe it will be Tuesday, and surely we’ll need to be on top form to beat an erratic Newcastle side; or maybe next Saturday against a desperate Fulham side, no mugs on their own turf, and fighting for their lives; or maybe it will be back at Goodison for the Arsenal game, we certainly owe them a beating.
But frankly, for a side in 6th, and for a side talking up the remote but mathematical chance of Champion’s League, we ought to win all three, and many more thereafter, and it isn’t unreasonable for all our games to be played with the high-tempo-crisp-passing that typified our first half of the season.
Yesterday we were poor, as we were against the other Welsh lot last week, and as I smugly predicted last week, playing that way against a side like Swansea who don’t give up the ball easily, we looked shaky on too many occasions. Having said that, there were a lot of positives – McGeady looked a player (but more later), McCarthy ran his socks off yet again, Howard proved once again he’s the best keeper we’ve got (still don’t know why he didn’t play against Arsenal in the Cup), Barkley looked to be much like his better self, and Distin looked solid too. Non-too-shabby shifts either from the likes of Coleman, Mirallas and Lukaku.
I have a slight worry over Stones. He is class, and he is a future England Centre Back, but he often found himself isolated and alone in the box, and I think at fault for one goal, and a couple of their close range misses. But he’s learning, he’s played more than we would have expected this season which can only be great for the lad’s development and he’ll benefit from it for next year. And Alcaraz appears to have shaken off the shock of having to play a couple of games, and Stones hasn’t just been dropped in favour of the more experienced man. However, I’m sure Jags will slot back in next to Old Man Distin as soon as he’s fit.
Baines looked at fault for their first goal, but actually I think McGeady was the man that should have filled the hole as the back four had shifted across to the side Routledge was about to cross from, and McGeady didn’t track back with their full back. But I’m delighted at the touches and turns and dribbles from McGeady, who did what I think we need to do as Plan B when oppositions block our traditional routes down the flanks – he runs at players, he cuts inside as well as going outside, and he will just get better and better with more game time. After a rest and a pre season, I think he’ll be one of our top players next season, and he’s already making an impact even now, so double delight.
Twitter once more didn’t fail to disappoint after the game, as tweeters had quickly forgotten that we were 3-1 up until their last minute free header. I suspect the perspective would have been different had it stayed at that score, but everyone was right that we hadn’t played well, and yet another 3 points in the bag. We have 54 points after playing a mixture of brilliant and cack all season, and actually in the same game sometimes, but we are where we are because we’re good. We’re better than all bar 5 teams above us in the league, and we’ll be there or thereabouts come the end of the campaign. Everyone says we beat Palace as our game in hand and beat Arsenal at Goodison and we’re only two points behind them, rather conveniently forgetting that our sequence of games isn’t quite like that. We have two tough away games before the Gunners nip up the M1/M6, and they’ve got Swansea and City. Could all be rather interesting!
But enough of the ifs, buts and maybes, let’s just focus on Newcastle first shall we?