The wonderful thing about St. Domingos is that we like to accentuate the positive, given that there are enough sites and individuals who have a tendency, how should one say it, to a glass-half-full perspective.
So let’s start with the positives. Garbutt was fantastic. And boy, can he take a corner – clearly hasn’t been to training, and missed the memo about sending an aimless ball as ‘standard’ to the front post. Hibbert, as usual, did his job. Jags and Distin looked reasonably solid, and Howard was in inspired form. Basic looks the part more with every game. Lukaku had a blinder, real centre forward play like we know the art should be drawn. Eto’o was ok, but not inspirational as he was off the bench on Saturday. And I can’t believe I’ve said that, but the facts bear me out I think. Mirallas looked good in part.
Other than that, I’m struggling. The stats that matter are that we scored two great goals, and they were great, and Wolfsburg didn’t score any, so 0-2. But the reality is that Wolfsburg scored a legitimate goal erroneously chalked off for offside, and that might have been the start of a very different tale. For quite a large part, we looked disjointed, we looked horribly exposed on the flanks, and frequently we could see Garbutt at the very least calling for a bit more protection. Hibbert doesn’t complain like that, he just, well, he’s Tony Hibbert, our legendary right back before we spent an exorbitant £60k on Seamus, and still our right or left back now that we have a few injuries and rests to manage. But exposed they both were, as McGeady and Mirallas are not natural back trackers, and prefer their defence to start further up the pitch, as McGeady’s amazing slide tackle once demonstrated. But get behind these boys, and the full backs are stretched. If Hibbert and to a greater extent Garbutt are the other side of the halfway line, as is the Martinez way, then the spaces down the flanks are large open spaces.
It will come as no surprise then that we have tended to look most vulnerable, and frequently have conceded, down the sides, rather than through the middle. We let 25 crosses come in to our box on Saturday, and I’m not sure of the count last night, but Schafer in particular, Perisic and De Bruyne as well, always seemed to have space out wide.
The lack of Barry crabbing across the pitch to help cover the full backs, the lack of a Pienaar tracking back to help the LB, the lack of a buzzy Naismith doing battle wherever he wants, are the main issues. And now it looks like we’ll have to do without McCarthy for a while, and leave it to our very own Yaya Toure man mountain, Osman, and our very own booking-will-he-get-sent-off personification, Besic (who seems to be getting younger every time I see him).
The time may have come for a tactical re-appraisal. I’m no expert on how to solve things, but the frailties are there to be dealt with. It’s not just a case of who is available for selection, rather than who is in, or queuing to get in, the treatment room, its about how those selected are asked to play. Over to you Bobby.
Brilliant result, brilliant experience, brilliant fans, and now for a brilliant trip to White Hart Lane