Sorry I’m late everyone, I’ve only just got back from Chennai where I watched a dismal cricketing display by England that took us from the brink of victory (ok, well, a sure fire draw) to an inglorious defeat. The temptation to draw parallels to our Blues losing to the RS is enormous, but actually would probably be tenuous at best.
Skill? Not so much. In fact, nowhere near enough.
As I sat bolt upright in my Indian hotel bed at 1.30am, my fear was that we’d have another false start that seems to have been our stock-in-trade so far this weird season. And on the back of that, be 0-3 down by half time.
In fact, the first “hullf’ was, to coin a phrase, “OK” (anyone think RK’s “OK” is the successor to RM’s “Phenomenal”? No? Just me then.). High intensity and pressing, crowd well on board with the team’s energy, and the occasional burst down the right by the much (too) maligned Seamus, but precious few chances other than a Funes Mori header that should undoubtedly have been closer if not buried.
The second hullf was a different tale, and Liverpool appeared to find the ways and means to nullify our energetic pressing, or perhaps we’d run out of energy from the first 45 minutes. Either way, I imagine watching from the Gwladys St end was painful, telescopes needed all round, as precious little action was seen anywhere near the goal we were supposedly attacking. I think we lacked the all over pressing of McCarthy, who had seemingly answered the call for a bit of bite in midfield, only for injury now to deprive us. Step forward Tom Davies, or do we continue to see Barry and Gana paired? Or maybe the bite and creativity that Davies can offer can come instead of the enigmatic (a more glamorous word that actually means ‘erratic’ in this case) Barkley, who probably didn’t mean to nearly break Henderson’s leg, as it was out of character from almost any other intervention he made or attempted all game. What we needed was creativity. What we got was Barkley, Lukaku and Valencia all in a line across the park, the one place that any ball lumped up to Lukaku was never likely to go was 90 degrees right or left, surely they needed to run ahead, or drop back for the lay off, but we seemed too static and easy to defend against. What we need is a Mata, or a Fabregas-type player to be able to thread a ball through for Lukaku to run on to, or maybe even a Depay, although I’ve yet to see those qualities in the lad. It has to be a cause of concern that our 20 goals a season man is looking isolated and dejected, even if a new bumper contract might cheer him up a bit. Those supporters that bemoan Rom’s work-rate are missing the point. Sure, he could work a bit harder, but he’s no Andy Johnson, and nor should we want that kind of player if he only scores half the goals our Big Belgian can regularly serve up.
What he needs is service. And despite a promising game against Arsenal, Valencia doesn’t look like the answer; and equally despite an improved showing against the Norf Lundunners, neither is Barkley, love him though I do. His strength is running at defences, ball at feet, slinking past players, but then knowing when and where to release the ball which is where he simply has to improve. Many are concerned that we get on Ross’ back; perhaps we do, but that position is the engine room of the team, the spark that can ignite the fires up top, and if it isn’t going right, something needs to change. New recruits may help, if we can get the right one or ones, but perhaps some of the answers lie within. And that’s why Davies deserves a nod. And about 3 or 4 games on the bounce. We’ve surely seen enough to know he’s not over-awed, unlike Dowell who, for now at least, is in the doldrums, and so I join the merry band of lovers of the shaggy-haired-knee-socked lad from Liverpool. I only recently found out he’s Alan Whittle’s nephew (unless Wiki is wrong – as if…), and he was one of my early Everton heroes; if he can play half as well as his Uncle, Tom would be a great addition to the first team. Clearly, we don’t all get on in life because of famous older relatives (unless your Dad is called Donald…..and don’t get me started on that one…), but we’ve seen what Davies can do, and it’s worth a try at least until more proven reinforcements arrive.
Whilst we can be sad at losing (erm, that’s “distraught and effing angry”), we should look for some positives, and the defence stood up well. Some had fears of being absolutely festively goosed by a free-running Arsenal and an even faster-free-running RS, but we beat the Gooners, and a draw was the very least our performance deserved on Monday. The fear of a 4 or 5-0 drubbing never materialised, because the back 4 were solid, especially Williams who had one of his best games in a Blue shirt in my view, Coleman blocked and harried as well as advancing menacingly in the first half at least, and Mori looked comfortable. Much of that can be credited to the guys ahead of them, with Gana once more outstanding, McCarthy so much more energetic and a real nuisance to the RS than most of this season, and only his departure and the more sedate snide-like Barry in his place took that intensity down a notch. Perhaps if we are to get Schneiderlin, that will allow Barry to have his pipe and slippers on a bit more regularly to prolong his incredible career still further. I have a feeling his tempo isn’t quite what Ronald McKoeman wants.
There we go, a feared two games post Watford ends up with a win and a desperate last minute or so defeat, so not the gloom and doom feared, and hopefully a platform on which to build. A repeat of the first half will surely be too much for Leicester, Hull and Southampton, all three games which we can now reasonably expect to win, or at least manage 7/9 points. The worst that can happen is that any momentum generated is lost and we go back, metaphorically at least, to Vicarage Road.
That really would be unforgivable.