We Got Away With It

A lousy stinking filthy cess-pit of a performance. Surely scrubbing  the very last shreds of excrement from the bowels of those lorries that suck the pits dry, using your fingernails, would feel better than watching Spurs last night. Cover me with slime and malodorous mucus. Let me wallow in troughs of putrid decaying refuse, rub foul sludge into the gangrenous scabs that spread over my rotting flesh. And I will dance and sing with joy, because compared with my mood just past 8pm, my spirits will be hearty and hale once more.

But in the end, we got away with it. In the last five minutes, we preened and posed, holding the ball with insouciant nonchalance, like we meant it. Narrow defeat and two away goals, take that before the match started. Yeah right.

What’s more, he was the one who lifted us from the steaming depths of doo-doo. He, the lowest of the low, worst of the worst on a shocking night, shades of Keane and Berbatov again with the one-two and a moment of thrilling brilliance and uncanny understanding totally at odds with the rest of the evening. Reminders of Burnley in the League Cup semi, too. Redknapp bewildered and bereft of ideas, open-mouthed at the inept stupidity of experienced, able players perfectly prepared to throw it all away without, apparently, a second’s concern. Then Pav popped up again with a neatly taken chance that shifted the course of the entire development of the club. If we progress, how much will yesterday’s goal be worth?

I’m never over-confident but I really, genuinely believed, no, not believed, make that rationally analysed using the hard evidence available, that we had got past this sort of thing. Away from home early on you expect to weather the storm from a team whose mindset must have been tuned to confident giant-killers, nothing to lose, show them what we can do. Even accept the lucky break and well-taken goal. But complete mindless feeble collapse, that was consigned to history. Surely. Wolves, February 10th, same thing (not quite as dire), then consistency, determination, resilience, good football.

Pass the ball 5 yards to someone on your team. Then do it again. That would have been a good start. I’m not asking for the moon on a stick. None of your over-inflated expectations. All this stuff in the blog about we’re not there yet, this isn’t the Champions League, just qualifiers. Not here. Just pass it 5 yards to another white shirt. But we never quite managed it.

Back four stretched across the whole width of the field. Dawson knows he’s slow, he worries, it plays on his mind and is his personal kryptonite. So he flys in, and is lost at sea, stranded. On Saturday I generously thought he was doing so under instruction because he had cover and City were conceding space, but two games in a row in very different circumstances: bit of a problem.

Not all his fault. This rock of ours does his best work deeper in our box, protected by his midfield. That’s why he was so good last season. If Daws was lost at sea, then Wilson drifted off the end of the earth. The perfect first-leg man, sit and hold. Last night, if he had been instructed to hold his bollocks he would have missed them.

So Daws in his desperation felt irresistibly drawn to the siren-like attractions of his defensive partner. Standing in each other’s shadows, miles up the pitch, one deft pass and they were both out the game. And Young Boys had a few of those passes. They were excellent with their swift and economical breaks, diagonal passes with perfect weight into the space. Their third was a fine goal: if Barca or Brazil has created that, it would be on loop repeat on Sky with the pundits slobbering lecherously.

Easy to blame Seb for that but it was a lovely pass and he received no assistance whatsoever from Benny. BAE could see the man making that run, Bassong couldn’t, and he should have been tucked in more. Instead, he fell into one of his bad habits, which is to hang out too wide, leaving a big gap between him and the left-sided centre half.

The same charge can be levelled at Corluka, not for that move but he severely disappointed. I expect more of him, but he too left a big space inside him and was so wasteful with the ball. He’s one of our men who I look to for a little steadiness under fire. Hold the ball, knock a few short passes, slow it down. Precisely because he can’t run or beat a man, solid defence and short passing is what he does. So do it. Unable last night.

Harry’s bold substitution bringing Hud on so early was a turning point of sorts. Although we were hardly scintillating after his arrival, at least we had some shape and purpose. He’s fast becoming a key man. The team are reassured by his presence. He makes them play better.

By that point it could not have become any worse. Literally. Pav was abysmal, constantly finding new ways to give the ball away and for goodness sake STOP DIVING, it’s so obvious. He lost a perfectly good free kick at the edge of the box because the ref was fed up with him. Gio is not a winger. If he’s given a freer role across the pitch and behind the strikers, he moves well and chooses the options to run with the ball or pass it. Stuck out wide, he just runs, head down, unaware of what is going on around him. Bale looked lost, a reminder of his inexperience for all his success of late.

But still in the first 30 minutes we made and missed 3 great chances. Defoe tried the outside of the foot with that ball from the left when surely a right instep would have fulfilled the striker’s obligation to get the ball on target. He did the same thing from a ball at a similar height for England at the World Cup. On that day it hit his ankle and went in, he became the hero, but there’s a technique problem there.

So we got away with it. Back to the Lane only one down and a couple of away goals in the bank. Young Boys are a useful, well-organised side who will still be quick and active on grass, but it’s a tie we have every opportunity to win.

On Saturday there was much to praise, in particular the collective determination of the team to take the game to their opponents, to be in charge. Don’t know where that’s gone. Perhaps it was never really there after all. Thought I had seen so much of it – Chelsea, Arsenal, City last season, that’s where I saw it. Or was it just my imagination? We’ll need it on Saturday and never more so come a week tonight.

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13 thoughts on “We Got Away With It

  1. I’ve heard rumours that the pitch was to blame.
    Was the pitch responsible for ten quality players making bad decision after bad decision?
    Did it contribute to 90 minutes of ill timed challenges and mis-directed over hit passes?
    Last nights performance had me shifting in my seat, occasionaly too embarassed to watch.
    Has Ricky Gervais taken charge of the side?
    Answers – no, no, and no.
    I’m concerned.

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  2. Blaming the pitch would just be unnecessary. But honestly, Harry came out and openly said that even though the pitch was a bit of alien territory to our boys, it was our squad who were overwhelmed with Young Boys’ attack; our squad who were to blame for a lousy display at the start. And they should be the ones to blame. With Champions League on our plate, not to mention a long season stuffed with Cup matches, everyone should be ready to step in and assume an important role.

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  3. Lets not be to down on our team hear and look at some startling facts that may just have a few on hear wondering . How Young boys doctored the pitch by watering the plastic turf then it also rained making defending the boys energised onslaught impossible to defend on a greasy slippy surface Highlighted by the Spurs spy Strutter We had more shots on target more tackles more corners more of the ball the only thing we got beat was there three goals one offside and the other made from watered plastic. Thy run 72 miles to our 67 its these extra miles that beat Spurs stopping us from playing. To sum our night of shock Horror the doctored pitch the extra miles they managed to find all conspired to beat Spurs by a team who have won just one game in five in there Division so why there sudden form well it could be the Millions riding on the games and desperate people take desperate measures . Rmember Burnley thin faces and the problems there energised game caused wake up 5 man midfield is a new name for energy abuse and is the biggest signing some teams have made when we play the same has we did against City in the whole game like some teams we will have discovered this new and cheating method of shocks 72 miles is the prove we where overrun and five miles behind there Tempo.

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  4. At the time I was blaming the first 11 selection. I thought Lennon would have been more productive than Gio, he woulda torn the YB left side to pieces. It was also proven that Tom is by far a better player than Wilson…I think Crouchy could have made an impact also considering the amount of corners we had…I reckon (& sincerely hope) that it will be a different story at the Lane next week. Fact of the matter is YB were actually not a bad team. They can soak up the pressure and broke very quickly – it could have easily been 4 or 5. Anybody selling a ticket for next weeks game?

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  5. The pitch was a major factor in the first half, perhaps as much in the minds of the players, and Harry (team selection?), as in the lack of appreciation of the bounce, how to run and stop and crucially the pace to put on a ball when passing to a team mate or into space. Mind, YB is a good team, too. They played some lovely pass and move football at real pace and pressed our timid and uncertain Spurs to distraction. Some of my fears about 4-4-2 seemed realized too, as we were outnumbered and outmaneuvered in midfield.
    Either we came to terms with the vicissitudes of the pitch or mentally overcame doubts or as likely just thought sod it we need to do something or we are out of the CL before it starts. I thought Huddlestone and the boys did pretty well second half though YB looked very dangerous on the counter and could have two or three more.
    Nonetheless, we were tosh for the most part. Still, credit for getting back to 3-2; and much to look forward to at the Lane next week. These early season prelims are notoriously tough and many a big name from a supposed big name league has come a cropper or close to. YB have been playing competitive games for a month, including a 2-legged tie vs Fenerbache and simply started better mentally and movement wise, as they knew exactly what they wanted to do, while we appeared to be caught between at least 5 stools(sic). Whether grass, Astroturf, rubber crumb or waterbed we need to have a much clearer idea of what is needed. I would hope we have learned some valuable lessons for the next week and CL proper, which Pav’s goal has made me think likely, though not definite of course.

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  6. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the team selection. Everyone should step up and assume a role given to them. This season is going to be grueling and long with Premier League, Champions League and Cup matches on our plate. The quality players we had on the pitch should be able to play any opponent. As the Americans say, the players have to bring their “A-game” every time they set foot on the pitch; on this evening they didn’t… plain and simple.

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    • el wehbi Please don’t quote the Americans for sport there his more legends in the hall of shame than in any country in the world for steroids .There A game is swallow this or inject that this is a fact. And the days of looking at a team and saying we should win on Paper have gone . My biggest worry comes when a team is at its weakest and if YB are so good then why have they only won one game in four in a crap league. Let me explain how a team can look better than what they appear on paper. A rugby team who should remain a secret Lost there first 6 games one of there players did a job for a well none Premier team member of there Medical staff instead of paying this lad money he gave him these energy tablets because he had told him his team where rubbish . They won all there remaining games got promoted and won that league they won three promotions in total. The local headlines read like this what they lack in size they make up for it with there energy tackling and there high tempo .Well without this energy they have gone back to getting beat the reason the Medical staff have been replaced by the premier team and there supply went with it. This five man midfield is not new and used to get beat by two strikers the thing that has bean added is the high tempo pressing game without the fear of running dry of energy and then like before getting beat by a better team this is why any team could shock and win and its happening every week and its not Lucaozade powerade energy drug ade. This is like a formula one car who is slower than the rest but doesn’t have to stop to fill up is car and wins its has simple has that . The reason it has mushroomed is threefold clubs allowing conditioners to look after players fitness levels and bad testing with poor sentencing for offenders like the two russian players who got fined and banned for two games in the champs league playing at utd they said they had chest infections and took sudafed.. They where winning at old trafford 3-o then Utd DREW 3-3. The two players had Ephedrine the same drug this rugby team used to gain a advantage in energy. get a copy of last years game between Utd and Dynamo Moscow you will see its the same has Young Boys but not on plastic so expect another high tempo performance from the goalkeeper and the rest at white hear lane

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  7. 4-4-2 was a mistake and the midfield was overwhelmed, the defence exposed and the forwards isolated. Yes, we played poorly, but Harry and the players let the fear of the pitch get into their head I reckon, which he himself has stated dictated the selection of some personnel.
    I don’t think football at CL level (and many another level) is anywhere near as plain and simple as quality players bringing their A game. Maybe it is in US sports, I have no idea.

    As YB showed, supposedly inferior players can cause havoc to a side not set up to counter them. If the roles assigned to you are inadequate, perhaps even playing into the hands of opponents, you are in trouble, which was the case on Tuesday night.

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  8. Appreciate the time and effort that’s gone into the comments.

    I thought the team selection was fine – different personnel in a familiar formation – but they looked decidedly uncomfortable. It’s about combinations – Daws and Seb, Wilson with the centre backs, Pav and JD – all failed dismally.

    No blame from me for the pitch, although it must aid home advantage.

    Regards,

    Al

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  9. apart from the pitch, its possible the team got a bit overwhelmed to be playing in the CL. you may have heard about dawson & harry smiling when they heard the CL music around the stade de suisse. Will they feel out of their depth and overwhelmed should we get thru to next round?
    And for the record blaming the pitch is a very valid excuse – thats exactly the reason we lost the semi to portmouth in the boggy marsh that is wembley

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  10. Alan you’re so beautiful when you’re angry.
    You write pretty well too.
    I jokingly blogged that by the end of the month
    our season could be over.
    Young Boys at the Wankdorf Stadium some joke but unfortunately
    the jokes on us.
    Failure to convert chances;failure to adapt to conditions.
    We need to get it together and quick.
    Mind you by the end of next week it could all be back on track and useful lessons learn’t.

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  11. Superb piece and the point I agree most about is the way we played it around at the end. How smooth were we? The mighty Tottenham cunningly playing down the clock for a loss.

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