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.