It was only the China Cup but it still counts as silverware . But on the off chance that we win another trophy soon we will have to do some training on our acceptance routines. We were all over the place.
We played two matches against opposition that played poorly who by chance we play again within the month. We should be safe from relegation for another season if these games are anything to go by, which of course they are not.
It was a long way to go to play Hull and W. Ham but we used the trip to demonstrate that we can actually play good, controlled, possession football. I know that it was more about selling shirts, Universalising the Brand, Naming Rights, shirt sponsorship, finding a buyer or whatever but we could have played them closer to home for the Whamspurshull Chalice and bought a decent cup for £30 down at the trophy shop. A team from the London Chinese community could have internationalised the whole affair if it was necessary but we only played the English teams out there in any case.
Our shooting was off in the first game and passing in the second was either outstanding, Huddleston and Modric, or not very good at times, particularly Jenas, Palacios and Corluka. Modric showed again what a footballing gem he is whether jinking down the left or running the midfield from deeper. He was given the armband for a half against W. Ham and was obviously delighted.
The game against Hull was played at a slower pace and we relied more on the long ball because Hull played a suicidally high line against Defoe and Keane, who both played well forward and looked lively. In Huddleston and Modric we have two craftsmen who can exploit this situation and we nearly did on more than one occasion. Keane's goal from a accurate long ball by Modric was vintage Robbie Keane and should help him put last season's loss of form behind him . At the moment we have five strikers which seems a little greedy as some teams seem to struggle to field one
The difficulty is, what to make of it all. Were W. Ham and Hull really inferior sides? Or did we throttle them from the start and make them look poor? How then to explain away the Celtic defeat. Were they better than us or just further along their pre-season path and therefore more prepared for it than we were? They had a Champions' League game a few day's later and were quicker to the ball and faster on the ball. Might Hull and W. Ham make the same case?
But it is possible to take some positives from the pre-season without straying into 'Top Four ' speculation. O'Hara was our man of the match against W. Ham and will have silenced a few of his critics. Naughton and Livermore look to have made the step up to the first team squad and Naughton's ball across the six yard box to Lennon for our third against Hull was quality. The opportunities afforded to the youngsters was a big bonus and four or five of them looked ready to step up.
We were also missing our three first choice Centre Halves but Huddlestone, Chimbonda and Corluka coped pretty well with what was put in front of them. We have a flexible squad especially defensively with all three of the above able to fill in a variety of roles. This is essential for a long season even without European football this year.
Palacios still bothers me and I am aware that criticising him is worse than having a go at Saint Harry. His passes (Palacios, not Harry; I'm not sure about Sandra) are often over hit or misdirected and his 'foul' count even before the League starts in earnest is too high. Have a word Harry or our midfield destroyer will be in dry dock for a lot of the season and we don't have a support vessel yet.