Once again I got this one nearly right. They didn't score, as I correctly predicted, but I forgot to factor in that they might not only bring a goalkeeper with them but one who was destined to have the best afternoon of his life. Step forward Boaz Myhill. You can't blame Harry for this one whatever alterations you might make in starting line up and substitutions. We created more than enough chances to win it (11 shots on target to their none) and totally dominated the whole game.(63% possession: 14 corners to 1) Gomes was arrested after the game for loitering without intent. In fact I question whether we need a keeper.Can't we play 11 outfield players?
I watched the Barcelona/Seville game on Saturday night to compensate for the disappointment and was struck by the differences. Now I admit that Messi is the finest player on the planet and Barcelona our earthly representatives in the Inter- Galaxy Cup. I am not expecting us to turn into Barcelona overnight but there must be lessons to be learned. They played with such speed of thought; such awareness of space and of the movement of team-mates; such quickness of feet and pace on the ball; such instant control; such calmness in front of goal; such restrained use of the long ball. Now these are comparisons with a team at the highest level but if we hope to compete in this manner, which I think we do, then we need to start improving our flair, skill and attitude to the game.
We have a settled squad of good players who should be responding to each other with greater awareness. We play so few clever one twos in and around the box. We are good individually but have not yet forged the vital understandings between pairs and groups of players. Without Lennon we are one paced and one dimensional. We are skilful but somewhat pedestrian in our approach. The build up is patient but lacks that sudden injection of pace on the ball that confuses and unsettles teams. We seem to go head on at packed defences.
More and more bottom half teams desperate to retain their Premiership Status will play ugly, employ negative, anti football measures and park the bus. It is a tribute to our new status as a team to be respected of course but it needs to be dealt with at the individual skill level, at the team tactic level and at the club mentality level.
A gap has opened up between Birmingham in 8th on 33 pts and Fulham in 9th on 27 pts and anywhere below this there will be teams willing to do anything within and on the edge of the laws of the game to stay clear of the big drop.The spirit of the game as embodied in the Barcelona style is another matter. With the financial repercussions severe for failure for the club and the employment prospects grim for managers without continued success the concept of the beautiful game is difficult to sustain.
Of course if we had beaten Hull, or Stoke , or Wolves we could almost be top. If we had won every game as some fans expect, we would have almost won the league by now. We didn't, we haven't, move on. Nobody does and nobody will. Just think how Liverpool, Man.City and Aston Villa fans feel because they, like us, missed their chance to close the gap. Its happening this season and it will happen more and more.
At Liverpool on Wednesday we need to refocus. They are more desperate for points than us and are at home. No buses will be parked and we should do better in a more open game. We didn't get the expected bonus of the three points against Hull but we played well enough to go to Liverpool on a clean sheet roll and turn them over. They are without key players, low on morale and can be beaten. The hubcaps came off in the first game of the season and the wheels shortly after. What's left is propped up on bricks. With Alonso gone and Torres, Gerrard, and Benayoun out, the engine has been removed. Shortly they might well be advertising for a new driver.
The postponement worked to their disadvantage and I have upgraded my 1-1 draw prediction to a narrow away win (2-1). We can't miss as many chances two games running and last time I checked their goalkeeper was not Boaz Myhill. We might start with Defoe and Pavlyuchenko just to see if it works, and Jenas will come in for the injured Huddlestone. O'hara is available and might partner Palacios. The permutations are almost several. Lennon and probably King are still out.
Which brings me to the boy Bale. In my view he is one of the brightest prospects to be seen at The Lane for years unless he is driven out by mindless references to his appearance and ignorant rants about hexes, hoodoos and other superstitious claptrap. He has overcome a series of injuries with resilience, has an excellent attitude and displays the kind of flair, pace and skill that will make him a Spurs legend in the years to come.
Now it is a fact, an undeniable statistic that we have not won a game in the Premiership when Gareth has started the match. That doesn't make it his fault. We stopped burning witches some 300 yrs ago. He was possibly our best player on Saturday. How then can he be blamed because Keane, Defoe and Crouch missed good chances. If we are not careful we will not be in a position to get rid of him, he will have been snapped up by a more successful teams than us who realise his qualities. Barcelona perhaps?
So there you have it: Boaz, Buses, Bale and Barcelona. Next week its Crumpet, Crouch, Cavity walls and Cowdenbeath. What happened to the 'A's? I'm working on it.