Let’s play Bournemouth every week please. That was easy. So easy. I’m confident that if we played a 38 game season only playing them we’d win the league. On the basis they were all home games.
How poor were Bournemouth? So bad that WorseBeck looked like Nearly-a-PlayerBeck. For goodness sake, he scored two goals. The first one classic Wellbeck – in off his shoulder. The second one was more like that Cigarette. To be fair he worked hard and chased them down. Can’t fault the guy from being hard working; just for not being a football player. He’s an improved version of Theo. Though Theo is superior in the after match interview.
Ozil cruised through the game, control play and making a series of exquisite passes. One of these lead to the beautiful second goal form Cigarette. Very TH14 that one. Lady and Gentlemen, we have ourselves a real striker! This boy can play. It would be interesting to see him and Alexis on the pitch at the same time. The triangle with Cigarette, Alexis and Ozil could be a thing of beauty. Some of our one touch passing today was outstanding. As it would be in any training session when the opposition decides not to close you down. Nonetheless, it was pleasure to watch at times. We purred along quite nicely indeed.
Of course, there are still a number of issues we have to contend with. Namely, we’re not a team that can compete for the top 4 spots. On our day we can pull apart even the most dire team (thank you Bournemouth). But the balance still looks off. I’m not convinced that Xhaka and Ramsey can function as the backbone of this team. Both, individually, played pretty well. Ramseys’ late runs into the box will generate goals. But neither of them provide the defensive cover for our defense. The move to swap out Ramsey for our Coq was correct. But then our Coq blew out his hamstring. So that’s him gone for 6+ weeks. He’ll be joining Santi in the recovery room – our best midfield pairing from 2 seasons ago both sidelined. Today we saw both Xhaka and AR8 move upfield at the same time and often get caught the wrong side of the ball. We’ll miss Coq – and that’s before AR8 picks up his own obligatory yearly hamstring injury. I think we all knew we were short in this area of the team. It could have been a perfect time to play Ox there J
It was interesting to see how they tried to high press our back line. Neither of AR8 or Xhaka drop to receive the ball (well, sometimes Xhaka does – and that’s where he’s vulnerable to turnovers) and that makes playing out from the back much harder. Against Chelski it will be much more illuminating.
Kolasinac returned back to earth today. Still way better than either Gibbs or Ox. But his distribution was a little wayward. And like Bellend, he allows too many crosses into the box. But going forward he’s smart and make pretty good decisions – unlike Bellend. We got this guy for free and received £40+ for these other two. That’s a good trade. I’m sorry that Ox left to the degree it reinforces the messages that he’s moved off to a “winning” team. But there’s no way he’s worth that sum nor will he find a central midfield role there. But I liked the boy (no, not in that way kind sir).
We nearly lost Mustafi and I’d still prefer the £35m we could have received. He did not play too poorly today. But, yet again, he displayed his tendency to too aggressively jump in and also go to ground too quickly. That is a recipe for disaster and/or his next sending off. And, without a Santi-like midfielder to take the ball from him he’ll continue to launch his Kolo-eque aimless, long ball passes.
One game does not make a season – unless, of course, it’s a game an Anfield. It’s not clear whether we learned too much today. Maybe that Eddie Howe is not going to be our new manager. It took him 70+ minutes to change a clearly failing team formation. Of course, I’m sure we’ll make him look Guardiola-like when we play at their place.
OK, short and sweet today. I’ve enjoyed the two week break post-Anfield. To be away from the train wreck that is AW and AFC. Today extended that period by an extra few days. At least until we visit the Russians on Sunday. That will be our judgement day. Can we compete? I have my doubts. The same fears persist. We added two great players but failed to strengthen the backbone of our team. And Chelski will surely expose this. But it’s still a little too early to get suicidal about this team. There’s plenty of time for that. That’s what March is for.