Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pragmatism and professionalism leads to progression

Not the most exciting of games yesterday, it has to be said. Not quite ‘backs to the wall’ stuff as even Porto eased off considerably towards the end. The last twenty minutes reminded me a little of that controversial match between Austria and Germany in the 1982 world cup. However, in our case, it was a proper match for the vast majority of the game, Porto coming painfully close to scoring before both teams eased off at the end.

As it transpired, Hamburg beat Moscow anyway, so all the moments of near panic during the game were unnecessary. I’d fancied Hamburg to get at least a draw due to the fact they’d taken no points from their previous 5 games, and I couldn’t see them losing all six matches.

Our performance reminded me more of our displays in the 2005 cup final, or the second leg at Villareal. As in those situations, our tactics were ruthlessly pragmatic, and just about did enough to get us a result. I would hope Arsene only uses these tactics sparingly, as it was like Russian roulette at times when Porto got forward, my fears mounting that they might nick a goal for which we would have little answer. We defended in almost calamitous depth, with a negligible attacking outlet. Adey tried to run the line, but he was hopelessly isolated; a situation that was predictable from the moment Msr Flamini and not RvP too the field. It also makes our distaste of teams pragmatically playing defensive football against us a little empty, but then again I’d rather we played like that every once in a while and got a result, than delicately knocked the ball about and got punished. A bit more doggedness in that mould might prevent any more away defeats this year.

Aside from his one mistake that almost cost us a goal – and being a defender that’s no trifling matter – I was again impressed by Djourou. He looked, generally, very composed on the ball, and had the ability to run the ball from defence. He looks far more comfortable than Senderos when he plays, and I would say he should be our third choice centre-back henceforth. Indeed, the major blow from the game last night was Djourou’s injury, which may preclude his involvement on Sunday. I foresee a centreback combination of Senderos and, knowing Arsene, Flamini…

Fab worked tirelessly, but was not at his dictatorial best, Hleb was a little ponderous and unable to really get things going, while Freddie’s ability to beat defenders continues to lie in Highgate cemetery. Clichy had a fairly good game; Eboue has the concentration of a five year old, but did just about enough to not get punished.

But, most importantly, we’re through. Out of the teams we could face, Lille, Eindhoven and Celtic would probably be the preferred options, although I would by no means discount us beating anyone given our performances last year. Perhaps we need to play the big European teams, who’ll play in an open style, to motivate the team sufficiently. Indeed, it is a fear of mine that there our a few players in the team who only really play to the top of their ability in the big matches.

So far my two predictions for the three games this week have materialised: a win vs Spuds, a draw in Porto. The eternal pessimist in me is expecting a defeat on Sunday, especially as we only have one centre-back who, er, has ‘struggled’ against Drogba in the past. But who knows. It might be different this time?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

agreee with you freddie was so slow, he had several good passes and every time he was tackled he lost the ball.hes had a good run but theo should be tried on the wing instead he has to gain experience

Anonymous said...

Good article.
Sad already, as I am prepared for a defeat, onfact a "drubbing" on sunday. We can't complain. We are as bare as bones!

Anonymous said...

Good article.
Sad already, as I am prepared for a defeat, onfact a "drubbing" on sunday. We can't complain. We are as bare as bones!

dong zhou said...

Maybe Connelly will be given a start? Still the idea of Senderos vs Drogba makes me fearful. We stand a chance, our luck seems to be changing and this is a game we rise too.

Then again, if we are as sloppy as we were last night, we are doomed.

Anonymous said...

Is there any reason our injuries are position-specific? LB last year, CB this year... what are the physios doing?