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Football cliche 579….a game of two halves

“The best team always wins and the rest is only gossip”.   Jimmy Sirrel

It is abundantly clear now  that the substitutes are a huge part of our attacking game plan.  Seeing the eleven that started on Sunday was a real shock… I didn’t realise we were playing Barcelona.  At Newcastle the eleven that started was a  concoction of the physical and the holding.  Overall, we stifled them adequately  in the first half but our players seemed to be constantly lunging into challenges and needlessly giving away stupid cheap free kicks to invite pressure.  Some of Sorensen’s kicks were suspect too.  Fortunately for us they wasted their (far) superior possession all and we were let off the hook several times by their poor final balls.  Infuriatingly,  it was Huth’s totally unnecessary barge into Carroll that sent us in behind at the break.  A part of the game is TCUP… Thinking Correctly Under Pressure and Huth made a costly penalty box error of judgment there.  Physicality is a big part of our team but it’s vital to make the right decisions.  After the aforementioned lunges it was entirely appropriate we went 0-1 down to a goal borne of a totally unnecessary reckless challenge from a Stoke player.  Odder is that despite our inability to keep the ball in the attacking third for any longer than 0.2 seconds, Newcastle had created very little and had needed us to hand them a goal… which we had done with much generosity.  The second half was much different.   We got back to what we do well which is getting into teams and overpowering them.  Their defence has struggled all season with high balls into the box so seeing Rory enter the fray we knew what the plan was.  And it worked.  Jonesy was transformed and used his pace and strength to unsettle the opposition and us merely  keeping the ball in their half seemed to really unsettle them.  Fuller’s injury was a blow but we kept attacking them and got level.  After Jonesy equalised  Newcastle came into the game again but, like  the first half, rarely showed the craft to break us down.  Our  aerial bombardment continued and we enjoyed some wonderful Geordie hospitality when their James Perch kindly repaid the generosity we had shown near the end of the first half by scoring the winner for us near the end of the second.  I’d buy him a bottle of Newcastle Brown anytime!   In the time remaining we absorbed pressure well and despite some penalty box pinball looked pretty safe.  So well and truly a game of two halves.  Coming from behind to win, especially away from home, is pretty dam good.  And despite our lackadaisical first half we deserved to win.  Newcastle’s lack of creativity combined with our second half pace and power  meant we won the game on merit.  And it is after all a game of two halves!   For now, three league games unbeaten seven points out of nine and things are looking up.  Blackburn on Saturday and a clean sheet would be a good starting point.  GOOOAAARRN STOKE!!!

There is a lot of debate about the starting line ups that Tone is sending out.  Well,  it has always been a tactic of Brazil to allow the opposition to have the ball and drop off themselves.  The difference is that this is done knowing they have the ability and sstrength to win the ball and trust their own technical expertise to build fluent forward moves when they do.  It also obviously  means that the opposition are outnumbered whilst  trying to break forward.  As yet we haven’t quite managed to equal Brazil’s technical skills, as a result  the opposition have the ball for long spells and we are pegged back.  Also bearing in mind that we are yet to score first  this season and have had to chase every game it is apparent that the current strategy isn’t working properly.  Nothing wrong with wanting attacking options on the bench but the whole philosophy of the team is flawed when you are simply playing out time waiting for Fuller to appear after an hour.  On Saturday we need to start the game with a more attacking mindset, especially against solid underrated opponents like Blackburn. 

Who could have predicted that result at Arsenal?  West Brom played with discipline and purpose and thoroughly deserved to win the game.  WBA seem more equipped to handle the pressures of the top flight this time.  They approached the game with intelligence, closing down spaces and trying to break forward when they could to give the defence some respite.  They must have sensed Arsenal were struggling because they started breaking down the flanks and putting Arsenal on the backfoot.  I watched in the pub standing next to a Baggies fan who noticed they were doing  “All roit”  And that with a manager as good as “Towny Pewliss” they might have stayed up last time.  Those last few minutes of injury time were torture for him but when the final whistle finally blew he was suitably delirious.  He  thought he was going to make them “Ply all sodding noit” .  In his delight he bought a monster round of drinks…. everyone a winner!!  Looking across the pub the Liverpool fans were looking depressed, unable to comprehend the fact that the ongoing trauma at Anfield meant ticking over as they are isas good as they could expect.  One even reckoned Hodgson should be sacked, a notion as foolish as it is knee jerk.  Those who know football know that right now Liverpool are a long way from being a top four club.  Roy Hodgson is the right man for them right now because he’s experienced and stable and able to run the team in what is proving an increasingly traumatic phase.  I still don’t expect them to go into administration though.  The brand name Liverpool FC will dig them out of some holes there.  Man Yoo still haven’t found form.  If anything Bolton will be frustrated not to have won that game.  Alex Ferguson will be furious not to have closed the gap on Chelsea further.  Wayne Rooney’s (lack of) form is a big concern.  I agree with what Kevin Keegan says (I can’t believe I just typed that!) in this piece.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/players/wayne-Rooney/8026451/Manchester-United-striker-Wayne-Rooney-cant-blame-the-media-says-Kevin-Keegan.html   It was Rooney who piled pressure on himself by also declaring that he was about to “Write the Future” in South Africa.   If his extra curricular activities are proving to be a detrimental effect on his game Alex Ferguson needs to instruct him to stop them, it really is that simple.  Energy is so vital and having it sapped by continually exploiting his high profile could prove damaging.  Quite simply, I think he looks knackered, the World Cup and other situations in his life seem to have had an effect.   At Spurs once Gary Lineker was off form and looking  jaded so Terry Venables got the club to pay for crisphead to go away on holiday for ten days to rest.   Knowing it was a huge risk that could prove divisive he called a team meeting and explained to all the players what he was foing and why.  When Lineker returned he re-discovered his form and energy.  It was a gamble by Venables but it worked and was an excellent example of managing and motivating an  individual player.  

Another weekend surprise  was in Germany where Mainze went away to Bayern Munich and won to stay top of the table.  Mainze had to travel on the morning of the game due to all Munich’s hotels being booked out for Oktoberfest!   It may be a bit too much to expect Mainze to stay at the pinnacle but the Bundesliga can be quirky.  Repetition of Wolfsburg’s 2009 title win would be welcome.    Diversifying the gene pool of Europe’s top table would benefit the  game. 

It’s a pleasant surprise to see Paul  Gascoigne back in football, even if it is only managing Garforth Town in the amusingly named Evo Stik League.  Whether it will be the pivot which helps him to leave some of his traumas behind remains to be seen.  It can’t be any more of a calamity than his disastrous time managing Kettering in 2005.  Hopefully he can use this opportunity to start getting his life back together.  Good luck Gazza.

David Beckham makes the right noises.  He’s in the Caribbean promoting England’s World Cup bid.  Head of CONCACAF Jack Warner remains a vehicle of corruption.  To see Beckham having to schmooze up to him is a bit galling but in this case the end can justify the mean.  Hosting a World Cup would be a special time in the lives of the nation.  There has been talk of leaving behind a global legacy which is glib yet politically appealing at this precious late stage.    So much of what occurs at that level is politically motivated.

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