Monday, November 20, 2006

Home v Away

We've doubled our away points tally for the season with our draw at Boro. Great success. After initial doom and gloom I wasn't as upset about this result. We dominated the game and spent large parts of the game camped in the Boro half. This was a huge improvement on Utd away and the Arsenal match. But we failed to turn our dominance into three points. Let's explore the perfomance.

Positives

Agger and defence did what little they had to well. The only real chance was the fresh air slice from Yakubu. Other than that the Boro lone striker didn't get a sniff. Agger took the ball forward upfield with the confidence that we're getting used to. It's something that Sami doesn't do and is a great help to the midfield. It allows them to move up the field and reduces the distance between them and the strikers. He also had a crack at goal and wasn't too far away. I can see him scoring another few goals before the season is out. I can't see Sami getting in for too many games now bar those where the opposition has a major aerial threat.

Gerrard was slightly better than he has been recently. I still don't think that he is anywhere near where he can be but it's a step in the right direction. His ball to Gonzalez at the far post was superb and Mark was unlucky not to finish. Xabi and Stevie have played well together in the centre in the past and I think that they'll be the first choice partnership until Momo returns.

Crouch's heading has come on a lot this season. He had a couple of good efforts and seems to be able to place his headers better this year. He was unlucky when Woodgate headed one of his attempts off the line. In the past it seemed that Crouch would take all the power and pace out of the ball when he headed it. Maybe he has built up his neck muscles over the summer.

Team selection was correct for the game in my view. I expect this team, with Garcia and Crouch coming in, to start most games for now. It's quite attacking with two wingers and no specialised ball winner but I think that the defence can cope without Momo against the teams that we have coming up now. Plus Xabi and Stevie are well capable of putting a tackle in.

Negatives

Wingers, crossing and corners. Both Gonzalez and Pennant were poor. Both have played good games so far this season but were crap on Sat. Gonzalez could have scored from Gerrard's cross but didn't contribute much overall. He saw a lot of the ball but his crosses were rubbish, often not clearing the first man. Pennant is a much better crosser as we saw for Brum last year but he is cutting infield when he gets the ball rather than hugging the touchline and crossing from the corner flag.

Scoring and strikers. We dominated the game and spent large parts of the game camped in the Boro half. This was a huge improvement on Utd away and the Arsenal match. But we were unable to turn this domination into three points. As stated above, the crossing wasn't what it should but given the possession that we had the strikers got a reasonable amount of ball and had some chances. Woodgate didn't help matters by having superb game. He could be a superb player if he managed to stay fit. That's a big if but days like this show what he's capable of.

PSV & champs league up next. Can't see them being that pushed as we're both though. I don't expect that Rafa will make a raft of changes. I think that he'll still want to win this one given that we'll get top spot if we win. Some managers like Fergie think that it doesn't matter where you finish in your group as long as you get through. Despite that, the better teams do tend to win their groups so you can avoid some of them by winning your group. If we win on Wed then we will probably play a young team in the Galatasary away match. Glad that we won't be going there needing a result.

In continental football, a great win for Roma cheered me up no end. 7-0 at home coupled with the fact that Palermo were beaten makes them look in a good position, even though they're four points beind Inter. I should really have backed them last week for the scudetto when they were 6-1. Good win for Barca too.

Fins despr├ęs.

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