A performance as unexpected as it was welcome. Such has been our level of late that for the players to produce a display that encompassed opportunism, clinical finishing, energy and tactical nous to the degree it did is nigh on shocking. If I were Roberto Martinez I’d be demanding a drugs test, particularly on Federico Fazio who dealt with the pace and strength of Romelu Lukaku almost comfortably.
Other outstanding performers were Lennon, Davies, Eriksen, Mason and of course Kane who had more than a hand in both our goals. Firstly he picked up the ball in space 40 yards out before running at the centre of the Toffeemen defence. His left foot low show was parried with his right hand by Howard; Eriksen reacted first but still had work to do as the keeper recovered his feet and Barry raced back to the line. The Dane’s left foot finish was exquisite as he clipped the ball over Howard and an off balance Barry could only watch as the equaliser bounced past him. For the second and ultimately winning goal it was Kane who harried the hapless Barry and dispossessed him in his own half. Lennon led the charge and slid a perfect ball in for Soldado to finish past Howard. For a man so regularly slated for his final ball the quality of Lennon’s pass should be noted.
So what happened? Why the turn round? Well I think that whether it was by design or injury we a) picked form players and b) the system deployed suited the players as opposed to trying to find the players to suit a system. There was no left winger but our right winger played on the right and quelled the threat of Baines admirably. When we moved forward we thus had some natural width with Lennon and Davies as opposed to this pointless and frustrating continual cutting in we’ve had to try and get used to. Lennon provided some leadership too, something we’ve been lacking for years. Bentaleb, Mason and Eriksen moved the ball around with a swiftness that Capoue and Dembele don’t be able to manage. Mason was, as I’ve mentioned above, outstanding even if he was let down by his passing occasionally. Kane is the talisman though. His running and power and appetite force the others to come along with him. Against Stoke though Pochettino tried him on is own up front despite the success he’d had alongside Soldado in the cups. He was reluctant to change the system to suit his best players.
Talking of best players, Lamela played well on Thursday but was poor when he replaced Lennon after an hour. He cleaned out Barkley and Baines and was lucky to still be on at the end. He can expect a tasty response from the home side if he plays at Goodison in the last game of the season.
The other point, and this is confirmed by the fact that our away form is so much better than our home is that the side plays better when sitting back rather than doing all the pressing apparently beloved of the head coach, and he did spend a lot of time waving players forward, not that they responded particularly.
Possibly the least satisfying (and edifying) part of our performance was our abject failure at closing out the game. Our efforts at keeping possession were abysmal and led to Eriksen and Davies taking one for the team. Still, they weren’t so bad that we lost an undeserved equaliser.
Backs to the wall job on Wednesday I’m sure but this performance’ll help with confidence if nothing else. COYS.
Have something to tell us about this article?