What do you mean the season’s started?
The first half of this game put the pain in to painful rebuild. What a mess. The absence of Dele and Son was compounded by the banishing of Eriksen to the bench and Vertonghen to the naughty step. Possibly. Poch’s response to Jan’s absence was to bring in Sanchez predictably, but playing to the left of Toby, not so predictably. The first time I’ve ever seen that. Whether not that played a part in his ineffectual efforts to cut out Mings hoof forward to McGinn as he put Villa ahead is open to debate.
What with Sissoko playing on the left of the diamond, everything seemed out of kilter. It’s no wonder we had no intensity, rhythm or flow and looked vulnerable to the counterattack.
The Lamela Trap
After six injury fuelled and unfulfilled seasons the jury is still out on Erik Lamela. Not for the first time a decent pre-season has fooled people in to thinking that this, finally, might be his year. He was given the number ten role in front of Sissoko and NDombele and behind Kane and Lucas. It was an audition for him to prove that if he can remain fit then he can be at the heart of our attack this season, especially given the doubts about Eriksen’s future, but boy was he bad. Poch loves him so no doubt he’ll be given another shot at some point, he’s reached the page marked Enough is Enough though in my book.
All the creativity in the first half came from NDombele and Walker-Peters, not much of it enough to trouble Mings and co at the back for Villa. We were cramped, slow and nowhere near direct enough.
Thanks Erik, we’ll get back to you
Things improved immeasurably after half time as Lamela was shifted to the periphery out on the left and Ndombele, Lucas, Sissoko and Kane were better able to combine. The constant pressure on the Villa goal made it seem inevitable that we would break through but it was the arrival of Eriksen that confirmed it.
The three goals were late and a relief but no more than we deserved. The Villa players knew the game was up after NDombele’s fine edge of the boxcurled equaliser and Kane’s opportunism after Grealish had been pickpocketed by, ahem, Lamela saw their heads drop. Sissoko played in Kane for his second at the death.
What a Tanguy
NDombele ‘grew in to the game’ as the phrase goes. The disjointed shape and tactics at the start didn’t help him but by the end he was the dominant force in midfield we hoped he’d be. He already looks a wise and exciting addition.
Better to get that sort of performance out of the way before a visit to the Etihad next week. We need Eriksen and Vertonghen rehabilitated and Lo Celso integrated, as an option off the bench at least, especially with Son and Dele still out.
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