Although Mr Bale has not officially moved on to the sunnier climes of Madrid, he certainly seems to be on his way. So, how has the start for the season been without the flying Welshman? Let’s have a look at the 3 games so far….
The first game of the season, no matter who it’s against is always a tricky one. Palace finished with the same amount of points as us last season, albeit in a league below us, so in theory this should have been a simple opening day victory.
We started well with Lennon linking up on the right hand side with Walker and the midfield of Dembele and Paulinho seemed to mop up most of the danger they were faced with. Chadli looked bright, and he’s massive which is good from a set-piece point of view. It was great to see Vertonghen fit and we looked solid all over. My only problem was with Dembele. With Paulinho sitting deep there was no need for Moussa to do the same and so we needed him to attack further up the pitch and link the midfield with Soldado a bit easier. Because of the lack of a number 10, or anyone filling the void, Soldado had to come a little deeper and couldn’t play on the shoulder of the last defender, something which Palace had intended as they sat quite deep. Later on in the game, Soldado beat their back line as they tried to push up, squared it to Gylfi who missed a sitter. While we’re on him, Gylfi didn’t have a bad game but I still can’t seem to see his best position. He’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. We still looked quite nervous at set pieces, it looked like we are still getting used to a new system.
Anyway, it was a stone wall penalty no matter what that twat Hollaway says. What he said after the match about the ref and assistants was embarrassing, just admit you’re team was second best and move on. Very well dispatched by Soldado and so we get our first 3 points of the season. Capoue came on for the last half hour or so and he was very impressive. He’s a machine that goes box to box and looks like he’ll run all day long. Paulinho, Dembele and Sandro have some real competition for places there. In fact, there’s competition all over the pitch, Defoe came on at the end and did well although should have scored. Lloris was also very impressive as we tried to throw the match away and concede but unlike other seasons we held on.
Team performance: 7(ish)
FC Dinamo Tbilisi
Who I hear you say? Well, yeah, I agree. I’d never heard of them and although I was worried about travelling to Georgia and them troubling us, we still had a chance to put on a performance. It couldn’t have went much better. Andros Townsend, playing on the right hand side which I wasn’t convinced about at the start, was man of the match. He was a constant threat especially when he cut inside onto his favoured left foot.
It was good to see Soldado on the score sheet again and Capoue was excellent again. The defence was rarely troubled and although they had a couple of decent chances, Lloris showed that he doesn’t switch off and that his blip against Monaco pre season, was merely the cob webs getting blown off. Apart from that it was a routine victory and one that gives us a great opportunity to have a break next week before we play the scum on Sunday. I’d expect Harry Kane and Tom Carroll to get run outs and if there are any new boys (fingers crossed), maybe they’ll play too.
Team performance: 8
European hangover? Well it certainly didn’t seem that way when we started against Swansea. I was quite worried about this fixture as Swansea played some great footy last season. They also had a great win in Europe mid-week but they were the ones who looked a bit fragile. Our midfield three were fantastic, and again Capoue looked like a monster in the middle of the park, winnning nearly every 50 – 50 tackle, keeping the ball and making the right pass nearly every time. I think Paulinho improved again and got more forward and should have scored except for a lucky combination of defender and keeper on the line keeping his shot out after we’d hit the post. I thought Townsend did well again although I’d prefer to see him on the left more at times and switch with the left winger instead of staying on the right. I assume this is to compensate the fact Chadli isn’t as comfortable on the right. We should have had a penalty in the first half but we kept plugging away and although we rode our luck a couple of times, we deserved to go in front (albeit a dubious penalty decision).
After we went one up, I thought we would kick on and kill the game off but we didn’t. Instead we sat back a bit more and invited pressure onto us. We didn’t really look troubled so I suppose it shows how solid we have become in recent times but instead of taking off players like for like it would’ve been interesting for AVB to change the system a little because the Swans were there for the taking on the counter attack. Gylfi came on for Dembele who didn’t have a great game and had some wayward shooting, but was solid enough. Sigurdsson did alright when he came on but it’s hard to see him getting too many chances to start unless he really kicks on or we get injuries. Townsend came off for Sandro, which I wouldn’t have done. I would have subbed Dembele for Sandro and given the big Brazillian 25 minutes or so. Again we missed the balance that Lennon gives us and it’ll be good to see him back next week. Defoe got a run out and as I said, I would have liked to see Soldado and Defoe together but maybe it wasn’t the right game to be trying that out. We closed the game out and should have scored again when Paulinho was one on one with their kepper who had a great game.
Laudrup said at the end of the game that we rarely threatened but I’m not sure what he was talking about. We didn’t create quite enough for Soldado but the team looks like it is generally gelling together nicely but Arsenal will be a big match. If we can go into the international break with 3 wins from 3, then it’ll be an awesome foundation for the new players to build upon and once the transfer window is closed we can all concentrate on football matches!
Team performance: 7
So next Sunday is the big one… Arsenal. They’ve been difficult to read so far but Villa showed how they can be torn apart with ease so with our midfield I expect a close game but a victory for us. I’ll be writing my next piece after the match as long as I’m not too drunk with happiness so see you then!
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