A friendly in Nashville. Someone’s dog died, my wife left me, and I drowned my sorrows all night in a honky-tonk dive. Country music is all about sorrow—did tonight presage more of it than we bargained for in the upcoming Wembley season?
The lineups were first rate. No Aguero..no Wanyama… Everyone else from both sides who deserved to be in the starting XI were present. Silva without hair, Walker in a different hue of blue. And after an early Trippier cross found Dele all alone in the box (thanks in part to Kyle’s over-commitment on the wing) and he dithered just long enough for Ederson to cutoff the space needed for a shot, it was open the floodgates dejavu c. 2013 and City were rampant.
Our defence was hideous all night. More troubling, however, was the inability of anyone on the team—keeper, defenders, midfielders—to figure out how to get the ball out of our end in the face of a furious Pep-inspired press. There were several occasions when the ball drifted to midfield and one of our forwards or wings failed to keep possession against City pressure and back came the Blues into a threatening posture. If I had to nitpick I’d single out Kieran Tripper and Harry Winks as being particularly sloppy with their possession, but really the whole outfield contingent was overwhelmed.
A lot to ponder because ponderous was the best description of the entire team, and particularly in our own half. Let’s face facts—without either Walker or Danny Rose, and for that matter, Son and Lamela, Spurs are not a particularly fast team. One could only conclude that Guardiola knew that and in sending three or four players in on Lloris with an equal number pressing our midfield, he was daring Spurs to try to go over the top to escape because nothing else would work. We had no answer for the speed of Jesus, Sterling, Danilo and, yes, Walker—all working in concert with and opening up space for the likes of Sliva, DeBruyne and Fernandinho. Poch will have to go back to the drawing board and determine if a 3 man back line in a side devoid of pace can really survive against the likes of Chelsea (Week Two), City, United or even Liverpool.
Kane missed an open goal (so did Jesus and Sterling botched numerous chances too). Janssen almost flicked a ball past the backup keeper. The second half was actually an improvement despite the two late goals. But if there has been a theme in the American journey, it has been weakness in the backline. First it was the young replacements like Walker-Peters and Cameron-Vickers who were culpable— but tonight it was what will undoubtedly be our starters at St James Park in two weeks time.
Do we need another player or two? A defender and Barkley? Sure. But unless this was simply a walkabout that will be forgotten as soon as the jet lands at Heathrow, the bigger needs are closer to home.
What are your thoughts on the performance? Have your say below
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