A disappointing result but one that arguably we didn’t deserve. As we’d probably all feared might be the case, the loss had its roots in our lack of firepower. We were well on top in the first half but failed to take our chances.
The game in brief – Defoe and Bale had efforts strike the woodwork before Ba scored for Newcastle after the break with their first proper opportunity. Defoe equalised after some good work from Lennon before shortly afterwards Van der Vaart and Lennon let themselves get bamboozled by Ben Arfa in the area and the latter fired home his pen to Friedel’s left.
The last third of last season was characterised by our inability to make the most of our periods of good play and despite the changes up top we were the same here. As expected Villas-Boas went with a high pressing game with the full backs pushing up to support the midfield. There were a couple of personnel decisions that weren’t widely predicted though with Gallas starting alongside Kaboul at the back (with the younger of the Frenchmen on the left hand side) and Livermore and Sandro both being picked ahead of Van der Vaart and Huddlestone with the latter not even making it on to the subs bench. The choice of Gallas ahead of Vertonghen was an interesting one; clearly AVB hasn’t been impressed by the contribution of the Belgian so far.
We lacked composure in midfield, Sigurdsson was prominent throughout but Lennon and Bale were quiet for too long. Creativity massively improved once Van der Vaart came on. No doubt Villas-Boas will be doing plenty of thinking and tinkering in the coming weeks but to me it seems obvious that given our current personnel, a place needs to be found for VdV in the side.
If we’d got a draw then I think everyone would’ve been happy, and impressed with the start, so there’s no point in getting depressed about a defeat in which we had twice as many shots on target as the home team. It’s the continuation of the pattern of being unable to finish teams off which is the main concern. West Brom next up.
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