I was thankful for that second half. Thankful for Giovanni Lo Celso and Erik Lamela. Thankful for Jose’s decisive substitutions. Thankful for Hugo Lloris. Thankful for the effort. They made the two hours worthwhile as a watch, and for now that’s pretty much all we have. Because at the half I was prepared to simply state “We’re not that good. Average at pretty much every position at best. Wonder where the quality will ever come from.” Those statements are still true, but the team played hard and they earned the result. There was both team and teen (Skipp and Tanganga) spirit.
As for the specifics, again Lo Celso has to be the standout. His dispossession and then gorgeous pass to Lamela created the goal. He was in control almost all the time, though a late giveaway presented Burnley with a late chance to win it at the death. He looks like the genuine article.
As for the rest of our forwards, they did play hard and they did create several breaks—all of which were snuffed out in the final 20 yards. 1 v 3 or a pass not seen or a poor shot or something else would always derail us—we simply do not seem capable of stringing together the type of combination play that leads to goals. Dele’s brother was in full flower in the first half—his sibling did return to the pitch after the break. Lucas was aggressive and made a difference in the second half. Bergwijn and Lamela had moments but again without anything remotely close to a good finish.
It is too bad Oliver Skipp overran Dele’s nice back flick in the first minute—a goal there and the narrative would have been very different. I thought he actually played better in the middle tonight than he did v Norwich—but he was a necessary substitution to get Lo Celso and Lucas on, as was Ndombele who was once again fairly invisible.
As for the defence, Toby seems a shell of his former self. Dier actually grew into the game and while his failed headed clearance led directly to their goal I thought he played adequately. Vertonghen is simply not a proper left back—there was one time in particular where he was provided the ball deep in Burnley territory and rather than run down the flank and try to turn their defence he languidly slowed down, reviewed the situation, and then had his pocket picked with a typically weak cross. (Hmm. Skipp does allow some Dickensian wordplay going forward. No, I don’t have great expectations for our mutual friend yet. And this season isn’t even close to the best of times) Sanchez was nothing great, Tanganga a little better than that. Lloris saved us at the end, but a la Vorm he bottled the ball that led directly to Burnley’s goal, was typically weak on distribution and was too passive on a couple of corners.
Still, a draw away to Burnley is about the only result we can expect these days. I would love to think a win against RB Leipzig could come out of this fog. By resting Lo Celso and Lucas—if one accepts Joes’s post-match comments about the board on Wednesday—our manager seems to have prioritised that fixture.
Maybe they can surprise us. Lord knows we need it.
Have something to tell us about this article?