It was all there for the taking. Leicester had lost and have difficult fixtures ahead while Chelsea beat City, Liverpool have a strange rescheduled fixture at Old Trafford against a rest-deprived United side that may decide that’s the game to give a go to. Simply beat Leeds and then Wolves and Villa at home and the finale at the King Power could still make our European dreams come true.
But you see there’s a problem. We aren’t good enough. Not in the back. Not in the midfield. Not upfront. All of it was on display today, as only our goalkeeper and captain put in the type of performance we needed to win this game.
The defence was shocking, only that word really can’t be used anymore, can it? We’ve grown to expect such shoddy play. The two first half goals came down our right side, but I’m not sure Aurier was much to blame for either. Reguilon made a mess of the first and Dier and Co. stood by and watched Bamford waltz into space for a simple tap-in on the second.
The clincher was a product of everyone being pushed forward knowing that one goal was never going to enough—we need two for all three points. In the middle Hojbjerg had yet another poor game in a series over the past two months—he was beaten to balls, gave away space, and was generally anything but imposing. Lo Celso may have been worse, for his defensive work was thin but when given the chance for a break or a key pass to one of our forwards, his play was lacking. Lucas and Lamela offered little difference in their cameos.
In terms of the attack, only Dele shone—his best game of the year. The pass for Son’s goal was exquisite; the chip that found a silly millimetre offside Kane even better; and the signs of the old creative and impish Dele abounded.
As for the other attackers, I can’t be so kind. Bale retreated from his triumph over Sheffield United into a shell, with an absolutely anonymous game. Son finished well for his goal but was maddening in other ways with poor shots, poor passes, poor possession. Kane seemed knackered—maybe it’s all grown too much for him, particularly with the burden of a major career decision looming this summer. There were poor touches, a poor shot or two, poor link-ups. Serge Aurier produced the one shot in a second half where we actually carried more of the play to Leeds than we had in the first period—and that speaks volumes.
So now it’s simply Thursday nights or nowt. I know which option I’d select, but the players have pride and there are fixtures with supporters present needed for the bottom line. So sixth or more likely seventh place could still be in the offing, which is about right for this squad—and it could still be eighth or ninth. We could deny Brendan Rodgers the Champions League on the final weekend if we care—but that would simply be a last act of a frustrating and disappointing season. The rebuild looms. A new manager must be found. A star will either leave or stay. Tottenham—c. 2021—not a great watch. Today was fitting.
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