I know. Leicester won the title by stringing together 1-0 victory after 1-0 victory. But a) we aren’t Leicester 2015-16 and b) neither is the league 2015-16 vintage. That was a promoted side and at the very least they created as many chances as we did, though both sides could not finish to save their lives. So let’s accept the fact that the talent gap between us and the true top four—the Super Four, as it were—exists and won’t be eradicated this season. So after the break we play Palace, where most of the recent results for five or six years now have been….. well, 1-0.
As for the particulars, if there were any standouts I’d identify the four players in the middle. Sanchez and Dier were nearly impeccable—the Colombian’s aerial skills have reemerged—that backward flick from the corner in the second half almost worked. Both players looked ready to deal with whatever threat the Hornets presented, which thankfully were rare. And for what they are asked to do, I can’t fault either Hojbjerg or Skipp.
The Dane actually started to make some forward runs in the late stages after Lucas had opened up the right flank somewhat, and the young Englishman fills the space effectively if not yet able to convert his successful challenges to a decent attack. Reguilon didn’t have a lot to do as we generally favoured the right side for our attacks, but he remains solid. And Lloris never had a hard save but given that his opposite number made the one killer mistake, our captain’s consistency and, now, three clean sheets this season is welcome.
The other quintet were a different story. I will say this about Japhet Tanganga—he got better in the final fifteen or twenty minutes. But for most of the previous hour or so, I was muttering “he’s not a right-back” over and over.
He was beaten early a couple of times, his crosses were mostly ineffectual, and for a significant stretch of the game, it seemed every time he got the ball either he would lose it, give it away, or make a poor pass to a teammate who would then be forced to lose possession in some way. And our front four were pretty mediocre throughout. Bergwijn needs a more open game where his pace can win out—this was not that game.
He did win the free-kick that produced the goal, so it wasn’t a total disappointment, but overall this was his worst performance. Dele at least tried to make some plays, but again it often seemed as if he, Son and Kane were unfamiliar to each other—and given Dele’s decline the past two years, maybe that’s true more than we realize. But I saw little effective link-ups after Watford packed their defence. Kane missed the gilded opportunity near the end from Lucas—who in his quarter-hour was easily our best player—and simply doesn’t seem up to full speed yet. I worry about Gareth Southgate leaning on him too much in this break and risking his appearance in the two big London derbies on the horizon. Most of Son’s corners and free-kicks were of low quality except for the one that wasn’t. But he has not been unleashed yet in this season. This game made me pine for Traore and even more for Tanguy—either of them could have either rounded or split the Watford defence and created more than anyone save Lucas did for us yesterday.
So three wins are three wins. We can only get better. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The firepower at the other four teams dwarfs ours—and their defences are as good or actually even better than Spurs. Ndombele’s situation has to be resolved one way or the other in the next 48 hours—if he’s not going to stay, we need a replacement. I still think we need a proper right back. And is Dane Scarlett truly going to be our only back-up striker? Paratici has done well—let’s see one or two moves before the window slams shut and maybe we can hang with the big boys longer than I currently believe.
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