Just because it was both frustrating and thrilling doesn’t mean the ache of having seen it all before won’t linger long after the final whistle. By halftime all but the Alderweireld injury—and I worried that after so many of our charges has played twice in the intervening two weeks someone would get nicked; I just didn’t think it would be friendly Belgian fire—was pre-ordained. A series of near-misses and Foster saves followed by one intense period of Albion initiative with Chadli the almost certain candidate to drive the stake in the heart. And the salvation we can take from Alli’s late equalizer was accompanied by the bitter taste of at least two other chances to get another—Foster’s very first save after Chadli’s goal (was it Soldado? I mean Janssen) and his final flick on a gorgeous Eriksen free kick.
So big picture. We’re still unbeaten. City drew, the Gunners barely survived the league’s first date with a Yank in charge, so we trail them each by a point. So what? There are seven teams all capable, most playing well, we’re barely through the first couple of chapters of this novel. While the finishing was not there—the effort and the chances were. Eriksen could have had two but for Foster. Alli had a great chance. With only one exception, I really can’t blame the attack—it was insistent all afternoon. And we lost our best defender and then conceded. Not a shock. I’m not saying it was on Dier—I am saying Toby probably gets in the middle of that corner or the play that led to the corner and Chadli never gets the chance.
Let’s hope the injury isn’t serious. He will miss Leverkusen but frankly I would have been shocked if Poch had thrown both Belgians out there for four games in 10 days anyway. We can handle a couple of weeks. Bournemouth next weekend will be the type of open game our lads should thrive in. If we lose the League Cup game to Liverpool, I won’t shed many tears, And let’s face it—every side will face injuries this year.
As for the rest, at least Sissoko made the effort even if it was lacking a few times. I’m not sure what Erik Lamela was doing half the time or if his head was somewhere between the bench in Cordoba and the Hawthornes. I just know I got tired of see him dilly-dallying with the ball in or near the box with at least two or three teammates moving into position to score. Davies did fine. Kyle didn’t overlap as much as normal, but maybe that was the plan to let Sissoko try to maraud. I can’t fault any of the defenders prior to Toby’s injury—the set piece was a mess and Lloris almost saved our bacon.
I thought Eriksen came into the game the more it progressed—Alli had a couple of possession issues but he was a threat throughout. Son had a clear impact. Mousa not so much but nice try on the dive. And Janssen? He is a beast. His holding opens up the field. But we are all reserving judgement until we start to see some finishing. It does seem Soldado-like in that regard, though I think he is more valuable.
This game won’t cost us a title or a Top Four spot. Unless the Alderweireld injury is serious. A loss would have been crushing. A draw just another date with Tony Pulis—frustrating as hell… We’ll get ‘em at the Lane. On to Germany and we may need some aspirin.
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