The good is obvious. Three points. Second place. Son shining. Janssen playing a part in both goals. The Eriksen-Alli-Son troika insistent, particularly in the first half. Wanyama resolute and Sissoko showing flashes. But for Vertonghen losing out on pace a solid performance on defence but for the set piece goal. Boro was never without spirit even when outclassed—one sensed a goal and a nervous finish were part of the deal.
Yet the squandering of goal opportunities, particularly in the first half, could have proved costly. Alli missed a wide open net, he probably deserved a penalty, Janssen still exhibits Soldado-like finishing, and we were bullied off the ball too much for my liking in the box. It wasn’t our best but then again it didn’t need to be. Yet with at least three of the other top sides firing on all cylinders these are the points that we simply cannot afford to surrender this season.
I’ll say this for Wanyama and Sissoko, particularly the former. They throw their weight around and make it hard for the opposition to get or sustain a positive thrust. But Dembele and Dier’s reintroduction to the starting XI, presumably in Moscow, will be welcome to maximize our scoring capability.
If I had to quibble about Son it would be a curious predilection for losing the ball in close quarters, matched often by Eriksen. Lamela is actually more trusted in my mind to make the delicate pass that might lead to a good scoring chance. But the two goals were sublime—the first with great thanks to Janssen for holding off his defender and giving Son acres of space. The second was more self-generated amongst the constant presence of what seemed like seven or eight Boro defenders in the box.
I said earlier this week after Gillingham that neither Janssen nor Son could play all three games this week. Poch could rest them both in Russia, but Eriksen also played most of the Gillingham match and one cannot see a starting XI missing all three. I suspect Son may play up top with Janssen rested for Man City and Sissoko might also get the call over Eriksen. A win and a draw would be fabulous results, but that’s probably our best case. Saturday was as expected—efficient. Dare I say—Gooner like?
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