They do it to us every time, don’t they? After more than an hour of total frustration and bemoaning Son’s suspension, Dele’s hamstring, Levy’s leave it late philosophy, Eriksen’s dreams and Poch’s stubbornness, and the black hole that is Sissoko, Winks and Walker-Peters, all that happened. Wow. And the plaudits have to come first. Tanguy Ndombele—you are for real, and your first goal may live incredibly long in this club’s history. It was an extraordinary bolt from the blue that shook both fans and players from their torpor and set up the crazy denouement.
Erik Lamela? Come on down! You can’t do everything, and often things you begin sputter, but the effort is always there and damn if you didn’t create a shot from nothing and it fell to that man and there was victory. Harry Kane? You never stop churning , never stop firing, never stop believing. When the best chance finally came, you were ruthless. And oh by the way, what a perfect assist for Sissoko, whose strengths and weaknesses were there for all to see today as chance after chance ended in disappointment of a shot or a pass gone awry, but the effort is always there.
Which brings us to the real story today and that was Christian Eriksen. Poch is making the only decision he can under the current circumstances. How can he start a guy that has expressed a desire to leave and, for all anyone knows, might do just that in three weeks time? And yet he knows, we know, the team knows just how important the Great Dane is to this club. He has been inconsistent at times, and it sure seemed by last spring that his head was elsewhere, but look at the difference he made today.
Everything flowed better with him on the pitch—he can do things Harry Winks can only dream of—and 75% of the time, at least, that free kick is the winner, not the lucky bounce from Lamela to Kane that the scoresheets will show. An offense of Eriksen-Son-Dele-Ndombele-Kane is at the level of both of the sides we look up at in the table. And Lamela, Lo Celso and Lucas—the three “L’s”—ensure that the problems of depth or lack thereof from the last two seasons will simply not be present in this one. And Sissoko and Winks can still play a critical role in certain games against certain opponents. Why shouldn’t we be deeper than Liverpool in attack and nearly as deep as City or what Chelsea used to be? Perhaps Levy can’t afford it—but unless you believe the Dybala or Coutinho talks were a total subterfuge—and I assume they would have been linked to an Eriksen departure—the evidence suggests he can. The only real problem is dispatching Eriksen at a time when his replacement might be delayed for months or even a year.
Can Poch salvage this relationship? It’s hard to know. Is the benching some tough love? Or just practical decision-making from a practical man? I suspect we’ll know soon enough. Dele and Sonny—you can’t come back soon enough. I’m not sure if, without them, we will be competitive at the Etihad next weekend—but then again we were in both of the games there last spring. As for the others, Sanchez was bullied off a ball again—it happens too much—yet his play around the other goal was inspired near the end. Danny slipped to ensure the goal but he was always more threatening down the left than his opposite number was down the right. Winks did what Winks does fine—I just worry that it may not be enough over the long haul. But the numbers suggest his time might be limited to cup games or injury situations.
Three points are three points—and you can’t say they don’t entertain us. Thirty-one shots to 7—we bossed the entire second half and it finally paid off. But just once—like next weekend—could we not concede a goal in the first 10 minutes?
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