Three successive draws at WHL. No wins at the Lane in 13 years. Five games with our 3 managers against their 3 without United ever emerging on top. For 45 minutes at least, a familiar domination by a top side—only this time thanks to our best player, the sheet stayed clean.
It would be tempting to say take the point and be happy, and let’s see about Chelsea. Yet the second half gives me more hope than that. Whatever the deficiencies of the first period—and they were a) numerous and b) mostly concentrated on the midfield—Spurs were clearly the better side in the second. Whereas United’s 5 man midfield had dominated possession now it was our lads that were pressing, tackling, dispossessing and even creating chances, if not quite the quality of their opposition. If Ryan Mason could have finished…. But the same was true for Mata, Van Persie (twice), Young and Falcao.
I’m not sure we can fix the problem in the midfield in time to avoid a defeat on New Year’s Day to the league leaders—Bentaleb will undoubtedly play instead of Stambouli but will he and Mason be able to throttle the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Willian? Or perhaps more pertinently, can either win battles vs Matic? But the encouragement today lay in the effort, the keeper, the center forward and the back four.
Poch told the team something at halftime because they were both more energetic and assured after the break. The statistics may say Fabianski is the BPL’s top keeper—our eyes increasingly tell us it is Lloris. His right handed stop against Young was a thing of acrobatic beauty. Kane surprised me today not with his motor—it is always running—but with a few very sublime balls through to his teammates, the one to Mason deserved a better outcome. And in the back, while Chiriches per usual made a couple of puzzling giveaways, he made several strong recoveries, including a game saving kick in the first half; Davies is clearly our best left back and was strong today, particularly in the second half, and Vertonghen and Fazio are growing together every week.
We might or might not be good enough to finish Top Four—February’s NLD will help provide that answer, as will whether or not Wenger can continue his aggravating pattern of not allowing his side to slip against the bottom half when the season gets ragged. But we are good enough to stay in the mix—the second half proved that. And for now, that’s enough. If the little birdie whispers “Yes, but no wins, 10 losses and 3 draws in the past season and a half vs. the class (substitute United this year for Liverpool last) won’t cut it long term, right?”…. tell him to fly away and come again in May.
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