Well, that was an appropriate start. It was the best hour in an away league game in nearly a year—and then it got a bit Spursy at the end, which is a good thing since Jose’s “Do not concede anything” attitude won’t happen overnight. Buses aren’t built in a day.
But this was a game all about Dele. I had thought from the instant that the appointment sunk in that there were two crucial player relationships—Kane, which would be the simplest one as Mourinho understands the value of a striker/talisman and knows this particular one must be serviced and happy; and Dele, who has underperformed for so long this past year or more. When I read the quote—offered up by the manager, remember—“are you Dele or Dele’s brother?” then, “play like Dele” I laughed out loud. We may be right.. he might be crazy…but it just might be (the) lunatic we’re looking for. He knows how to motivate.
This was Dele’s best game in many a moon—the initial pass to an offside Kane for what could easily have been a goal. The feed to Son for the opener. The incredible save and then backheel push to Son to set up the second goal. He was active, he was inventive… and I can only say I hope Gareth Southgate was watching and thinking whether Mount, Maddison, Rice, Oxlade-Chamberlain are really who he wants to hang his hat on next June.
Son, Kane and Lucas completed the revived front line, fueled by Dele’s Number 10 performance, all scoring and all buzzing in the Hammers defensive zone all game. Winks was solid and even bright in going forward. Dier was not, and still looks lost as a pivot—one can only hope that Moussa Sissoko first and then eventually Tanguy Ndombele will consign Jose’s fellow Portuguese/English favourite to the bench where he belongs. The back line was strong for 70 minutes, but faded at the end—I can’t really pick out a particular problem—Aldeweireld and Davies were both slow to the ball on the first goal, and the corner header was a breakdown by several defenders, I’m sure. Jose will let them all know about it if he hasn’t already. Serge Aurier had a terrific game I thought and made a perfect cross for Kane’s goal.
So new manager boost or not, it is great to finally have a W next to an away fixture. Olympiacos and knockout qualification is next—and then we can keep striving for Top Four vs the Cherries on the weekend.
It felt weirdly like Christmas morning today—the anticipation was so great, though we couldn’t really be sure if there might be coal in the stocking or sweets. It was a little of both—but most importantly there was a purpose and intent that had been missing. For now, it’s enough. The little horse got some of its spirit back—I can’t wait to see the race play out.
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