This was a microcosm of everything in the 11 days of the Humble One era. We started slow, as the Cherries had the best of the possession in the first quarter-hour and tested Gazzaniga two or three times.
Then Dele took over, scoring two goals on beautiful long balls by Toby, the first assisted by Son, the second with a beautiful touch and finish. We got the seemingly unnecessary but wondrous gift of a Sissoko goal after a great combination from Dele to Son who lifted a perfect cross. And then we switched off—a cheap foul giving Harry Wilson a free kick on which Gazzaniga was poorly positioned and had no chance. Sissoko and Aurier switched off to give the Cherries a cheap goal with a minute remaining—and then Aurier made a goofy headed back pass that, but for Jan Vertonghen’s perfect sliding tackle, might have caused the ultimate embarrassment.
But City only drew at Newcastle and Chelsea lost at home to the Hammers. Baby steps continue. Jose will demand that the defence stiffen—and if can’t, there will be lineup changes. For all of Aurier’s talents going forward, mistakes such as these will hasten Juan Foyth’s ascension to a starting role. Tanguy Ndombele did a bit of everything today, though overall I think it was a positive performance as he kept pressing and attacking throughout. Eric Dier was typically slow and poor in the first half hour, but I thought grew into the game and made some valuable contributions in the second half.
The continuing star is both Dele individually and the power of he, Son and Kane going forward—Sissoko was an eager and mostly valuable component in for Lucas—who knew his first goal in nearly a century of games would be the winner? Gazzaniga was battered but I would feel better for the next two months, assuming Lloris’ return will take that long, if he made a save or two that we don’t expect.
So what does it all mean? We have quickly moved into the top half of the table—and depending on the Wolves-Blades result tomorrow , Man Utd home to Villa and the Gooners at Norwich post-Emery, it could be as high as fifth and will be no lower than 8th.
We trail Chelsea by only six points for 4th with a home game against the Blues next month. We have scored 10 goals in 3 Mourinho games, but conceded 6 in the strangest of circumstances. Has Jose ever had a side that conceded two goals three games straight but yet won them all? The spirit and energy is markedly better than in the final desultory weeks of Poch.
And remember that the fixtures have been particularly harsh—after Old Trafford on Wednesday we will have played all the Top Six plus Leicester save Chelsea AWAY in the first four months—many precious home fixtures await us after Christmas. Jose has figured out a way to bring out our best in midfield and going forward—now he must tighten the screws defensively, though one suspects the true answers may not be forthcoming until the summer window.
I just wish someone would step on Jonathan Lerma’s toes—or some other body part.
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