Mark Schwarzer seems to be back to something like top form – very impressed
Nice how Stephen Kelly has won people over – another good game from him. It’s a shame about Zdenek Grygera though. He’s looked a fine defender and this doesn’t look like a minor injury, so our thoughts are with him. That sounded like serious pain.
(NB: we then had a 2,5,6,3 back four, just like in the olden days).
Baird and Hangeland look a fine partnership. Does Hughes go straight back in when he’s fit? Could Baird have done more for either of the first two goals? Probably not. Bale’s cross was violent, Lennon’s run was how I imagine Stanley Matthews to have been, only at rocket speed. It was telling to see the TV footage later: Lennon’s jink inside made Baird overplay him that way, but Lennon switched back and Baird could not. Thrilling football.
Still unsure on Riise. We sit in the left back marauding area and a few times there were runs to be made (e.g. man in possession, space to the left) but Riise was about three seconds late taking off, if he went at all. Konchesky never had any bother getting into these areas at the right time, and perhaps this is what’s tainting my opinion, but the timing and quantity of his runs seem wrong to me. Which is especially annoying as the team needs some width to avoid being funneled straight into opponents’ busiest areas (and therefore having 47.5 shots, none of which were clean or uncontested…)
Thought Murphy had a really good game and his substitution messed things up a bit. I know why Jol did it, I think: with all the attacking players on the field, having Etuhu’s athleticism was probably important in protecting us on the counter and chasing down Spurs raiders, but we lost a bit of momentum there
Sidwell did pretty well but Scott Parker showed himself to be the better player. Both took the ‘Chelsea reserves’ route to where they are now, of course.
Dempsey had a fine game, a constant threat and an extraordinary ability to anticipate chances and put himself in good positions. He was unlucky not to have scored and had the game gone into extra time (for some reason) I’m sure he would have.
Similarly, Dembele was terrific. There was one moment where he ran round Adebayor (literally right around him) for no great reason, but otherwise his driving runs and bullish defensive efforts really impressed. There’s something thrilling about having a player who can really dribble the ball (rather than just run with it). His jinks and twists and turns are a joy to watch.
Duff, like Murphy, slightly unlucky to come off, but to bring on Ruiz someone had to be sacrificed. I’d have sent Duff to left-back and taken off Riise I think. Class player and good to see him back.
Zamora was up against King and Kaboul and therefore was always going to have a toughish time of it, but I thought he grew into the game and by the time the second half ticked around he was bullying his way about like it was 2009.
Ruiz looked class again. The through-ball to Dempsey was nicely weighted, and there’s something of Dembele in the way he dribbles (not the fully Monty, but similarish). Time to find a way to get him in the side I believe, even if it means a Roma style 4-6-0 for a few games (not that you can or should drop Zamora… what to do? Move Dempsey deeper? Play Duff as a Dani Alves style left back?)
Etuhu gave his critics a nice air shot, and in truth didn’t get into the flow of the game at all. Thing is, if our full-backs are to attack properly someone in the midfield needs to drop back and cover, and I still believe Etuhu is the second best player in the squad (behind Baird) to do this.