It was, in short, a poor afternoon. Let's just say our trip to Spain couldn't have come at a better time. More, after the jump:
Begging for Mercy
I'm a hazy mess. Well, not a mess per se. But, disappointed by what was without a doubt a toothless display of our ineffective style that sums up our season. In short, this match was a valuable reminder of what hurdles we've yet to overcome. We might have flashes of brilliance, and we might have moments where we put it together for extended stretches during matches. But, we've yet to capture some formula of consistency that can calm our collective concerns about this team going forward. I worry. And yet, I have some sort of resolute faith that things will work themselves out. Or, they will continue to suck, and AVB will have carte blanche to blow this squad up come June. Then, all bets are off. For now, there's plenty for us to think about.
- The play of our full backs this season has been troubling. This is the first season since his arrival from Arsenal that I've been troubled on a consistent basis by Ashley Cole. Either AVB isn't comfortable allowing him to join the attacking fray or something is amiss with the guy. Either way, he's been short of his best stuff for large parts of the campaign. AVB's tactics, first the high line and then the deep line which prevented Cole from joining the attack has rendered him inept at doing some of his best work. Elsewhere, Jose Bosingwa. Taxi, por favor. If I have to watch him do that hesitation-stutter-step move one more time, wherein he sort of freezes with the ball at his feet and then, yep, uses his right foot to go, you guessed it, right- I might have to shoot myself. We seriously need an injection of Branislav, post-haste. So much is being made of our lack of creativity in the middle of the park, but over the years we've relied so heavily on our FB's to create offense for us. If the current crop isn't getting it done, then it's high time we consider looking at replacements. Part of my gripe with Ashley is that he isn't challenged for his spot like the rest of the squad. He knows that his only true competition is Ryan Bertrand. Obviously, AVB is going with Ashely more often than not, but, it might not be a bad time to give Ryan a PL run out. Maybe Ash needs a rest, maybe he needs a kick in the ass. Or maybe, we take up our long-standing interest in Alvaro Perreira. I don't know.
- It's been well documented, but Juanito looks totally exhausted. We're asking so much of him right now- he needs help in the top third. Someone else has to be able to create chances. Right now, he's our only true playmaker. You can't put Frank in that column any longer, and you can't call Danny that as well quite yet. Perhaps Didier fits the bill, but he tends to create more for himself. Point being, Juan can't be asked to do it all. Maybe Willian is the answer- seems like a deal for him is close to completion. Same goes for Ramires- he's running his socks off out there and getting into great spaces. If his finishing was better, he might well be on 10 goals this campaign.
- Losing Frank, for however long it might be, will come at a cost. He might not have the same skills as he did two years ago, but he's still an absolute gamer with a penchant for the dramatic and an eye for the big goal. Never one to shy away from the big moments, he gives our midfield an edge of steel we otherwise lack. The reintroduction of Michael Essien into the fold will take time, so we can't bank on his immediate impact. But, we can all agree that after Saturday's performance, Oriol Romeu should be guaranteed a starting birth in the middle of the park. His shielding/shutting play is second to none on the squad, and his ability to play the ball forward with both feet from the back and spearhead attacks is critical. On Saturday, that job fell to Raul Meireles, who had a torrid time picking out a pass. I'm not a hater, I actually quite like Raul, but this wasn't his best performance to date. I'm expecting the midfield core for the remainder of the month to be a trident with Romeu-Ramires-Meireles, with Essien and Obi Mikel slowly working their way back into the mix.
- Danny had a bad day. That's all. Let's not make more of it than it was. First match back after an injury, his touch was off, and he had difficulty picking out a pass. It happens. It hasn't really happened to him all season. Let's forgive him for the moment then and relax. On the Torres subject, I'm in complete agreement with Jack. He had a good afternoon. That shot he fired off in the first half, that sort of half-chance that he toe poked in looping fashion goal bound? He didn't even have the confidence to take that opportunity a month ago. The time he's spending on the training ground is paying off. He's finding himself in great spaces, and is timing his runs really well. What we're seeing from him, aside from the scoring drought, is a player that's truly fighting to contribute. Let's not neglect that Fernando has 11 assists this year in all competitions. Sure, he probably should have buried that deflected Bosingwa cross. But I won't begrudge him the effort. It will happen. It will.
- The boy Romelu Lukaku looks a hell of a player, doesn't he? So many of you Twitterati had a go at him. But in his 15 minutes, I saw an excellent burst of speed down the right flank (at that size?!) which made me believe that he's going to be awesome when his time comes. Awesome. He's an absolutely imposing figure (LeBron status). He slightly scuffed his cross but otherwise, it was a good cameo from the youngster.
- Gary Cahill won't be starting over David Luiz if Bob puts in shifts like this. He was perfect in my eyes. Nothing too outlandish, no overwhelming brain-farts. Just clean, composed, crunching stuff at the back. That triple touch over the shoulder to get out of the hole? Brilliant. The knock on Luiz has never been about his talent though. We all know how skilled he is. It's a lack of consistency and poor decision making that have us all on edge. I've said it all year, if he can limit the mistakes, he's our best CB next to John. But I'm totally anticipating a Gary Cahill run out coming soon.
- Lateral passing is giving me a heart attack. I'm tired of watching us move the ball side to side without finding that pass which carves the defense open for a goal-scoring chance. Either we need to play more on the counter, or, we need to rotate the current personnel. Either way, something's gotta give, because we just aren't creating chances like we should. With the payroll and names we have on the squad, we need to be winning these matches. And winning them convincingly.
Some of you might take heart in the fact that we earned a point. I don't. This, was a loss in my eyes. On the road against a struggling Norwich team that has conceded goals in every match they've played this year. And we are the first team that fails to find the net. No, this was a loss for me. Make what you will of Tottenham dropping points, Arsenal and Liverpool capitulating. This wasn't good by any stretch. This trip to Spain? Hopefully it helps reheat Fernando's scoring touch and gives us a better flow upon return. QPR up next. That's going to be a cauldron of sorts. I will expect nothing but hostile, nasty, aggressive, card-happy action. It's a statement game and many will be watching. Here's hoping we get our groove back, sharpish.