Okay, so it was only Tromso and it was only the Europa league but a win is a win no matter who it is against and what the circumstances. A very uninspired first half and the second only got better as they tired and we brought a few more quality players into the fray.
Yet again we had more possession and more attempts but rarely did we trouble their goalkeeper with anything other than long range efforts. All too frequently, as has been seen in virtually every game this season, we do not get the ball into the area quick enough and even when we do there is never anyone – other than the lone striker (whoever he might be on the day) – ready to capitalise.
Do these two go hand in hand?
Wingers and midfielders are reluctant to put the ball into the box knowing there isn´t anyone there. By the same token they do not make the runs thinking their efforts will be in vain as no-one is going to pass to them.
This is something which needs to be worked on. Midfielders and wingers need to be making runs into good goalscoring positions thus allowing their colleagues the option of finding them with a cross or a pass.
But we simply do not have time to dwell on these issues. December is virtually upon us and between now and New Year´s Day we have no less than 10 games all in the space of 32 days, quite amazingly starting and finishing with games against the Champions – ManUre. Slap bang in the middle is a difficult match at home to Liverpool, plus a Cup Quarter Final and a sprinkling of other fixtures this could be a defining month for the season.
Even with four defeats, a goal difference deficit and a lowly position of 9th – our lowest position so far this season – we are only four points off second spot, so all is not lost. A few decent results and we could easily climb the table, but we actually need more than just results, we do need to see an improvement in the overall play.
Agreed there are some players who are still taking their time in adapting to the Premiership, but it isn´t as if we have fielded all seven of the new boys all at once. Even yesterday only four of them started, while Lamela came off the bench. Capoue and Chadli have had injuries and are only just making their way back into the squad, while Eriksen is still currently out for another few weeks.
Did the injury to Rose really cause that much of an upset to the balance of the team as – apart from Fryers who is too inexperienced to start regularly – we do not have any real cover in the left back role? Naughton is not a left back and whilst Vertonghen can play there it must be obvious that he has to play in the centre of defence.
So, who to play on the left? I know this is going to sound like a square peg and round hole scenario but I would give Walker a go there, especially if you linked him with an out and out left footed winger – either Townsend or Lamela. Instead of an overlapping full back we could have one drifting inside onto his stronger foot.
At right back we then have options, as Naughton is more comfortable there, whilst both Kaboul and Chiriches have played there before, with one of those two partnering Vertonghen.
But it is further up the pitch where we need to seriously address the many problems which are facing us. A paucity of goals is quite frankly the most obvious, and this comes back to what I said earlier – having players willing and able to get into the box and then having their colleagues deliver the ball.
Teams know that we are going to have the majority of possession but we use it slowly and end up taking long pot shots which either go high and wide or straight into the goalkeepers hands. We must get the ball wide and we must deliver it swiftly into an area filling with the other midfielders.
ManUre is never an easy game no matter where we play them and although they have struggled themselves this season they are beginning to find some form – which is worrying. At least they will not pack their defence in an effort to stifle us which may allow us more room to manoeuvre and create chances – better chances.
Team selection is going to be very interesting indeed as everyone that is fit has a chance of playing, and for once I will decline to even attempt such a thankless task.
All I ask for is a good performance from every player, giving their all and trying for the team. A result – whether it is only a draw but preferably a win – would be a very pleasant way to start the festive period.