The game against the Baggies seemed to encapsulate all our season´s woes in one 90 minute period.
We started slowly, and gradually improved, only to fail to get anything serious (one point against West Brom is not a good enough return) with performances from the entire team as well as individuals way too inconsistent.
Let us look at the performance, and performances, of one of our longest serving players – Aaron Lennon – for proof of this point.
Aaron has been with us now for the best part of a decade yet he is still only 27 and should be reaching his peak. He seems to get picked week in, week out, but does he really warrant such favouritism.
He has always been fast, and sometimes tricky, he can beat virtually any opposing defender for speed, but all too frequently his end product is ineffective. Prior to the game last weekend his return for the season in all competitions was one goal and one assist. Put into perspective that is exactly the same stat as one Eric Lamela and we all know how much game time he has had. Virtually none in comparison to Lennon´s.Admittedly on Saturday, Aaron improved his assist ratio by delivering the ball from which we got our first – a deflected own goal – and the second – Kane´s header – but apart from that what else did he contribute to the game? What has he contributed to the season?
Surely there are other players within the squad who could contribute more down the right flank? Apart from the aforementioned Lamela there is, of course, Andros Townsend, someone who started the season in a blaze of glory, looked like he was going to be the next GB, the next England super winger, and then promptly got injured. Since getting fully fit, Andros has spent the last three months sitting on the bench and rarely getting more than ten minutes game time.
His selection – or lack of it – has been another example of inconsistency. With four games left surely he must be given the opportunity to show what he can do, there is nothing to lose and potentially much to gain.
Andros is the type of player who loves to take the game to the opposition and he did it from the very beginning of matches, not in the last few minutes when it is too late. We never seem able to start matches at a high tempo, getting off to a good start. And at West Brom we got off to a terrible start.
I cannot find statistics saying how many goals we have conceded within the first 15 minutes of games this season, but it has to be quite high. However, I do know how many we have scored in that period during our Premier League season – zero, nil, none. Not good enough,
There have been four goals scored within the first thirty seconds of all Premier League games this season. We have conceded two of them.
We concede too many goals, far too early, far too frequently. Whether it is down to defensive mistakes – which I have highlighted in the past – or just a lack of concentration early in matches is difficult to tell, but one thing is for certain – our defensive unit has not gelled, from Lloris forward.
Our French stopper has pulled off numerous worldclass saves this season, remember the save at Anfield from Suarez´s point blank header, but he has also put us into difficulty – the punch out in the 27th second against West Brom. Inconsistent.
But he isn´t the only one. Every defender has suffered. One match Walker has been MotM, the next he is the villain. Same for Vertonghen. There is no consistency of performance anywhere alone the back line.
The inconsistency of our strikers is another major area of concern.
We all know that Adebayor – on his day – can be one the best forwards in the world. In 2014 he is currently the fifth highest goalscorer in the Premier League – behind three Liverpool players and one from Citeh – so not too shabby stats.
But unfortunately those days are once again becoming rarer and rarer. When he got recalled to the team in December he seemed invigorated and willing to give his all. Now that there is nothing left to play for, he along with many others, seems to have gone on holiday already.
Soldado – although given an awful lot of game time earlier in the season – never had the service that he craves. His type of play demands the ball in the box and at his feet, but this never happened – unless of course it is on the penalty spot where he, at least, is deadly. Ade – take note – penalty taking is an art that Soldada is a master of.
Kane is beginning to show signs of promise, goals in both of his last starts, he has played for England at every level below full international, but is he really the quality of player that can take us to the next level? Somehow I doubt it. He does not have great pace, he does not have huge physical strength, his first touch is not accurate enough – put simply he is not consistent enough.
I won´t even bother going through the problems we have with our midfield – there are too many of them, too many inconsistencies that make for another ten blogs – we simply have too many midfield players all aiming to do the same thing. Apart from Eriksen and Sandro – both of whom have showed the right level of determination, the right level of skill, the right character – the rest are mostly too similar and too inconsistent in what they can give us.
With other teams putting in equally mind numbing performances – Citeh drawing at home to Sunderland and Everton losing at home to Palace spring to mind – will we also fall into the same trap?
Fulham are fighting for their lives. Realistically, if not mathematically, they are one of four clubs trying to avoid the drop. They will surely give their all tomorrow and we will have to be up to the task – from the first minute to the last. We should be way too strong for them but if we let our inconsistency get the better of us we will struggle.
Admittedly they will be without one of their most influential players – Holtby is unable to play – so that gives us some hope, but when has hope ever won a football match.
We need drive and determination, concentration and consistency, and with that we may yet get another 3 points.