Before attempting to unravel what went wrong today I would like to take the opportunity to recap on a couple of things that have happened over the past week or so, one of which had – or at least may have had – an impact on today´s game.
With ten minutes or so to go last weekend, Lloris bravely came out to gather a through ball and for his trouble collected Lukala´s knee in a head-on collision. He was obviously dazed but did he lose consciousness, did he suffer concussion?
The medical staff on hand – the same medical team who assisted so well in their treatment of Fabrice Muamba eighteen months ago – initially decided that Lloris was unfit to continue and Friedal was made ready. However, after a few more checks it was decided that, in fact, he was okay and would be able to stay on. As it turned out at the time this did not prove to be a poor decision as there initially appeared to be no lasting damage and he did go on to make a good save.
Events since then may contradict this. Instead of being the life and soul of the party and enjoying training as normal it seems as if he has been complaining of feeling unwell and may even have failed more rigorous tests. He was not expected to play against Sheriff but he should have been playing today.
If he had come off last week would he have suffered the apparent relapse – no one will ever know.
What is certain is that on the 13th minute today when Remy was clean through, a moment´s hesitation from Friedal gave the French forward enough time to take a touch and glide past the American. Our own Frenchman, had he been fit and on the pitch, would have been awake to the situation, he would have won the foot race to the ball, denying Newcastle their goal.
A good decision last week now, maybe, looks like poor judgement this week.
One thing I rarely do in these articles is stray from the subject of THFC but on this occasion I feel a burning need to address another issue of poor decision making and poor judgement.
Yesterday afternoon I was watching BBC1 and Final Score. Our very own beloved Garth Crooks – never one to mince his words – was incredulous when it was announced that the game at Stamford Bridge (where WBA were winning 2-1) had four minutes of injury time. He could barely contain himself when – after five added minutes – Chelski were awarded a highly dubious penalty. Moments later, and with a draw secured, we were all rewarded with the post match interview with Jose Mourinho.
He was almost as incandescent complaining that the second WBA goal should not have stood due to a prior foul and claiming that the penalty was a correct decision.
Of course most of us had to wait until well into the evening for us to make our own minds up, and it was quite obvious that the Chosen One was watching a completely different game. In both cases the Chelski player made a serious mountain out of a molehill, the first went the way of WBA, play was waved on and a goal rightly awarded. The second showed that Ramires had stubbled before making contact with Reid and referee Andre Mariner´s poor judgement and poor decision to award a penalty robbed the visitors of all three points.
So what of our game. Where were the poor decisions and poor judgement? These were mostly taken before the game even started.
AVB prides himself on meticulous planning and detailed analysis of the opposition yet he seems to believe that they do nothing similar about us, nothing to work out how to counter our threat, something shown in the way that WetSpam and Everton have recently managed to shut us out.
And so it was with Newcastle. They had set up to thwart Townsend at every turn, double even triple marking him and we had no real other wide outlet. Why did we field Siggy and not either Lennon or Lamela? Playing one of these on the right and Townsend on the left would have countered Newcastle´s plans instantly. Poor decision, poor judgement.
With no Sandro to protect the defence, our midfield was frequently overrun and the pace of Remy in particular against a leaden Dawson meant they should have scored more than the one goal they managed. Kaboul is so much faster and capable of dealing with pacy strikers – why were they not included from the start. Poor decision, poor judgement.
At half time instead of bringing on attacking options we brought on two defensive players – admittedly at least one of these was the result of an injury – but we were chasing the game and needed someone to unlock their defence not just stop the opposition. Admittedly Newcastle posed very little threat in the second period but it was too little too late.
The introduction of Defoe seemed little more than an afterthought – the last desperate throw of the dice by a desperate man – it didn´t work as he barely touched the ball and never in a threatening area.
We had over 40 attempts at goal, 15 of them on target and whilst Man of the Match Tim Krul made a record breaking 12 saves, we did not look like scoring. Too many long range shots made it easy for the Dutch keeper, another case of poor decision making, poor judgement – this time on the part of our players, or is that something they are being instructed to do?
AVBs tactics and team selection were the reason we lost – poor decisions and poor judgement from the man in charge. He needs to rethink the way he sets the team up if we are to have any chance of getting a top four place this season.
At least with Chelski, Le Arse and Citeh all dropping points we have not lost any ground on others around us but with our next two Premiership matches against the two Mancunian giants we will need to be at our very best immediately after the international break.