In my last blog before the ManUre game I called for a result – a draw would be fine a win even better – but what I wanted above all else was a performance, a good performance from every player, giving their all and trying for the team. And I got it.
But where did it come from and why has it been missing for much of the season?
There were only 3 changes from the team that was humiliated at Citeh and two of them were a little surprising, so it isn´t the personnel that were at fault.
Leaving Holtby on the bench was no real surprise as he was anonymous for the entire first period but to see Dawson on the pitch instead of Kaboul can only lead us to believe that the Frenchman is still struggling to be 100% fully fit, while Lamela was our best attacking option last week and may consider himself unlucky to be dropped.
Did we change our formation? Did AVB revert to his preferred 4.3.3 rather than stick with the regular 22.214.171.124 employed for most of the campaign so far?
It certainly did not look like it with Paulinho – another who was perhaps lucky to be playing following his poor display last week – in a much more advanced role, filling the so-called no 10 berth. He was getting into the box more than Eriksen or Holtby ever did, as well as getting back to help out whenever needed – maybe this is his ideal position.
Chadli offered width and attacked the box more and was always looking to get on the end of crosses – something we have failed to do so far this year. And he is a big lump capable of using his weight and strength – something none of our other forward players have.
Maybe the move to include three strong central midfielders for the first time this season was the key to our newly found style. Sandro, we know is a very capable stopper but without support he has been getting overrun but this time with both Dembele – who had a very good match – and Paulinho in the team he looked more at ease.
Lennon was as direct as he usually is and was a tad unlucky that his fine sprint into the box and shot on the turn hit De Gea. Soldado again did not get the service he deserves but he did get one great opportunity, a swift counter attack and setup by Paulinho, but allowed himself to drift wide and hit his shot high and wide. He looks totally out of sorts and dispirited so I would not be stunned if he sat out a few games soon.
The goals were well taken – Walker conned the ManUre wall into jumping when standing still would have been an easier option while Sandro´s strike must be a contender for goal of the season. Even without that goal the Beast would have been my MotM – with it he was an odds-on certainty.
Both their goals had an element of luck about them. Dawson and Rooney missed a cross and in trying to prevent the ball from reaching Welbeck, Walker flicked his boot at the ball. It could have gone anywhere but it landed at Rooney´s feet and the result we all know.
Walker was again involved in their second as he sprinted thirty yards to win a loose ball on the edge of their box, the ball ricocheting down the touchline – again it could have gone anywhere – to an unmarked Rooney who´s precision ball into the area for Welbeck produced the penalty. And yes it was a penalty.
Lloris did not get to the ball, and did touch Welbeck´s trailing leg. The fact that the forward left his leg there is no excuse – there is nothing in the rule book which says he must jump the goalie in these circumstances.
But we got a point, something we do not usually see when playing ManUre so an improvement all round.
Having got through the two most difficult fixtures of the season – back to back against the Manc pair – we have a couple of relatively easier games, against teams struggling for form, goals and wins – sound familiar.
Fulham are always awkward to play against at The Cottage but with a caretaker manager in charge will the team respond or will they display as little character as they have done over their last six games which have seen them plummet into the relegation zone?
Old boy Scott Parker – in his post match interview after the WetSpam debacle – suggested that the mood in the dressing room was poor, morale was low and they lacked spirit – let´s hope it stays that way after our visit.
After that, at the weekend we travel north to Sunderland – also in the relegation zone – but performing better lately under another old boy Gus Poyet. They have won their last three home games against Newcastle, Southampton (admittedly in the CapOneCup) and amazingly Citeh so this one will not be easy
Wins in both these games will – or at least should – propel us back up the table but more importantly give us renewed confidence for the rest of December as games continue to come thick and fast.
Rest and rotation may be required to keep the squad fresh and fit but provided we keep our shape – something severely lacking against Citeh – we should prevail.