Good morning from an early Autumn Norfolk, the faintest tips of gold beginning to show in the trees.
And what of yesterday?
Our opening 10-15 minutes were superb, as excellent a start to a home or away game as I can recall since we demolished Naples in October 2013. Stoke were immediately opened up by Ozil, Santi and Sanchez. Shots rained in on the visitors’ goal, the woodwork rattled, Butland flung himself left and right. As I have mentioned often Hector’s abilities as an attacking full back, his crossing and a beautiful touch when controlling and laying off the ball is worth the price of admission alone.
Watching the quarter of an hour of blurred red and white quality with an increasingly ragged Stoke I admit I was disappointed that we did not have at least one goal to show for such a period of dominance. A moment of weakness I now recognise.
Revisiting the matter however what that phase did give us was control of the game which thereafter was never in doubt. If Mark Hughes did have a ‘game-plan’ and his choice of a 442 formation suggests he may have had an ambition to take advantage of our sometimes dilatory entry to home matches then his scheme was shredded in about five minutes. Whatever hopes Sparky may have entertained as they climbed off the coach he and his players recognised by about 3.05 that it would be an afternoon when survival and a modest beating were the best rewards on offer, victory would have to wait for another day and another opponent. Once we had our collective foot on the throat of the visitors we never removed for the remainder of the afternoon.
The goal came of course on the half hour, with Theo enjoying the advantage of just one touch before slotting a difficult chance past Butland. Oh Theo, you get into the right position, you leave the defender(s) floundering, you can see the white’s of the keeper’s eyes ……………
Marvellous shot from Laurent on 25 minutes from 35 yards btw – well worth a mention and I want to see more of that from him.
But once ahead at 1-0, and with Stoke barely able to get over the halfway line, we dropped a gear, played possession football, created further chances which Butland got his hand to or we fluffed. It was a warm afternoon. Mesut and Alexis’ both had run their race by 80 minutes, and Theo gave way to a no doubt frustrated Giroud. More chances came, and went, before Olivier demonstrated the art of heading the ball in the opponent’s 6 yard box to seal the win and send the home fans streaming for that early train. Even then the Stoke keeper popped up again to deny Koscielny a late third from a header.
Yesterday was a football match to savour, to roll around the mind because there was such a lot of good passing movement, shot after shot after shot at goal, great keeping, even the tackling was clean and professional. Despite their reputation hanging over from the Pulis era there was not much to complain about yesterday from Stoke in terms of tackling and/or freestyle violence, although admittedly Adam was serving his ban. I thought Moss was fine and having watched the clash between Gabriel and Aurtinovic, which I had not seen clearly at the time, he called that correctly. Nasty piece of work the Stoke player and I was pleased to see Moss telling him to shut his mouth after the incident.
If I had been asked for a Man of the Match then for once it would be an opposition player and gone to Butland who saved Stoke from a 5-6-7 goal beating.
One final thought. With the assistance of Shotta we have been contemplating the football universe and how it can be understood, or at least better illuminated, through the application of mathematics and statistics. Can you have a 2-0 thrashing you, cos yesterday was as comprehensive slaughter of the Orcs as I have seen ?
Enjoy your Sunday, and don’t go mad !