God morgen Positivistas,
A fine Monday morning to be alive, “the Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high” as we often say in North West Norfolk.
I had the enormous good fortune to watch a recording of yesterday’s game, having managed to avoid the broadcast or any hint at the result until the evening. I recommend the experience. Total digital silence, no clamouring for my attention from banner waving Scarfists nor their opponents. The opportunity to focus on the football was as welcome as it was, in recent weeks at least, unusual.
Of the game itself I thought it was a good ‘un. Technically not brilliant I grant you but in terms of two sides fighting for the ball and to seize control of the game it was 90+ minutes of entertainment, with both clubs looking able to seize the three points right up to the final whistle.
Citeh started a lot harder and faster than I expected and in that first ten minutes reminded me that they are actually a very good football team. Aguero was almost unplayable in the opening phase. As good an opening goal as I have seen in a long time. How frustrating it must be for the manager, the fans and even the players themselves to have produced that quality so rarely this season?
Having got the initiative Citeh then cocked-it-up, to use the technical footballing term, as we all saw. Clichy and Hart contrived to give away a silly corner. Olivier span away from the leaden-footed Managala to run on to the cross and bury it. If you keep working hard and looking for the ball then your luck will change. The occasional decent cross helps (coughs). All strikers of any ability know this.
The rest of the first half I thought Citeh probably were the better side with their passing game clicking better than ours. We rarely managed to get three passes strung together. Jack’s introduction was crucial in stabilising the middle of the park. Elneny and Aaron had a bit of muscular support against the pitbull approach of Fernando and Fernandinho, stalemate was established.
Interestingly I saw in the stats this morning that Jack went into 23 challenges in his 70 minutes of action, 10 before half time of which he won just one, 13 in the second half of which he won 8. My impression was that Jack was getting stronger and more confident, and imposing himself the longer the game went on. It may be wishful thinking on my part but it was great to see him back yesterday. We do not have another player who runs straight and hard at an opponent like him. Arsenal Man of the Match yesterday ? Probably.
Of the second half we were again jolted by a second impressive goal from De Bruyne who is also a class performer. There then followed 15-20 minutes of our best football in the match, where we controlled the ball, opened up Citeh and tested Hart. For about ten of those minutes young Theo again showed us a glimpse of what he can do, on the right day. Oh Theo why do you do this to us ? To yourself ?
In any event after being pulled about the home side’s defence cracked and we are in, Alexis slotting the third good goal of the game. It was coming, inevitable.
The final 20 off minutes were, more or less, a text book display from our defenders. Citeh threw on more attackers to no avail. We soaked up the pressure, and took no chances. Other than a Bony strike to the bar that Petr had covered, they caused us few problems I thought. It was tense but well managed by Kosc and Gabby. We probed them with gaps appearing in the light blue defence but nothing decisive, referee Taylor busier with his yellow cards in the last few minutes than at any other time as challenges became a bit ragged.
Points shared. Fair result. Disappointing lack of respect from the home fans for Pellegrini. He has been a class act at the Etihad, an adult in a business of petulant toddlers.
And for us the tantalising prospect of Tottingham’s game at SJP and our own game against Villa on the final day. Let’s just do what we need to do on Sunday, and take nothing for granted.