Sabahınız xeyir Positives,
An evening with Unai experimented with the formation and gave our younger and squad players a good run out. An easy win in the end. Had our hosts managed to get a goal, particularly to get it back to 1-1 during a first half when they created plenty of half chances, it may have been different. The 60,000 Azeris were desperate to cheer on their side but Sokratis’ very early opener rather punctured their ballon. The crowd got quieter and quieter. The chances Qarabag did create, or we provided with some dodgy defending, were wasted. When they hit the target Bernd pulled off 3-4 good saves. Not their night. Can I say however, to any Azeris reading the post today “Congratulations” on the pitch, its green surface put Wembley to shame.
I think for us the experiment with a back three did not show much promise and, understandably, at half time it was abandoned. Given the number of games Monreal has played recently I am not sure that emery intended to carry on for the full 90 on that formation even if it had been a revelation. I can understand why Unai might look at it as we are not particularly secure in defence. He may, in fact, look at it again as 45 minutes in Azerbaijan is hardly proof either way. I very much doubt however we shall see the three centre backs deployed at Craven Cottage, or any time in the next two or three games against domestic league opponents.
In contrast to the back three experiment the performance of the young players drafted in and relied on last night was far more pleasing. Smith Rowe demonstrated what we know is his excellent technique and did not flinch in the charged atmosphere. His goal was the cherry on the cake for the 18 year old. I heard last night from the commentator that Emile meant to “nutmeg” the keeper as he put the ball away. Yeah – right. Guendozi I also thought brought all the energy he has to control of midfield and again the 19 year old finished his evening with a goal. And my man of the match ? Alex Iwobi – did you see his bit of skill on the two Qarabag defenders. I shall drop in the film below. The young man is in a great rum of form at the moment and improving every week.
Of our other players good to see THE TANK back on the pitch after his injury break. He will need a few games to get his sharpness back but I sense he is player that Emery will want to work with and improve. And finally I was gratified to see that having brought Laca and Ozil 2,500miles to Baku the manager got them off the bench to run about a bit. Never having been a professional footballer I do not know what it would be like to travel all that way, in midweek, and sit on the bench for 90 minutes, and then go home with your kit all still clean. I imagine however it would be frustrating. If as a player you do get a chance to get on the pitch, kick the ball about even for 15-20 minutes, you can at least feel the trip has been worthwhile.
A day off I see for the players today after the long trip home and tomorrow preparing for the short trip to Putney for Fulham. A very different set of obstacles on the tight ground beside the Thames.