Right, Stoke is behind us. Sp*rs is behind us. And with polling day in the US we have to look forwards, not backwards, upwards not forwards and twirling, twirling, always twirling towards freedom. Or, indeed, the next match.
Gael Clichy says the team needs to work harder to repay the faith shown in them by the manager. He hints at some players not giving their all when he says:
We have the quality to do it but it’s just a fact of being focused and working as a team because in football when you play a collective game everyone has to turn up, everyone has to defend, to attack and to run for each other.
I think now it is time to realise that we have got the quality but we need to work harder because football is not only about playing nice football and goals.
No arguments from me about that. It does seem as if some of the players think they’ve got it made, they just have to turn up to win games. It doesn’t work like that at any level of football, let alone at the very top, and unless you put in the effort you’ll get found out like we have. When you read Bacary Sagna saying the team wasn’t focussed enough, particularly when it came to Delap’s throw-ins, then it is just further evidence that kicks up the backside are required. Hard kicks. With steel-capped boots.
Lack of focus and lack of effort – it’s no wonder we lost against Stoke, whatever team the manager picked.
The manager has defended his decision to ‘rotate’ players ahead of the Stoke game, saying:
Unlike Stoke we play in between [Premier League matches] and the games in the Champions League are very demanding. You cannot play with the same side. You can maybe if you play once per month but not three times a week so you rotate.
Firstly, I’m not sure he should be comparing us to Stoke in any way at all. Secondly, it’s one thing rotating if you can say ‘Right, first choice right midfielder and first choice left midfielder, I’m putting in second choice right and left midfielders for today’s game’, but throwing in central midfield players and hoping they can do a job wide is another. If you have the quality in your squad to rotate then by all means but you can’t blame a lack of creativity for a defeat when it’s your team selection, in leaving out three of the most attacking and creative players, that has brought that about.
There’s no news yet of injuries ahead of tomorrow’s game against Fenerbache. There is unconfirmed news that Theo did not dislocate his shoulder, which is good, but the state of Adebayor, Sagna, Gallas and Eboue is, as yet, unknown.
A win should see us qualify for the knock-out stages and it would be a welcome boost for everyone; players, fans, the manager etc. People talked about the Fenerbache game was a sign of how good we are but remember how well Almunia played that night. It’s no exaggeration to say that game could have finished 5-4 or 8-7. We have to hope that our attacking play clicks like it did that night and that we cope as well as we might expect at the back. But when you have a back four as vulnerable as ours is at the moment it does affect the rest of your play.
Unless you score you get nervous because you know you’re capable of conceding at any time. Certainly for tomorrow night the best form of defence is most likely attack, as their defence appears to be worse than ours, and then we can start thinking about Saturday’s game against United.
There’s usually a pre-match press conference which is mandatory from UEFA so it will be interesting to hear what the manager says. Personally, whatever he might be thinking in private, I think we’re going to get more of the same. About how his team has quality and potential and it might be hard to stomach at the moment. But we know how fiercely protective he is of his players. He always has been and I don’t expect that to change now. Anyway, when the more brittle of the players lack confidence and belief like they do now a public rebuke from the manager is not really the answer.
We’ll find out later on anyway as details of that press conference emerge. Tomorrow we’ll have more team news so we can take a better look at the Fenerbache game and perhaps the Champions League can provide some much needed relief. I don’t even dare use the phrase ‘back on track’ any more.