All that glistens isn't gold
Question: How is it possible to come away from a comprehensive
4-1 stuffing without a complete sense of bewilderment? Answer:
When its the Worthless Cup of course...
Tonight showed us just how far we've come as team — which actually
isn't as far as many of us would like to think. If we'd hung
on to the victory at Newcastle on Sunday and gone second in what
many believe to be the best league in the world (whereas in fact
it's probably only the 3rd or 4th best in Europe), gone above the
likes of the Mancs and Chelsea (have I forgotten anyone???), that
would have been a major travesty. Because, being brutally
honest, we're not that good a team — yet. Based on the
evidence put before us tonight, we have a lot to learn before we can
sit at the same table as the top four or five teams.
As a team, we showed a number of our inadequacies. First up,
the decision to play the majority of the team that had battled for
70-odd minutes on Sunday with 10 men. The league must be a
priority for us and, as such, it showed a degree of naïveté on the
part of the management not to put out a weaker team than the one we
did. I know we want to win every game and that winning is a
good habit to get into, but at some point you have to add a touch of
realism. For the first 20 minutes we looked fine. But
when things went against us, we went from good to average to
The selection showed up how small a squad we have. The
decision to play a 4-3-3 formation with no forward on the bench was
a poor one. Isn't this the sort of game where the likes of
Chadwick and McLeod should be given a run out, at least on the
bench? Whilst I'm all for playing the Boy Wonder from the
start, playing him first out wide left, then out wide right, then in
a sort of "in the hole" position behind Campbell and
Radzinski smacked of the sort of experimentation that we all know
isn't going to work. The lad is a forward. If you want
to play around with things, play him up front with Campbell in a
normal 4-4-2 formation with someone on the bench to replace him as
One good thing was the resting of Hibbert — not that he hasn't
looked superb all season, just that he probably could do with a
rest. Also, the sub-conscious hint that the playing of Pistone
at right-back showed that there actually is competition for his
place, should his exceedingly high standard begin to slip.
As for the game, Chelsea were very good. At times they played
some lovely neat, quick incisive football that we couldn't live
with. Petit and Lampard were more than a match for Gravesen
and Li Tie (does anyone else think he probably needs a rest for a
week or two?). And up front, the irrepressible Zola and
Hasselbaink made us look leaden footed at times.
First half, we were pretty much in control for the first 20
minutes. Then a poor piece of defending let Hasselbaink in
behind J-Yo and we were behind. Rather unjustly but it showed
the difference in class between the two teams. Then,
crucially, just a minute before the break, another lovely piece of
invention from Zola and some poor tracking of Petit saw the
Frenchman arrive in the box on the end of a lovely weighted chip and
we were 2-0 down.
The second half continued much as the first had finished with the
Blues (errmmm, make that the Whites!) looking very lacklustre
throughout the team and Chelsea growing in confidence. Some
more shocking marking from a corner on the Chelsea left allowed the
previously non-existent Mario Stanic a free header to settle the
game. If there was any doubt, another Hasselbaink corner a
minute later rebounded back to the Dutchman on the edge of the box
and he buried a cross-shot past Wright into the far corner of the
net. Game over.
The Boy Wonder experiment continued late on in the game when for
some unknown reason (at least from my end of the ground), Paul
Durkin gave us a penalty. Rather than Unsworth tucking it away with
aplomb, BW grabbed the ball and a very weak shot was easily saved by
the excellent Cudicini. Fortunately, from the resulting corner,
Naysmith ghosted into the 6 yard box to tuck away a consolation
So, as I said at the beginning, how is it possible to come away from
such a comprehensive beating with just the slightest hint of a
spring in my step? Well, if ever there was a competition where
you want to get a bad result out of the way, then this is it.
We're not a second-in-the-league team yet. We might be in
years to come. But not yet.
Maybe, we were beginning to believe our own press a bit too
much. Maybe Moyes was beginning to believe that he could
tinker around with the team and get away with it. Maybe the
Boy Wonder needed bringing down a peg or two to remind him that he
still has a lot to learn and that its going to be a tough, long road
to the success that will surely come his way. Maybe the
defence needed to realise that they have to continue to work at
being the best in the league.
Hopefully, they've learnt some lessons from this game. Hopefully
Saturday's game can't come quick enough for them. I know one
thing, we won't be on the end of a 4-1 drubbing then.
Looking ahead to Jan 1, we have six league games between now and
then, four of which are at home. Where will we be in the
league at the turn of the year? Will we discover that we
really do have some golden nuggets in this team or will it all turn
out to be Iron Pyrite?
- Wright: Generally good but his kicking was poor.
- Pistone: Playing at right back (shades of Walter here)
showed glimpses of how good he can be, if only he could stay
- Yobo: Was at fault ofr the first goal but at least he
managed to stay on the field this time
- Weir: Did nothing particularly good or bad.
- Unsworth: Same as for Weir.
- Rooney: Undefined role caused him to be ineffectual for
most of the game
- Li Tie: Looked tired as the game wore on. Not the same
player he was at the beginning of the season.
- Gravesen: Started well but tired as the game went on.
Sunday's exertions took their toll.
- Pembridge: Went off after about 35 mins with yet
- Campbell: Despite my crucifying him after the
Southampton game, looks a different player from last season. I
admit, I was wrong!
- Radzinski: Too many headless chicken impersonations.
- Naysmith (for Pembridge): Scored a good goal, much
better going forward than defending.
- Gemmill (for Li Tie): Showed up the poor squad
selection. Was he really the man to change everything
around when the game was fast disappearing before us.
No. Surely, take a defender off, risk three at the back
and go for it with someone more attack minded? An unusual
lack of adventure from Moyes.