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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Did we lose in Newcastle?

The sun was an early enemy as I made my trip up. It ensured that the coach up to 'DA NORF' would be a muggy one; I almost felt punished for going up and thinking we may actually steal 3 points from Newcastle. No, I lie. My head told me we'd probably fall short of a point but I was more excited to see our set up at one of the toughest grounds to go to.

After persisting for 7 hours with two kids behind me debating whether Newcastle was in fact "in Scotland" or not and informing every passenger on the coach that this was journey was "long blud," I was glad to step off and climb the seemingly endless flights of stairs to get up to our seats; glad probably being an understatement here after the journey.

I felt we'd line up with Sigurdsson and Sandro sitting in CM with Vdv positioned just behind Defoe. England international (yeah, that's right) Jake Livermore, who flourished in pre-season, sat alongside Sandro with Vdv making way - but I was happy knowing that we'd keep things tight with those two sitting. Gallas was a surprise inclusion, although maybe this idea of "easing" in Vertonghen is what AVB feels is the best way forward.

A couple of early bookings could not dishearten me at how disciplined our midfield was; I felt they were unlucky. Calculated pressing, great anticipation and reading of the play; I heard at the half Gallas and Kaboul were looking for spares to stand in the Spurs end as they had so little to do. Despite at times struggling to boss midfield, I felt Gylfi's movement was fantastic. His runs off the ball would always ensure he'd have space around him to bring others into play. I'm also hopeful he hasn't picked up the Spurs set piece curse, I'll put it down to early anxiety "and that." Sandro's performance also needs no justifying. He dominated Tiote and Cabaye, despite this being the first time he's played under AVB. I genuinely feel he will be more than key this season and fits our system down to the ground.

Lennon was fantastic down the wing. He looked eager to take on players more often than he did last season but gave consideration as to when to do it. At times he'd feed balls inside or put in an early cross. I appreciated him adding this variety to his game and I feel that when - yes, when - we bring in a target man up front these balls in will be better utilised. Defoe did all he can up front alone, feeding on scraps for parts, but I was impressed with his contribution. He worked incredibly hard up front and kept Newcastle's back four on their toes.

Two sloppy mistakes cost us here. Newcastle didn't appear to have a game plan but seemed set on trying to pounce on any of our mistakes. They found a rare gap in our midfield which they exploited before Walker mistimed a header away and we were 1 down. Funnily enough, their goal was almost coming. We looked so positive both on and off the ball that going one down is almost imprinted into our DNA.

I felt Vdv had a good game when he came on. He seemed to sit a little deeper than Sigurdsson did and was told to pick out balls to the wings which he did with success. His trip was naive. Vulnerability after scoring is the case more often than not in football and it's a shame to see so much hard-work undone because of sloppiness - but this is football.

I don't think I've ever been so positive about a defeat than I have this one. I struggle to fault the performance and feel that the foundations are there for a great season. It's still evident that a forward is needed and a creative midfielder wouldn't go amiss, despite how comfortable the midfield three of Sig, Sandro and Jake looked yesterday. The spine of our team last season was arguably King/Kaboul, Modric and Adebayor. However you look at it, we were missing atleast two of those players yet bossed large chunks of yesterday's game.

I'm still awaiting this player revolt ( Wasn't it just so evident that every single player wanted to leave after yesterday's performance? Naa, I don't think so either. Consider yourself lucky that on top of our loss you didn't have to sit in front of two kids for another 7 hour journey back. One actually said that Swansea fans going to QPR would've got a ferry to Southampton then driven. The other said that he'd have rather lose 3-0 than 2-1. In fairness the response from his friend was "you on crack blud?"

No word of a lie.