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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Didier's AVB Apology

Rivers upon rivers were flooded. It was reportedly the worst flooding Lyon had seen since the great flood of '01. Yet, it wasn't rain water that caused them. Tears filled with a mix of distraught and bitterness followed Hugo Lloris' footsteps to Tottenham. The French golden boy choosing to "move on" and leave a league that can only offer so much.

Of course, Deschamps felt Lloris "shouldn't have joined Tottenham". We're a country's length away from challenging the league title and find ourselves odds-on to finish outside the top 4. Why would a player that has these things choose to cross the water for the minnows that are Tottenham Hotspur? We'll get more of a feel of the level the French are at when we face Lyon in the next round of Europa League in February. It's too easy to dismiss the league as inferior to the Premier League - although, a league in which Chamakh and Giroud can thrive in does bring its' credibility into question.

Lloris admitted himself that he needed the move to Spurs to further his career. Evidently he doesn't fully agree with what the French boss said regarding the move. Deschamps almost reminds me of the friend that slags off their friend's ex after they move on to someone else. His ghastly face popping up just when it's not needed. It all got a little embarrassing. You'd have thought Lloris was his son. He spoke as if our number 1 had no legs in which to stand on.

I did have initial fears. We had a fantastic goalkeeper in our squad yet wasn't playing. Friedel's a brilliant keeper but Lloris just has that edge on him. Do you play a very good goalkeeper or the slightly better goalkeeper? My fears were derived from the seeming reality that a lack of playing time for Lloris as January emerged would leave him unsettled. A bid from a big club may have just done enough to unsettle him.

Interestingly, Lloris recently came out and felt he "feels stronger after time on the bench". Deschamps has yet to say a word. It's reported that he went all Liam Ridgewell and used the article a toilet paper for the day. He'll soon start commenting that Hugo said that whilst at gun point from Levy. There's no way a player could feel stronger after watching the games from half-way, in Deschamps' eyes anyway.

It's fair to say that until Hugo joined, the position of sweeper-keeper was something almost unheard of at White Hart Lane. You only have to watch Lloris over the course of 90 minutes to fully appreciate what else he can bring to a position that seemed incredibly linear. For me, the commanding of the area and quick distribution is something we've lacked in the goalkeeping department. For a side that likes to press high up the pitch, a keeper that can come quickly off of his line is essential.

AVB's played the goalkeeping situation just right. He's remained calm despite calls from abroad to instate Lloris as our immediate number 1 and managed, seemingly, to keep 2 very good goalkeepers happy. He's gone someway to ensuring that Hugo's feet are kept purely on the ground and has made him work to earn his position, something any player should be having to do. Lloris has made a bright start to life in London. Some fantastic stops and numerous clean sheets have lived up to the weighted expectation placed on his shoulders because of his reputation in France. A handful of errors have been forgiven. Had Hugo not been slowly acclimatised to the league, the small handful of errors may well have been 2 hands-full of errors.

Maybe Deschamps has a letter of apology in the post, but I wouldn't hold my breath. AVB may have just made France's number 1 goalkeeper even 'stronger'.


Monday, 10 December 2012

Leaders Needed.

My optimism upon arriving at Goodison even gave me a surprise. I mentioned in the build-up that I saw a 1-1 on the cards. A credible draw. A ground out point and one that would see us go unbeaten for our 4th consecutive game. My gut feeling told me we'd steal it. I was quietly confident we'd leave Liverpool with three more points than we'd started with and prepared my ears for pleasant renditions of 'Glory Glory' upon returning to London.

We were butter in the first half. Everton calved us open time and time again. Dempsey struggled to track Coleman's onslaught of our left with Vertonghen's early ball watching not doing the defence much good. Lloris was also forced to come to the rescue and, once more, highlighted in yellow ink why his name is rightly found in the first 11.

We survived a slightly edgy first half and, in all, a rather poor game of football; our fans still half asleep after what I can only think was an early wake up call Sunday morning. Dembele and Sandro battled well in midfield with the creative spark evidently lacking and Adebayor failing to be as influential as we know he can. This lead to Defoe often being marked out the game or forcing himself to come wide to get involved. The movement was shambolic. No one filled in for anyone else. It was obvious Thursday night had well and truly caught up with us.

So what happens?

We fluke a goal. From nothing. Dempsey's enjoyed more luck in the side of late. He's one of the few in which his work ethic vastly goes un-noted. We remember the negative and not the positives of the American. Maybe I'm digging for excuses, but I do feel as he grows more and more into our side his membership in the team - and squad especially - will become more affluent. In all honesty we didn't really look like conceding. Everton knocked a few balls into the box as they had done for large periods of the game but we had a handle on everything. We swept everything up and left no dust in our path.

Then we changed it. Players started to look tired and fatigued. I didn't have many complaints about those coming on, it was more those going off I questioned. The introduction of Falque, in theory, would've been a lively player late on in a game which could've proven a handful. As the opposition tire and look to push for an equaliser, a quality ball through could've finished it off for us. What I struggled to justify was the withdrawl of Defoe. In fairness he'd struggled to get into the game, but he's the sort that just needs a yard and he'll hit the target. He presses the last man and gives the opposition defender reason to keep checking their shoulder for him. Withdrawing him and leaving Adebayor to continue to drop deep allowed for Everton to press.

We get nervy and anxious when we sit. Top sides continue to push for a second. Attack being the best form of defence and all that. Put the pressure back onto the opposition and don't allow them to pick passes. We play a lottery every time we sit off. We hope we have enough to win every header, make every tackle and clear at every opportunity.

It's gutting that errors allowed for the equaliser. But we're still learning as a team, and as individuals. We will learn from this, in the long run. We'll highlight the need to press and grab games by the scruff of the neck when we're ahead. Leaders are key in these instances. Kaboul and Parker are two that can calm a side in key areas of the pitch.

Our issue is addressing the final 10 minutes of games. Arguably, the Europa League has affected us here but we'll learn, and there's no doubt it isn't top of AVB's agenda.


Saturday, 8 December 2012

AVB can't win - Everton away.

So after a seemingly slow start out of the blocks under AVB, we're approaching January with more smug content then looks of disapproval and smacked arses. Results change. Opinions change. We're used to how this all works now. Revelling in the past under Harry, although understandable from some in AVB's early reign, is now utterly redundant. Comparisons between the two are unjust but inevitable. Let's live with the times and move on, as most have grown to do so in the last 6 weeks.

I sincerely expect I lack the number of fingers and toes to count the probable number of times I've repeated the statement "we face a strong Everton side at Goodison". Moyes has always built a bullish side who play without fear, especially at home, regardless of who stands in front of them. The game comes at a time that could really prove a milestone under AVB's tenure of how far we've come since August. We're slowly settling into what we regard as our best 11, with the odd nit-picking and moan regarding one American player or another.  In the past I've arrived away from home with more anxiety and doubt than I have this season. It's almost as if the tables have turned. We're living in a mirror of our former-selves. We seem at ease away from home, we play without fear or weight on our shoulders. We're more relaxed on the ball and the players seem to express themselves far more than they have at White Hart Lane this season.

For me, the most interesting battle will fall between Fellaini & Sandro/Dembele. I'd expect Sandro to drop deeper and almost man-mark the Belgian who seems to thrive going forward. With Pienaar also likley to cut inside and Baines pushing joining in with every attack, our midfield will have a handful to contend with. I'd encourage Lennon to start more advance in the hope that this may restrict Baines from having the freedom of attacking our right. Our best opportunities may be that of breaking at pace.

I'd love to see both Ade & JD starting. Although what may initially appear as 4-4-2 on paper, it is unlikely to stick. Adebayor naturally enjoys coming deep and getting involved as almost a third centre-midfielder, proving a useful intermediary when linking midfield and attack. I continue to stay torn between starting Dempsey or Sigurdsson in place of Bale. I feel Dempsey is really starting to look more the player we were accustomed to last season and I put this down to hard-work on Dempsey's behalf and faith from AVB. This, for me, would edge the American into the starting 11. Despite this, I still feel we've barely seen the tip of the iceberg with Sigurdsson with chances proving limited.

A similar performance to last week against Fulham wouldn't go a miss, but I'm not holding my breath. It's these sort of games in which grinding out a result would be taken with great delight. It's easy to forget we're still in transition with recent events proving very positive. Although, I get the impression AVB is still seen as someone fighting to prove critics and doubters wrong and this will - unfortunately- forever outweigh the credit he's due. Only time will tell. Let's continue getting behind him, as more of us are starting to do.

Score prediction: Everton 1-1 Spurs


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