January 31, 2013
Hoolahan’s goal – Snodgrass is played in down the right, outpaces Parker, and stands up a far-post cross. Lloris seems to lose the flight of the ball in the wind. Holt gets between Dawson and Walker to intelligently head back to Pilkington. His pass finds Hoolahan, who side-foots home from close range.
Snodgrass is played in down the right, and motors away from Parker, who is covering at left back.
As Snodgrass hangs up a cross, Holt has peeled away from Dawson at the back post.
Lloris seems to want to claim the ball, but is caught out by the flight. Walker covers round at the last minute, but cannot stop Holt guiding the ball back for Pilkington.
With Walker having left Pilkington to cover Holt, the Norwich winger is unmarked, and has time to pick out Hoolahan – also unmarked.
Hoolahan doesn’t have much to aim at, but finds the net with a precise finish.
The amount of space our disorganised defence gave to three Norwich players in succession was a concern, but we certainly tightened up after the break.
Norwich had a spell of sustained pressure just prior to the goal, and the wind (plus Norwich’s work rate) was causing our back five all sorts of problems. They certainly deserved their goal, but we also deserved ours – I thought we might go on to win the game (Holtby’s introduction had quite the impact) but, aside from Sigurdsson’s good effort from the edge of the box, we didn’t create any further clear cut chances.
January 28, 2013
Varney’s goal – as Spurs try to play the offside trap, Varney races on to Michael Brown’s up and under, before coolly placing the ball beyond Friedel.
Michael Brown launches a long ball forward, with Diouf trying to get underneath it. Varney is playing high up on the right, looking to run in behind Naughton.
Diouf attempts to flick on Brown’s long ball, but misses it entirely. Naughton seems to be anticipating a flick-on, and attempts to play offside. Even if Diouf had touched the ball, it would have been a borderline decision.
Varney runs clear of the Spurs defence; neither Naughton or Caulker have a chance of getting back at him. Friedel stays on his line, and doesn’t come out to try to rush Varney.
Friedel blocks off the near post, but shows Varney enough of the far post, and he bends it into the corner with ease.
McCormack’s goal – Sigurdsson’s cross is easily blocked, and Leeds counter. Diouf plays in McCormack, who races clear of Caulker, checks inside, and finishes beyond Friedel.
Spurs are attacking, but Bale’s pass sends Sigurdsson a little too far wide. He cuts back on to his right foot and attempts to deliver a cross, but it is blocked.
He chases the ball down, but he is beaten to it by Sam Byram, who gets a foot in.
The ball is played forward, and Diouf attempts to flick it on. It bounces over him though, and instead falls to McCormack. Caulker is not tight enough, and is appealing for offside rather than challenging for the header. This allows McCormack to cushion the ball to Diouf, and spin in behind Caulker.
Diouf plays an intelligent pass over Vertonghen, who has not covered round on Caulker’s behalf.
McCormack easily outpaces Caulker initially, but Caulker seems to be catching him (being very quick over distance).
However, as McCormack checks inside, Caulker’s momentum takes him beyond the forward, giving him too much space.
Friedel doesn’t cover himself in glory either – the ball pretty much going through his hands.
Two very ugly goals to concede from a Spurs perspective.
January 21, 2013
Van Persie’s goal – United play the ball from side to side, before Welbeck finds Cleverley in space. He takes his time, and delivers the perfect cross for van Persie to slam home a header at the back post.
United do well to suck three or four of our players into Kagawa, and then they break as he works the ball out of his feet.
It is quickly spread to Welbeck, who has drifted wide and is not being picked up.
Welbeck drives inside, with Walker unsure whether to close him down or to follow the runner. Lennon doesn’t get tight enough to Welbeck despite having made a great effort to track back.
Whilst Lennon tracks Welbeck, he has the time and space to pick out Cleverley who is, unfortunately, in even more space – Naughton having tucked in (somewhat unnecessarily as we comfortably outnumber United in that area).
Parker rushes out to try to get something on the cross, but doesn’t make up enough ground. Meanwhile, van Persie makes a movement towards goal at the back post. Walker desperately tries to get goal-side of him, whilst Dawson’s position could be far better (although he has one eye on the lively Welbeck).
In focussing on getting goal-side of van Persie, Walker misjudges the cross and gets under the ball – at the same time, van Persie judges it perfectly. Dawson has ended up marking nobody – for me, he should be touch-tight to the biggest threat – van Persie.
A lack of organisation and poor marking costs us, as van Persie deceives Lloris (who probably assumes that van Persie will head across goal) and plants his headed into the near post.
On the plus side, this was one of few chances that United created and, other than a penalty decision which fortunately went our way, we were largely untroubled for most of the game. We were wasteful at the other end, but Lennon got the assist that his superb all-round performance so richly deserved, and we snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat!
January 6, 2013
We’re just over halfway through the Premier League season, so it seems a good time to make a general assessment of life under André Villas-Boas. I’ll try to keep it brief.
It is no secret that I grew to despise Redknapp – the way he treated us (fans), the club, and actually the way he was managing the team for the final six months of his reign too. I wrote this at the end of April detailing some of my thoughts on Redknapp – things went further downhill from there.
When Villas-Boas was appointed, I was happy; a young, hungry manager keen to prove his doubters wrong, an analyst, a “student of the game”.
I already like most of what AVB is about – his analytical approach, his even-handedness with the media, his pleasantries when mentioning our fans, his apparent respect for the fact that he is a cog (albeit an important one) in a greater machine, something Redknapp never seemed to appreciate.
Of course not everything is totally rosy, and there have been some teething problems – initially AVB was criticised for his use of substitutions, and in recent games his persistence with Adebayor and Defoe as a duo has frustrated. However, the results have largely been impressive, particularly considering the well-documented injury issues, as well as having to cope without King, Modric and van der Vaart. We are improving in crucial areas -for example, looking far more threatening from set pieces (indeed, scoring from another two yesterday), which presumably reflects the fact that we are practising them in training.
It also seems that people behind the scenes are pulling in the same direction, which I think is hugely important. This was never the case with Redknapp, who refused to toe the party line, and frequently seemed at odds with Daniel Levy.
Crucially, I am finally starting to feel like I, as a fan, am a part of the club again (whereas Redknapp seemed to see us – “them” – as more of an annoyance). Long may this continue.