Two fantastic results in a week, which go some way to making up for a dreadfully disappointing result against Wolves.
I’m particularly pleased to see us keep two clean sheets in a row (we’ve actually not conceded for 290 minutes). I commented on our lack of clean sheets back in October, and pin-pointed defensive changes as a possible reason. Now it comes as no surprise to me that these two clean sheets have occurred after a run of three games in a row with no changes. If you look at out back five line-ups so far this season, you can see that we’ve made changes in the majority of games. I’ve highlighted our clean sheets so far.
Vs Liverpool: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto
Vs Hull: Gomes Hutton Corluka Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs West Ham: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Doncaster: Cudicini Naughton Corluka Bassong Hutton (2 changes)
Vs Birmingham: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Man United: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Chelsea: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Preston NE: Gomes Hutton Dawson Huddlestone Bale (5 changes)
Vs Burnley: Cudicini Corluka Huddlestone Bassong Assou-Ekotto (4 changes)
Vs Bolton: Cudicini Corluka Huddlestone Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Portsmouth: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Stoke City: Gomes Corluka Woodgate Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Arsenal: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Sunderland: Gomes Corluka Woodgate King Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Wigan: Gomes Corluka Woodgate Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Aston Villa: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Everton: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Wolves: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Man City: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Blackburn: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
I had also previously mentioned that Palacios’ form had dropped significantly, and pointed towards the Palacios/Jenas partnership from January on last season, and what a huge impact they had had on our defensive shape.
Whilst I still think that Palacios is struggling for form, I think now that Huddlestone has had a good run of games, we are starting to see him improve his defensive game. I was impressed yesterday with his screening – the way he positioned himself near to Dawson and Bassong, and ensured that he won the second ball.
It is nice to see Gomes on the official site today (My ‘unbelievable’ defence – Gomes) talking about our defence:
“They are unbelievable. They give me so much confidence.
They work so hard. Michael Dawson is an unbelievable player, Benoit on the left, Charlie on the right, Sebastien Bassong, they are in such good form at the moment.
I made a couple of important saves, I helped my team and I’m happy with that. That’s all that matters. I want to help the team win points. Sometimes the team needs me and I have to be ready to make a save, like I did today.
This was a big win for us – it’s been a great reaction to Wolves.”
As for that key moment at 1-0, Gomes added:
“I touched the ball, it hit the post and Sebastien was there to clear. Perhaps some players wouldn’t be ready for that and the striker would score easily, but our defence has that full concentration all the time. It’s so important for us.
We’ve had two clean sheets in a week and that’s great for us. We will enjoy this win today and Sunday but then Monday we start all over again and prepare for Fulham.”
Gomes has to take his share of the credit too. I have been quick to criticise him previously – namely being beaten at his near post by Boateng, and for some of his work when coming off the line to player’s feet, but his save from McCarthy yesterday was brilliant. Match of the Day’s analysis of the situation was “the ball hit the goalkeeper”. Had that been Peter Schmeichel, or even Petr Čech, it would have no doubt been heralded as the goalkeeper making himself big, and saving a definite goal.
Finally, I come to Michael Dawson. Last season I felt that Dawson performed well (I would say better than Woodgate), and I thought that he was castigated at times based on his poor form from the previous season. This season he has really come into his own since he came back into the team. He was outstanding against Villa, excellent against Man City, and outstanding again against Blackburn. I would be very happy to see him be given the armband permanently, and become on of the first names on the team sheet – firstly, because he deserves it, and secondly, for continuity.
Next up is a tough away game at Fulham, who play a tight, compact game themselves – it’s the sort of game that could easily be settled by one goal – let’s hope that our defence can stand firm again.