An excellent Christmas period for us so far despite giving ourselves a challenge in both games! Towards the end of the Villa game, we started to defend far too deep, and it looked as though the man advantage may finally pay off for Villa, as they scored in the 82nd minute.
Palacios loses the ball in an advanced area, and Warnock has possession. With our players dropping deep, he is able to pick out Albrighton with ease.
Albrighton is a very right-footed player who, at this point of the game, is on the left-hand side. Lennon and Hutton should therefore be trying to send him down the line on to his left foot.
As Lennon trots back behind the ball to make up a second bank of four, Albrighton is able to advance unchallenged. He has nothing in front of him, so is either going to have to take on Lennon (and then Hutton), pass backwards, or deliver from deep. Notice Palacios – he has made up some ground in coming back from the Villa half, but should now be looking to stop Albrighton coming inside, or block off the pass to Delfouneso, who is just to the left of the referee.
Albrighton wrong-foots Lennon to make a bit of space – in truth, Lennon doesn’t do a good job of showing him on to his weaker foot. Palacios has stopped…
Having already whipped in some excellent crosses in the match, we should be wary of Albrighton’s delivery. Lennon unfortunately gives him plenty of room to work with – not helped by Palacios, who is totally out of the game – Delfouneso has now dropped off into a decent position just outside the box (the same position from which Agbonlahor has just had a dangerous shot), yet Palacios has chosen to ignore him and hope for the best.
Albrighton delivers a near perfect cross – curling towards the far post, flat, and with plenty of power. Kaboul is goal-side of Collins, so should be able to clear anything that will land on his head.
Collins makes a lunge, but Kaboul has actually judged his position fairly well, and Collins is unable to make it. Gomes can’t move yet, as he has to wait to see whether Collins is going to make contact.
The quality of the delivery means that the ball bounces past Gomes and into the far post.
Not a situation that we defended well, but in fairness we only had 10 men, and had done so for a large proportion of the match. It’s understandable that our players were tired, and were defending deep to try to cling on to the two-goal advantage. Fortunately for us, it worked, and we came away with the points.
Keith Millen, Bristol City’s manager, was quoted as saying:
“We’ve been on a good run and Steven’s been a massive part of that. He’s a young lad who’s learning the game very quickly. Each game that goes by he’s improving and learning. He’s taken it all in his stride.”
He has now played 13 games for City, scoring once, whilst Spurs teammate Danny Rose has now started 12 games, and made three substitute appearances. Whilst the City fans have really taken to Caulker, they are a bit more mixed on Rose.
There were reports in The Mirror this week (including quotes – “I don’t want to go back if I’m sitting in the stands every Saturday.”) suggesting that Rose may wish to stay in Bristol permanently. This story lead to an interesting thread on one of the Bristol City forums, which comments such as:
“Caulker will play for england – only way we’ll get him next season, is if we get promoted and we have him for another season – highly unlikely.
Rose will play at the top level, but for now he needs at least a couple of seasons down in the championship – take saturday for example – several shocking moments, but also several brilliant moments.
I would be happy to keep rose – the more games he gets the better he’ll become.”
“I doubt City would pay more than say £500k with a few add ons for Rose, he has done fine but not excelled IMO. I’d be happy to see him make the move permanent.
Caulker is a fantastic player who will play at the top level, I hold out a faint hope he might enjoy his time here so much that if he goes on loan next season we are in his thoughts but realistically it would probably be a Prem club. Spurs would be mad to sell him and surely won’t want to but the queue in front of him is long and could be frustrating for the player.”
Rose has been played on the left for City, but prefers to play centrally.
Both players are due to be there for the full season and, so long as things keep going as they have been, I cant see any reason why that won’t continue.
Kyle Walker is another loanee that continues to impress, playing 16 league games for QPR, mainly at right back. This week, however, he found himself playing as one of two defensive midfield players in a 4-2-3-1, prompting some interesting fan comments:
“Think im preffering to see Kyle Walker as Defender at the minute think he gives us that bit more this way ! We should know this week if the deal is extended , hope so still a great player !”
“Much more destructive playing on the flanks IMO, either as a fullback or as a winger, I’d love to see him play for us as a winger, dunno what his crossing is like ?!
Incredible athlete, one of the best young players I’ve seen in years.”
“He looks far more comfortable playing at fullback.”
I saw Walker in the televised match against Watford and, whilst QPR as a whole played poorly, Walker looked their best player by some distance. Mark Bright mentioned several times in commentary that he is simply too good for Championship level, and I find it hard to disagree. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t renew his loan contract, which is due to end in January. However, it depends on whether Redknapp feels that he is ready to step up; he would clearly be better off playing every week for QPR, than sat on our bench.
“I haven’t really spoken to anyone about what will happen in January, it might be a little bit too early,” he said.
“But I am sure, if anything is going to happen, Tottenham and Leicester have already spoken about it. I just play the football and let the people around me do what they have to do. I am definitely enjoying it. As long as I am playing, I will enjoy my football.
“I seem to be doing all right and have scored two goals as well from defence, which isn’t too bad, so I am really enjoying my football at the moment.”
Naughton marked his second-half strike which put City 3-1 ahead with a spectacular acrobatic back-flip, but he did not plan his celebration in advance.
“It was a good goal,” he said.
“I managed to get up with the lads and Richie Wellens put me in for a good goal.
“The celebration was one of those things on the spur of the moment. I just thought I would try it and, if it went wrong, I would look like an idiot, but it went right. It looked good.”
Naughton seems to have a lot to do to get past Hutton, Corluka and Walker in the pecking order and, at 22, will want to be playing regular football. The Mirror reported recently that Leicester were preparing a £1.5m bid, which seems like a fair price. I expect him to move in either January or the summer.
Adam Smith had been playing regularly for Bournemouth (11 starts in the league, 1 in the cup), but was only a substitute for their last game (vs Notts County in the FA Cup). He was brought on at half-time as they were 3-0 down, and eventually they lost 3-1. He gave an interview to their official site after the game:
“It was frustrating being on the bench and see the lads not play as well as they can. I thought in the second half though we looked a completely different team. That’s probably because we didn’t have anything to lose, so we went out and had no fear.
If we had got our goal earlier, it could have been different, and if Lee Bradbury’s shot that hit the post went in and Lyle finished his chance, it could have been 3-3. We needed to take our chances because if you do that, you can get anything out of a game.
Credit to Notts County because they created opportunities in the first half. They won their battles against us and we made them look better that they are, but you can’t take anything away from their first half performance.
Confidence is fine, mainly because of the way we played in the second half. It’s two defeats but there are positives to be taken from both games and we know we have to take that confidence now in to Saturday and we will be looking to go to Rochdale and putting in a good performance up there.”
Smith’s deal comes to an end in January, but I would imagine it will be extended until the end of the season. He has an awful lot of right-backs ahead of him, so getting experience is the best thing he can do at the moment.
Paul-Jose M’Poku continues to impress at Leyton Orient, where he too is on loan until early January. Whether he will stay there or not will be fascinating – he could well have done enough in League One to earn himself a move to a Championship club. He has so far started eight (four in the league), and come on as a sub in three others. Due to injuries, he has been a bit in and out, but this performance (albeit against non-league Droylsden) may have turned some heads.
Russell Slade said “[he] was terrific, he was out best player tonight”. There was a nice comment from veteran striker, Scott McGleish too:
From 70 minutes onwards, Paul-José [Mpoku] was unplayable. He got us a penalty, which gave us a lifeline, then he set Jon up with one, then he scored one.
Both Slade and McGleish had already spoken kindly about M’Poku:
ON-LOAN youngster Paul-Jose Mpoku looks set to stay at Orient for the foreseeable future.The 18-year-old Belgium youth international swung the game O’s way when he came off the bench and turned in a match-winning performance against Hartlepool on Saturday.
Orient boss Russell Slade purred after the game: “He was marvellous. Magnificent. What an impact he made when he came on. He did exactly what we wanted him to.”
Mpoku joined the O’s initially for a month from Tottenham, a move which expires after Saturday’s trip to Swindon Town, but the Orient boss is confident he will be able to keep the Kinshasa-born star, who played for Standard Liege, before moving to England.
“I’m sure we can negotiate with Spurs,” said Slade, after he had watched the Tottenham youngster run riot down the left flank on Saturday.
“I’m sure no-one is going to snatch him away from us. I know Spurs will do things right and as long as the boy is learning and getting the right experience and exposure on the pitch, they will be delighted to let him continue.”
Slade added that Mpoku is likely to stay until the end of the year at least. “We have got him for as long as we want, to be honest,” said the O’s boss.
“We can keep him until Christmas and we have got him on a youth loan, so that means we can take him beyond that and we’re very happy with that.”
Mpoku, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but plays for Belgium under-19s, was on international duty last week and Slade added: “He had a good little trip with Belgium and scored against England last Wednesday and was right pleased with that. We had a little glimpse of what he could do against Brentford and against Hartlepool when he came on we saw the Full Monty.”
Veteran O’s striker Scott McGleish shares Slade’s view and admits Mpoku has genuine quality. “He’s a class act and you could see that straight away when he came on,” said the 36-year-old.
“He always wants the ball and even though he has got two or three players around him, you know he is not going to give it away.
“He came on and changed the game in our favour. It put us on the front foot further up the pitch and it stopped the onslaught we were under early in the second half.”
The Orient fans have been delighted with M’Poku so far – here are a handful of comments from various forums since he joined them:
“Mpoku 10 TErrific performance. They had to keep fouling him to stop him”
“Paul-José Mpoku was fantastic. His pace, strength and technical ability changed the game. More please!”
“when M’Poku came on today,i thought he was terrific and really turned the game in our favour. I thought he turned their defenders inside out. Russell,if you are reading this messageboard ,try to extend his loan for the entire season. This lad is the answer to our problems out wide.”
“Why Slade did not start him today beggars belief, for that alone I’m convinced Slade doesn’t know what he’s doing.
As for M’Poku, he is the most exciting prospect we’ve had down the O’s since Kevin Campbell!”
“Brilliant performance from him today hopefully we can extend his loan then we might have another Andros Townsend.”
“Very impressive performance and deserves a start. Just a tad raw though and a couple of occasions took the wrong options.
Also, wasted a few set pieces including the worst fk I have ever seen over the O’s……however, it resulted in the corner we scored from !!!!”
“Made them look like total tarts.
He is a quality player – FFS someone lock the doors.”
John Bostock is struggling to hold down a regular starting berth in a struggling Hull City side, and has been an unused substitute for their last three games. He has so far made eight starts and three substitute appearances, and has scored twice – both incredible strikes. This cracker came against Leeds last month, but he was later sent off in the same game.
It’s difficult to know what will happen with Bostock; he is due to be there for the season but:
1. He isn’t playing regularly 2. Hull are struggling 3. It’s a long way from Chigwell to Hull – I wonder how much of a close eye the club are able to keep on his progress.
David Button has now recovered from the injury that was keeping him out, and is Plymouth Argyle’s first choice goalkeeper again. He has started nine times for them, and recently gave an excellent interview on the rivalry for the starting spot:
DAVID BUTTON has thanked Plymouth Argyle goalkeeping rival Romain Larrieu for being so supportive of him.
Button is on a season-long loan from Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, which has been disrupted by a couple of injuries.
On both occasions, Larrieu has deputised for Button, only to make way for the 21-year-old on his return to fitness.
Button suffered an ankle injury in a 1-1 draw away to Colchester United on September 11 and was out of action for six weeks.
Then, three matches later, the Spurs prospect tore a thigh muscle when Argyle beat Bristol Rovers 3-1 at Home Park on November 2.
Button was ruled out for another five weeks, but was back for the 2-0 home win against Devon rivals Exeter City on Saturday.
Larrieu had to revert to the role of a substitute, one match short of his 300th appearance for Argyle.
Button told The Herald: “Hopefully, I will stay fit now and can get a good run in the team.
“I know Romain was disappointed to lose his place on Saturday, but he has been fantastic towards me. He has actually been an inspiration.
“I know he’s always there for me.
“He wants his place back as much as I want to keep mine, and I’m sure it will be a good fight between us for the rest of the season.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of Romain and how he has been towards me. It’s something I can learn from.
“I’m not sure everybody would have been like that. He has really got the best interests of Plymouth Argyle at heart.”
Button admitted it had been frustrating to pick up a second injury so soon after his first one.
He finished the game against Bristol Rovers, but then could not play in the 4-0 defeat at home to Swindon Town in the FA Cup four days later.
Button said: “It turned out to be a tear in my thigh.
“I’m not sure how it happened. It might have been from doing too much kicking after coming back from my ankle injury.
“It was quite a significant tear, to be fair. I was told it would take a month to heal, and that was the case. I’m just happy to be back now.
“It was frustrating to be out, especially with all the games I missed, but you have to take positives out of situations like that.
“I have been watching a lot of football and sometimes it helps you to take a step out of it and realise what you are missing.”
Button’s thigh injury meant he was ruled out of Argyle’s 2-1 home defeat by Exeter in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
So his first taste of a Devon derby came on Saturday, when the Pilgrims won the League One encounter with two goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Button said: “The atmosphere was great and with the result going our way it made it even more of a good day.
“You could tell it meant a lot to the fans, and to the players as well. I really enjoyed it.”
A near sell-out attendance of 14,437 saw Argyle avenge their defeat by Exeter in the JPT.
“It was the biggest crowd since I have been here and, hopefully, the win will encourage the fans to keep coming back,” said Button.
Argyle’s victory over Exeter saw them keep only their second clean sheet in League One this term.
The previous one was in the season-opening 1-0 win away to Southampton on August 7, when Button was also between the posts.
Button played his ninth game for Argyle against Exeter and thought it was one of the team’s best performances out of those matches.
He said: “We looked solid as a team and kept our first clean sheet since the opening day of the season.
“That was key for us, and it wasn’t just down to the defence. The whole team worked hard.
“Even the strikers get the credit for the clean sheet. We just need to carry that on.”
Argyle have struggled for results at Home Park over the past couple of years.
But the triumph over Exeter was their third successive home league win, which is a feat they had not achieved since early in the 2008/09 season.
Button said: “Home games are usually where you have the advantage. Maybe that wasn’t the case before, for whatever reason.
“But the way we are playing at home now we fancy ourselves against anybody.”
He seems to be highly thought of at Plymouth, and the experience he is getting there will stand him in good stead.
Rather like Bostock, Jake Livermore is struggling to retain a spot in the first 11 forIpswich Town, only being a substitute for the last 4 games. He has made 7 starts, and 4 sub appearances since joining, as they struggle to get a run of results together.
Daniel Grigg, writing for an Ipswich fan-site before the East Anglian derby recently, summed up Livermore’s spell at Town so far:
With Norwich City signing 20-year-old midfielder Henri Lansbury on loan from Arsenal this week, Daniel Grigg examines a possible key battle for Ipswich Town in Sunday’s East Anglian Derby at Carrow Road.
Spurs youngster Jake Livermore may have previously scored against Barcelona before, albeit in a pre-season friendly, but he simply isn’t cutting it on loan at Ipswich this season.
Jason Scotland looked as isolated at the weekend as he has in any match this season, while the man whose job it is to supply him with the ball, Livermore, continued his terrible form.
With Livermore quiet and struggling, it’s almost been at times as though David Norris has been doing some of his job for him, with the veteran midfielder offering far more when he gets hold of the ball in the middle of the pitch, even despite finding it harder in recent games with the whole team struggling to create many real chances or to get any real forward momentum going.
With the huge match against Norwich coming up and the prospect that for the second time this season Livermore may be up against Henri Lansbury, recently sent on loan to the Canaries, it might be time to drop the youngster, though I doubt Keane would risk playing two up front from the start of the match. In that previous meeting of Livermore and Lansbury, it was Lansbury who scored and Arsenal who romped to a 4-1 victory, while Livermore was hardly noticed in midfield; something which happens far too often with him. He needs to step up and put in a top performance, because you can almost guarantee that Lansbury will not be afraid to get on the ball and to try and make things happen for Norwich’s strikers, Grant Holt and Chris Martin.
Roy Keane has spoken of the huge changes required at Ipswich, and has hinted that Livermore’s loan spell won’t be renewed.
Keane has already ended the deal with Spurs for one loanee, Andros Townsend, who had made 11 starts and two substitute appearances for Ipswich:
Town boss Roy Keane has revealed that on-loan winger Andros Townsend is set to return to Tottenham. The 19-year-old was due to remain with the Blues until the end of the season.
Keane said: “Andros is going back to Tottenham. I’ve been speaking to Andros for the last few days and I’ve been in touch with [Spurs assistant first team coach] Tim Sherwood.
“It’s all agreed with Tottenham that he’ll go back because he wasn’t getting the minutes here.”
East Anglian Daily Times reporter Carl Marston gave his thoughts on Twitter: “Personally, I’m not too disappointed that #itfc Townsend has returned to Tottenham – inconsistent, inexperienced, in-and-out of games”.
A few fan comments:
“Big shame that, he’s been quality on occasions.”
“Dont get it. “Does not get minutes here” You have played 22 games, he made 14 starts & 2 subs, need I say more.”
“Townsend is a good player, and I am sure we wish him well. He seems like he needs to not be knocked off the ball quite so easily to be able to make it in the Premiership. He still has plenty of time to adjust, and hopefully he will make it I did like the performance of Shane O Connor against Leicester, so maybe he was sent back, maybe he was called back….either way he is gone now “
“I wish the lad well, he’s still young and might make it at a higher level, but like so many other English wingers – Lennon, Wright-Philips, Walcott, etc – he doesn’t deliver the ball on the head of the centre forward, so we may as well spend his wages on filling another hole in our squad. “
I think it likely that Jon Obika will return from Crystal Palace soon too – he joined them on the 20th August, and has so far only been on the pitch for a combined 191 minutes – seven sub appearances in total. He didn’t even make the match day squad for their last match, so I am unsure how the loan is doing him any good – surely he’d be better off training with our first team?
Some fan comments on Obika:
“Obika is a waste of a squad place. The only signing that has been any good is Marrow, and Vaughan to some extent.”
“We have not utilised the loan market well enough IMO, no matter how many names you call me. No signings we have made have been good enough.That’s an exaggeration. Marrow’s been good enough. Vaughan blew hot and cold. The jury’s still out on the rest. I give up on Obika, though.”
Dean Parrett has also returned to us early from his loan spell at Plymouth Argyle, where he had a really mixed time. He didn’t seem to take to life in League One, where the ball tends to be moved quickly from back to front, which doesn’t suit his short passing game. The fans were far from impressed with his initial performances, but he seemed to have turned it around with a brilliant goal:
DEAN Parrett confessed there was a bit of frustration behind the strike that set the Pilgrims on their way to Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory over Bristol Rovers. The Tottenham teenager lashed home a rebound from Craig Noone’s 60th-minute free-kick tom open the scoring in the npower League 1 game.
After the game, he revealed that he had been lining up to take the kick but had been beaten to it by his skipper.
“I’ve been practicing them every day for the last month and I wanted to take it,” said Deano.
“I ran over to get the ball and I was a little bit angry that I didn’t take it – I think that’s why I hit it.
“I think that, if I was calm, I would have brought it down and crossed it for Bradley.”
Comments from Peter Reid after the match were encouraging:
“Dean Parrett has come back in the side and got a great goal, and showed glimpses of what he can do.
“It was a great finish. That is technique because he’s sliced across the ball. I’ve seen him do it in training and it’s great technique – a terrific shot.”
Plymouth fans were also much more impressed with Parrett:
“Parrett one of his best 45 in an Argyle shirt and Seip and Nelson had reasonable games although a Nelson error almost let Rovers in.
Bolasie was quiet in the first apart from a couple of Cameos but both he and Parrett gave the ball away too much – in Parrett’s case by trying to be ambitious which I find it hard to criticise him for.
Second-half Argyle dropped deep and Rovers took over central midfield. A bit against the run of play Argyle won a free-kick. Noone lamely hit the wall. The ball rebounded and Parrett superbly finished with a driven volley.”
“while Parrett and Connor were combative and effective until tiring when PR made the right call with Clark.”
“Clifford and Parret were also okay in midfield but certainly nothing special (Although Parrets goal was a beast!.”
Unfortunately, the week after, he was sent off on the stroke of half-time, as Plymouth Argyle lost 0-4 to Swindon Town.
Dean Parrett took Argyle’s tally of dismissals this season to seven with a wild two-footed lunge on David Prutton in first-half stoppage time, as the now familiar problems of ill discipline and an inability to defend set-pieces proved our undoing again.
Austin was now happily re-acquainted with his taste for goals and hungry for more, and Larrieu, without doubt Argyle’s stand-out performer in a sour first-half for Peter Reid’s men, was again called upon to keep the deficit at two, before Parrett’s moment of madness left Argyle a man short for the second period.
Reid said: “It was another lack of discipline and that’s seven sent-off, which is ridiculous. I’ve talked to the players about it and you just can’t do that in football nowadays.
“You have to stay on your feet. The game has changed and these young players cannot leave the ground with two feet. It was a stupid tackle and I have no complaints.”
Reid admitted the ill discipline of his team is becoming a significant problem. As well as Parrett’s red card, Argyle also conceded twice from set-pieces in a first half in which Swindon could have been out of sight.
He said: “I was well pleased to go in at 2-0 down but not pleased to go in with ten men.
“It has happened too many times. I keep telling players not to give silly free-kicks away and go to ground, and we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The week after this, it was agreed that Parrett should return to Spurs.
MIDFIELDER Dean Parrett has returned to Tottenham Hotspur. Argyle and Spurs have agreed to curtail the teenager’s Home Park loan, which had originally been until the end of the season.
The decision was taken following discussions between Peter Reid and Tottenham coach Tim Sherwood.
Reid said: “I had a chat with Tim Sherwood and we both agreed that the boy’s best interests would be served by returning to White Hart Lane.
“I’d like to thank Tim, Harry Redknapp and Spurs for allowing Dean to come here and wish him all the best for his future career.”
Dean made seven starts and three substitute appearances in his time at Home Park and will be best remembered for his stunning goal against Bristol Rovers in the recent 3-1 win at Home Park.
Ryan Mason has returned to Spurs from Doncaster Rovers, after suffering from a number of injury problems, most recently a back injury. Unfortunately, he was restricted to 2 starts and 3 sub appearance, and this year has largely been a waste for him – a shame, as he is a very talented player.
Finally, Ben Alnwick had a short loan spell at Leeds United, where he was an unused sub twice.
So very hit and miss so far, with a number of players struggling to get regular game time. On the plus side, it’s great to see Caulker continue to make progress, Walker prove himself as an excellent Championship player, and M’Poku excel in his first loan move.
Roman Pavlyuchenko is not a perfect striker – his all-round game is lacking in key areas, and he often doesn’t seem to be putting in as much effort as he could. But on Sunday he once again did what the rest of our strikers have been struggling to do – put the ball in the net (and in impressive fashion).
In the league, Pavlyuchenko continues to do well scoring-wise, despite not getting the same run of games that both Crouch and Defoe have tended to enjoy. It makes me wonder what he could achieve if he were allowed to get into his rhythm.
The stats for our strikers in the league so far this season are quite incredible:
Whilst Peter Crouch has so far scored at a rate 1052 minutes per goal, and Defoe and Keane have yet to score, Pavlyuchenko has a rate of 134 minutes per goal. This despite starting 4 less games than Crouch. Purely for comparison, I have included van der Vaart (who of course hasn’t always played up front). Most would agree that he has a good scoring record, but it is not as good as Pavlyuchenko’s.
Many fans argue that Crouch offers more, because although he doesn’t score, he gets vital assists. Even taking his five league assists into account, he still only averages a goal or assist every 175 minutes (Pavlyuchenko 134 and van der Vaart an impressive 87). Of course this does not take into account other areas in which our strikers weigh in (for example, Crouch offers valuable aerial presence when defending corners).
If this argument wasn’t compelling enough, just look at the goals record in the calendar year for our three main strikers (with thanks to Trashpost from COYS for all of the following stats):
Defoe: 4 goals in 19 starts (and 3 sub appearances). Crouch: 5 goals in 20 starts (and 15 sub appearances). Pavlyuchenko: 10 goals in 15 starts (and 12 sub appearances.
And in order to answer the inevitable questions about quality of opposition/percentage of away matches played:
Away league starts in 2010: Pavlyuchenko: 6 away matches (40% of his 2010 league starts) Crouch: 10 away matches (50%) Defoe: 8 away matches (42%)
Matches against the top 3 (Arsenal/Man Utd/Chelsea): Pavlyuchenko: 5 matches (33% of his 2010 starts) Crouch: 0 matches (0%) Defoe: 4 matches (21%)
Our results are far better with Pavlyuchenko in the team (in 2010, we’ve averaged 0.5 points per game more when Pavlyuchenko starts, compared to when Crouch starts).
Obviously Defoe is recovering from injury, and so judging him on this season’s stats may be harsh. However, he has had a disappointing calendar year in general – just 4 league goals is nowhere near a good enough return.
As I said at the top of this article, he is far from ideal, but until we get someone better in, these stats show me that Pavlyuchenko should be one of the first names on the team sheet in league matches.
Petr Cech claims the assist – it’s a free kick which he leathers forward in search of Drogba (they went early to him a lot in the half).
Drogba out muscles Dawson, and gets to the ball, but it clearly comes off his arm.
We got lucky with the Defoe offside for our goal, and Chelsea got their bit of luck here.
He’s at quite an angle, with Dawson making a last ditch tackle, but he takes the shot on – smashing it hard but straight at Gomes.
Gomes gets both hands to it,and should be either beating this out, or pushing it wide for a corner. But he’s unbalanced, and seems to be already falling backwards.
As a result, all he can do is parry the ball over him.
A dreadful error from Gomes, and such a shame, as we were otherwise wonderfully resolute. The performances from Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Palacios (great to see him back to his best form) and, especially, the returning Michael Dawson really deserved a clean sheet. No doubt he has saved us points in the past, but we were let down by our goalkeeper today.
Top of Champions League Group A – an absolutely remarkable achievement. We’ve broken records for goals scored, we’ve surprised everyone, both at home and abroad, and we’ve surely been the most exciting team so far – partially due to our dreadful defensive record!
Once again, our defence wasn’t much cop on Tuesday, partially due to a flimsy central midfield – with Palacios frequently leaving his post to chase after the ball, and Kranjcar, a stand-in, with Jenas limping off. Assou-Ekotto also had a bit of a nightmare – his worst game for some time- gifting a penalty, and making a number of other poor decisions.
The opening goal came from a spot, after a rather innocuous attack ended with Assou-Ekotto raising his arm to protect his face, much like Fabregas just a few weeks ago.
The ball is lifted rather aimlessly into the box.
Bassong heads clear, but only to Brama (I think), who nods back to Rosales.
It’s a sweet strike with his left foot, but Assou-Ekotto should be used to braving these kind of situations, and putting his body into the line of fire.
Yes, it’s a natural reaction to protect your face, but it’s very frustrating from a fan point of view to concede such a soft penalty.
The penalty is correctly ordered to be re-taken, due to the encroaching of a number of players.
Landzaat gets a little lucky second time around. He hits it straight down Gomes’ throat – Gomes gets something on the ball, but it goes straight through him. It’s harsh to expect a goalkeeper to save a penalty, but I can’t help but feel that he should have done better.
This header is a thing of beauty – I’ve not seen a better one for some time.
The ball is played wide for Chadli – Corluka comes out to him.
Corluka shows him down the line, knowing that there are very few players forward. Instead, Chadli stands a rather hopeful cross to the back post – it’s asking an awful lot from Rosales.
But Rosales comes up with an unbelievable header. He is a long way out, the cross is not ideal – he has to get up early (and he gets a long way above Assou-Ekotto), and use the muscles in his neck to put a lot of power on to the ball himself.
He not only gets sufficient power, but he plants it perfectly into the corner, and beyond Gomes. A brilliant finish.
Unfortunately I can’t find a decent video that includes the Lennon “foul” which leads to the awarding of this free kick. Suffice to say, the guy literally just falls over! Once the free kick was wrongly awarded, you are tempted to stand back and admire the quality of the strike. However, when you take a closer look, you can’t help but feel that another of our players should just take one for the team…
Gomes lines up the wall to protect the right side of his goal. Palacios, for some reason, jumps slightly to his left, and the ball goes right between him and Bale. If you watch the video, you can see Palacios’ strange jump more clearly. A solid wall, linked and jumping as one, and this ball doesn’t get near the goal.
Once through, this is only going to find the net – right in the corner, and well beyond the reach of Gomes, who had stood to the left.
Our defensive selection against Chelsea will be interesting. Michael Dawson got 90 minutes under his belt on Wednesday (in a Spurs XI game against MK Dons), and could now be in contention to come back into the side. With Kaboul also returning to fitness, we have four fit centre backs competing for the first time in a while. I can’t help but think that this has come slightly too soon for Dawson, and would expect that Gallas and Bassong will start again. Of course, one option would be to use Kaboul at right-back. Either way, we’ll need to keep things tight against Chelsea, and for me that means that Palacios needs to be much more disciplined in his play – he simply can’t go chasing the ball, and must learn to hold his position.