Monsieur Salut writes: I was wrong. Pete Sixsmith‘s internet woes are over so he was up and about at the crack of dawn to reflect on the 1-0 defeat at home to Man City. I’m busy writing a profile of City’s manager-in-waiting – being contenders for four major trophies being seen as a clear sign of failure in that part of the NW Midlands – so apologies to Sixer for the delay in posting …
Another game, another defeat and a visit to the Pirelli Stadium in Burton-upon-Trent is looking likelier by the day. There are 14 games left and 42 points to play for. I calculate that we need a minimum of 23 to stay up – seven wins and two draws will do it.
There should have been at least one point last night as we played as well as we have all season against a twisty and whiny Manchester City side who plummeted in my estimation – not that they will be in the least bit bothered by that.
We showed pace, enthusiasm and desire, three things that have been noticeable by their absence for far too long and which a simple reconfiguration of the starting line up and a couple of new faces gave us a chance of matching Leicester City’s remarkable rise from bottom to top in 12 months.
Kirchhoff and Kone made excellent debuts and showed the value of having an experienced manager who knows the English game backwards and who also has an extensive scouting network. These were Sam’s players, not Dick’s or Lee’s or Gus’s or Roberto’s and they rewarded him with two very impressive performances.
Kone looked quick and sharp at centre back and he gained instant cult status when he tackled YaYa Toure in front of the East Stand in the second half. The stadium rocked to its foundations as two huge men hit each other in something akin to a Leeds Rhino tackling a Wigan Warrior. Knees creaked as the older inhabitants of the East Stand rose to their feet to applaud and thought of previous tackles like any by Jimmy McNab or Richie Pitt’s on Allan Clarke at Wembley. It cemented Kone as a hero and he would have been a greater one had his header gone in in the first half.
Kirchhoff had made a poor start at Tottenham and has clearly spent the last two weeks getting his fitness right. When the teams were announced, we expected a back three with the full backs pushing forward; when they lined up, we saw a back four with the former Bayern Munich man in front of them and Cattermole and M’Vila in front.
It worked. Not only can Big Jan tackle, head the ball and chew gum at the same time, he can also intercept, pass and move forward – things which the likes of Bridcutt, Rodwell (not even on the bench last night – what does that tell us?) and Cattermole cannot do.
He gave us an anchor and showed that the opprobrium heaped on him after his White Hart Lane fiasco was unfair and that people should not rush to judgements. Blame the manager not the player for that one.
Having said all that, we gave a goal away in the opening stages yet again, albeit a slightly fortunate one. The last thing you want is for a deflection to land at the feet of Sergio Aguero standing in the penalty box unmarked. So, 0-1 and a mountain to climb
We had a go at it. There were chances before half time. Kone should have done better with his header and Billy Jones hit the post after Hart (of whom more later) had made a good save from Defoe. And we continued to keep them on the back foot in the second half as their much maligned central defenders worked hard to stop any clearcut chances for Defoe and Borini.
That the best one fell to O’Shea sums up our lack of good fortune. Those patrons in Row Z of the North Stand had a good view of the ball as it whizzed past them.
We forced City into withdrawing their second forward and replacing him with a defensive midfielder at half time. We also forced them into a disappointing spectacle of time wasting, whingeing and rolling around, which culminated in the 90th minute with Gael Clichy preventing Jones from getting the ball, lying on top of it when it went out of play, getting up, returning to the pitch and then falling down and rolling around as if he had been poleaxed.
Add to this the constant surrounding of a weak referee and Joe Hart’s sprints from 50 yards to remonstrate with Mr Attwell and you had something which I associate with their Manchester rivals but not with City and not with Pellegrini, a man who holds a high place in my estimation – as if he is bothered about that.
There were plus points and had we had this quality of players in July instead of the disappointing group that Congerton brought in, we may have been sitting happily in mid table, contemplating a boring end of season and maybe a cup run.
As it is, we go to Liverpool with some hope. They are not a good side and, if we can utilise the pace of Borini and Khazri (full of enthusiasm when he came on and he takes a mean corner kick) we may well get something.
But we have to concentrate for 90 minutes; the four 0-1 home defeats have all been to goals where there was a serious lapse of concentration and a point has been lost. I firmly believe that in some ways, it is better to lose heavily because then you can see where the problems are; lose by a single goal and the tweaking becomes difficult.
Here’s hoping that Everton can shake off their slough of despond and give the black and whites a good tousing tonight. We need some good news.