I was going to write a post yesterday, but I had to make sure I arrived at the airport 6 hours early after missing my flight to London a few weeks back.
Just tuned into the coverage for the FA Cup. Still amazed that pundits ask the question, ‘is it a massive risk for Klopp to rest players?’ Missing the point that you have a big squad to deal with smaller games like FA Cup 3rd Rounders.
It’s not disrespecting the cup, it’s dealing with the horrendous fixture list the Premier League dishes out each year. Also, we’re past the days of second string teams being terrible. The top teams have very good backup players these days. From a managerial perspective, it’s a chance to give some love to the young players, and it’s also a chance for the fringe crowd to make their mark.
I didn’t watch the game, but I took in extended highlights from the excellent Arsenalist.
So topline thoughts:
We’re through to the next round after a pretty ropey result in the week. Bar a sliced head for Gabriel, we came out of it relatively unscathed, a miracle considering how utterly terrible the team started out. The whole backline looked like they’d been drafted in from a local hockey team for a charity game. No shape, very little understanding and absolute chaos.
The defending for Preston’s opening was utterly car crash, no pressure in midfield, Gabriel falling over himself, Mustafi not quick off the mark, Monreal asleep at the wheel. Let’s be fair, that wasn’t Preston’s best chance, we made them look like kings for the opening 45. I’m hoping that the issue with Mustafi is just rustiness… my worry after a second awful game from him is that the first half of the season was predicated on flying confidence. He needs to get his shit together ASAP.
The second half was better, we found our feet, started to find Giroud and we opened on a flyer. Aaron Ramsey scored his first of the year. Iwobi picked up some scraps on the edge of the area, put on a Wiltord pirouette, jinking between jabbing legs, he found Aaron on the edge of the box, the Welshman crafted some space and let a low backlift rocket off into the top right. A lovely finish, much needed after picking up a lot of critique in the week.
The second came from, who else? Goal machine Olivier Giroud. He’d been causing problems with his bully boy antics and good runs, his reward came from a delightful Lucas Perez backheel into his path, he obliged and scuffed it into the back of the net. An aggressive, slightly less carry-on celebration. Another very important goal, you feel he’s slowly clawing back some lost love points after his horrendous run of nothing last season. Amazing what a bit of competition can do to focus the mind.
I only took in the highlights, so I can’t be sure this was a thing… but the looping crosses into the box felt tactical with Preston knowing our South American is not the best at dominating his box. Worth noting as we possibly swing into promotion / replacement time for the out of sorts Petr Cech.
Let’s never see Rambo at 10 again. It’s clear back-up in that position moving forward is Iwobi. He might make poor decisions, he might not always have the confidence we’d like, but he made some great contributions yesterday and he looks far more natural in that role than he does on the right or left.
Hold your horses people. Let’s see how he’s looking alongside Xhaka by the time Coquelin comes back into contention. The way I see it, Aaron dropped a superstar season a few years back, he was on the path to Gareth Bale like stardom. Then it all went to shit, but his head was still in the clouds dreaming of a fry-up in an Irish bar in Madrid. That’s been reflected in his play, playing the all action hero, thinking about himself a lot, not doing his job properly.
… and that has to stop. He has to remember he doesn’t have pedigree at elite levels right now. He has to earn that rep back. He won’t do that in the role he has for Wales, but he might do it next to Xhaka. Yesterday he scored a goal, floated the ball to Perez for his late assist. It’s minimal, but look, he has to build himself up again. I’d like to see what he can do. If it doesn’t work out, see ya later. If it does, and he can stay fit, we have a powerful player on out hands.
Yesterday will have worked his confidence the right way. Let’s see if he can take something incremental from that game and make it happen more often. Last chance saloon for him, but a good start.
Right, that’s it, onwards and upwards. A week off and Swansea up next, another new manager to play.