THERE you go. Happy New Year and all that. Feeling positive about the year to come? Looking forward to all the joys that January to May has in store for a start? Nah, me neither. That thing where I come on here and spray around undiluted joy, optimism and positivity? Not doing that, really not doing that: I’m as pissed off as the rest of you.
Mesut Ozil, though. Need to talk about him in a bit. Might be crucial, that lad. Might be instructional. If that’s a word. Talking Mesut though, deffo talking Mesut.
Not yet, though. First, this:
Dropped wife and son at Goodison yesterday afternoon. We’ve done this, haven’t we? The family details bit, the split in support, the way I’m out-numbered? Done it all. If you missed it we can sum it up with: ‘there are Blues in our house and they enjoyed West Ham more than I did’.
Anyway, dropped them at Goodison, drove home through the joys of Queens Drive’s erratic system of lights that allows you to gaze at The Mons in frustration for what seems like hours, got in, turned the telly on and thought, ‘no, I can’t do it’.
Everton v Spurs. Couldn’t do it, couldn’t watch it. Normally would, this time…no. Couldn’t be doing with football.
Liverpool had pissed me off to the extent that I’d decided there was far too much football in the world and I didn’t want more.
So I played FIFA.
When Liverpool lose on that, it’s my fault and I’m happy to be miserable for my own mistakes.
Misery caused by the mistakes of others? Less chuffed about. Mood not helped later when the world is talking about how good Dele Alli is and how much of a bargain Spurs got when Liverpool passed up on a prospect that may have done a job for the next decade to sign James Milner, 30 this week, instead.
That said, we’re missing Milner. And Hendo. And Sturridge. And Ings. And Gomez. And Skrtel. And Flanno. And Markovic, even.
That Grujic lad that I’ve never seen play would be pretty useful at the moment, too.
One look at that bench at Upton Park…(seriously, where did this Boleyn Ground thing suddenly come from? Don’t remember anybody using the term anywhere between the mid seventies and about six months back and while we’re on it, could the media get over the whole West Ham love-in and how historic they are and how it’s such a shame that they’re leaving their historic ground where they basically won the World Cup for us and how they have a culture of playing the beautiful game? They’re West Ham, they’re a nothing team, generally filled with yard dogs and all their talented players buggered off the second they were relegated so don’t give me all that. And they’re leaving their home because they’ve been given a nice shiny new one that was paid for with our taxes. A more suspicious soul than me would make links with their Tory-supporting Baroness chairperson and the government on that one but I’m saying nothing. And yes, they beat us 2-0 so we’re worse than them)…..and breathe.
But yeah, one look at that bench at Upton Park and you can see where some of our problems are coming from. Midfielders and defenders. They’re not the problem, they’re all we’ve got. Midfielders and defenders. Two of those defenders from the ressies, one on his way at the end of the season.
NO STRIKERS. AT ALL.
Not even any kids.
Four strikers we’ve got and three are broken. No matter what one of them says.
Keep him off the pitch until we’re sure we won’t break him again, no matter how much he wants to play. And he wants to play so don’t give me all that.
Not even any kids. That worries me.
The Jermaine Sinclair contract stand-off seems to rule him out so there are, apparently, no other kids in the ressies up to the level of ‘let’s just sling him on the bench and see what happens’.
All of which becomes pertinent in a second, becomes pertinent in a ‘we can only play with what we’ve got left’ sort of way but first, let’s do some full disclosure shall we? That last paragraph was started at noon, it’s now just gone eight.
Got a bit sidelined, headed in to Anfield Wrap mansions to discuss the West Ham game at great length with messrs Atkinson and Rogers which is always interesting, enlightening (and I’m sure someone more talented than I will insert some kind of hyper link to the show here) and makes me relax a little, makes me consider the positives that may have been buried within the weekend’s display.
There are some, honest to god, Sean highlights them wonderfully, give it a listen.
The other thing it did was give me the chance to say ‘on air’ what I’m about to say here: I’m sick to death of 4-2-3-1. Sick of it. Never want to see it again.
I get that we can only play with what we’ve got but I don’t think that what we’ve got at this moment comes close to suiting a 4-2-3-1.
I want a return to tradition. I want a 4-4-2. I don’t care if it’s a new fangled 4-4-2 diamond (happy with that, worked okay that one, worked okay that season we nearly did ‘it’, worked okay against Southampton the other week) or if it’s an old-fashioned, beautiful, wonderful, flattish 4-4-2 where everything’s in lines and a left back passes to a left winger who runs up the wing in a Barnes/Heighway/Thompson stylee. (Yes, I said ‘stylee’, it’s not a typo, what of it? It’s past eight, I’m listening to The Guns of Navarone and I have wine, my mood is definitely lifting).
The players that we have can make this work. The players that we have will work better in this, in either shape, deffo in the diamond but in the other as well. This is doable.
Right, the problems.
Henderson’s injured. That’s a biggie. That is exactly as huge as we’re all telling each other it is.
Hendo and Can together? That’s a two that can carry the game forward in the ‘2’ part of the 4-2-3-1 that I never want to see again.
Lucas coming in for either isn’t a natural fit, it’s not working for him, it’s not his game.
Stick him as a ‘1’ in front of a ‘4’ and he’ll do fine. Slight aside there, I criticised Lucas on Twitter the other week, pointed out that he’d been sound all season but not that night, was firmly informed that I was a typical “Anfield Wrap apologist” and that I should take a night off.
Not entirely sure what I was supposed to take a night off from but there you go — 140 characters doesn’t always give you all the information you need.
Anyway, the 2 doesn’t work. Which means that the 3 doesn’t work. There’s loads of ways that the 3 doesn’t work, most of them being tied up in the fact that we have three of the same player there trying to do the same thing as each other and not really achieving a great deal.
Them not achieving a great deal doesn’t help the 1 up front either.
Not that the 1 is helping himself at the moment.
Benteke looks like a massive mistake. (Mesut Ozil, Mesut Ozil, getting there.) The 3 are trying to put the ball somewhere that the 1 doesn’t seem to want to be but the 1 wants them to put the ball where he thinks he wants to be and the 1 is too static to burst through defenders, except for when he does, and he hasn’t got the ball control to score worldies, except for when he does so it must be the 1’s fault mustn’t it?
Or it’s the 3’s fault?
It’s probably Firmino’s fault, he’s rubbish isn’t he?
Had one good game and then we found him out (Do I need to point out the sarcasm that I’m employing here? Probably not, you’re sharper than the 140 character lads, you’re keeping up, even with all the brackets and sub-clauses and Sauvignon Blanc).
How about if it’s nobody’s fault? How about if it’s just a case of settling in and learning what each other does?
Right. Benteke. Drops deep, drops wide, goes hunting for the ball.
Probably needs a partner who will move round him to let him do that. Sturridge? Not yet, lads, let’s get him sorted.
Coutinho? Needs targets ahead of him. At least two, maybe three. Giving him one lad to aim at isn’t working, being in a three isn’t working. Same for Lallana. Same for Firmino.
But we’ve seen Firmino do the false nine thing against City and we thought that was pretty good.
Saturday lunch, Benteke trying to escape the attentions of two big lads so that Moreno and Ibe could swing crosses in that he was never going to be near when he wants cut backs or just one ball into his feet like he got against Sunderland. Not working is it?
Lucas by nature holding while Can pushes up but there’s those other three ahead of him so Lucas is on his own. Not working.
Now, I’m not one to tell Jürgen how to do things. But I’m going to. Obviously. N0 point writing this if I’m not going to. 4-4-2 is going to work far better here isn’t it? (he says in present tense when it’s in the past and everything’s hypothetical).
Yeah, you can have Albie at left back to start — although who’s going to be shocked if Brad gets the call for the next few weeks? — and Clyne on the right is sorted and they can both have licence to push forward.
You take Lucas and stick him at the base of the diamond, you stick Can to his right and Coutinho to his left, you stick Jordon on the bench and let Adam have the tip of the diamond behind Bobby and Chris doing a 21st century Toshack and Keegan impression.
There’s more movement, more space made, more threat.
Yes, I’ve got the benefit of hindsight and yes, Jürgen was severely pissed off that his game plan wasn’t followed so as far as he’s concerned he’s got players who didn’t give the 100 per cent he demanded and I’m not having to manage that problem. I’m basically playing FIFA with these guys and not taking personalities and attitude in training and condition into account and you kind of need to when you’ve got nobody else left but still…. worth a try.
And then you do the same against Stoke because Shawcross is looking forward to kicking Benteke round and probably won’t like having a nippy little Brazilian running round him.
And then, for Exeter, you play round with it and you do the whole old-fashioned 4-4-2 and you might not be able to change the guys up front but you can use Bogdan and Kolo and Randall and Smith at the back.
You can go mad and throw Tiago in as well if you like — never know, could be okay, only one way to find out.
And then you go off the deep end and you stick Rossiter and Brannagan in the middle and Ibe on one wing and Ryan Kent on the other and see what a flat midfield with wingers looks like.
Up front? Chris and Adam/Bobby/Phil playing in the old Beardsley/Kenny role. See what happens.
And just think how many of those positions Lazar could have had a crack at if we hadn’t decided that loans were really, really good when you’ve spent £20million on someone.
What have we got to lose?
We’ve got all these terrible players and we need to get something out of them until all the good ones come back.
The good ones like Milner, who we were all pissed off with two weeks ago.
Or Hendo, who we hated for a year and a half.
Or Sturridge who, as was pointed out in this afternoon’s review show, looks better and better with every week that he’s out and post-Southampton you’re not hearing anyone go with the ‘we should just bloody sell him’ line.
THAT. That is the key. That’s the Mesut Ozil moment. Remember Ozil last season? Not all that was he?
Didn’t want to be at Arsenal, complete luxury, they’d have been better off without him. This season? Footballer of the Year, apparently.
All the assists in the world. All of them.
Maybe it’s a different Ozil? Looks the same though. Maybe the key is in something Theo Walcott said: “Obviously it always takes time when you come into a new team and a new environment to get the balance right but everyone knows his strength and he is fitting in now.”
Not revolutionary, not new — apparently footballers sometimes take more than 15 weeks to adapt to a new team with new team-mates and a new manager and then another new manager.
Perhaps Benteke isn’t a static idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing (but still averages one in two while not knowing it), perhaps Firmino isn’t a one-trick pony whose one good game came and went.
Perhaps Phil and Adam can work out the runs that these new lads are going to make, perhaps Lazar could have been given more than one season, maybe Tiago could turn out to be half-way decent…
Perhaps none of us know anything, perhaps we need a bit more patience, maybe knee-jerk reactions are no use and maybe Jürgen was right about not winning the league when the likes of me were getting a bit giddy. Perhaps these things take time.
Still. 4-4-2, THAT ONE I’m right about.
Pics: Propaganda-Photo–David Rawcliffe