Game 09 v (H) Manchester United
Total points: 19
As far as 0-0 draws go, this wasn't too shabby a game.
Atmosphere was better than recent home games too (even if Utd were fairly quiet possibly due to their reduced allocation for their insistent standing at away games - which is ridiculous - let away fans stand, leave us with an ounce of joy at the very least as you seem hell bent to take everything else from us), thanks largely to the return of Dimitar Berbatov, who looked out of sorts.
Though arguably that best describes Man Utd's away form this season. Loads of classy touches and movement, but no cutting edge when it matters. We lost Woodgate to injury early on, which meant Corluka slotted into centre-back next to awesome Dawson (King failed a fitness test, which was no great surprise). Our midfield general under-achiever (see what I did there?), Zokora, went to right-back to handle Ronaldo.
Huddlestone, came on for Woody, and into centre midfield. This type of re-shuffle usually has me crying hysterically. But things turned out fine, even with the wishfully avoidable depletion. Utd had plenty of possession but efforts on goal were shared between both teams. Look, I suck at writing up match reviews and there's no point in going into any great analytical detail because you were either at the game, watched it on Match of the Day or read it about it in the papers (not that the latter is any good for unbiased reporting).
So here's some thoughts in no particular order:
Zokora was a revelation. He looks so much better at right-back than he does in midfield, probably because the responsibility of looking after that flank is a far easier concept to handle than attempting to boss the middle of the park. I'd say he kept Ronaldo pretty quiet, but it's a far easier job when the Portuguese winger only half turns up for games nowadays. Blatantly trying to make it easy for Fergie to sell him off come the summer. Petulant little c*nt kicked out (ala Beckham, World Cup) but as our refs don't follow anything to the letter, preferring to translate the rules as they see fit depending on how bad of a day they are having, didn't give so much as a yellow card for it. Not that Dawson complained or dropped like a sack of potatoes. Maybe he should of. Earlier today the FA said they would take no action as the ref said had he seen the incident he would not have sent off Ronaldo. How fucking gracious of him.
As for Daws, he played a blinder. And Corluka continues to impress with each passing game. The same can't be said about our Russian centre-forward, Pav. Struggled in a big way to find space, hold onto the ball, do anything. 4-5-1 does seem to work for us, but Pav isn't the type of player who's made for being up front on his own. When Bent came on, nothing much changed. Modric playing just behind the forward also needs some form of tweaking, or just patience till Luka starts scoring goals. If you have a midfielder playing as the more forward player other than the lone centre-forward, then you need him scoring goals too.
He had an ok day on Saturday, nothing special. One or two mis-placed balls, which was more down to a lack of understanding than anything else . If we still had Berbatov or a player of his ilk, we would be LOL'ing at the havoc we would create upfront. Modric wouldn't have to concern himself, he'd just play the ball into the space and the Berba-ilk player would instinctively run onto the ball to receive it, unlike his second level team-mates. Oh yes I know, if if if if. Whether 'arry brings in another forward is anyone's guess.
Whispers suggest Heskey or Crouch. No, that's Heskey or Crouch, where did I say Arshavin exactly? Heskey/Crouch would hold the ball up, which would mean the midfield (Luka included) could push forward further. Modric did have a couple of worthy efforts - flying through the air like a salmon (thanks to Michael McIntyre for the half-time comedy randomness) - but his header not finding the target. And all from a wonderful Zokora cross (it's the right-back position, its magic).
He also had a dipping shot that took an ever so slight deflection. For now, Bent and Pav is all we have (Campbell is injured and isn't - for obvious reasons - a long term answer) so if they don't play together, and we stick with the 4-5-1, then Harry has to work on how we can make it work. Pav, to be fair, looks knackered having played in the summer for Russia and also 5 months of a league season before joining us. His biggest contribution was for Utd, when he got in the way of a Huddlestone pile-driver.
One rumour from Russia was that Ramos had inquired about him for Madrid, on a loan deal. Doubtful. Lennon had a great run and shot at goal. Was pretty lively, but at times came up second best to Rafael (who looks like that kid from Heroes). Bentley again failed to impress, apart from a volley from nothing moment (easily dealt with, but hey, it looked greeeeeeeeat on tv) and a free-kick which could have sneaked in, but van der Sar was equal to it. Other than that, still playing from memory.
Ekotto? Impressive. Not perfect by a long shot, but does the job well enough. Quietly consistent at the moment.
Gomes was superb. When called upon, he saved well. Very well. No signs of the dodgy keeper from recent weeks. Great save from a free-kick late on. As for the returning Berbatov, I almost fainted when I saw him chasing down a ball and tracking back to defend corners. Amazing stuff. He had one great chance, but Dawson foiled him at the last second before he had the chance to pull the trigger.
Other than that, and the usual slick touches, he wasn't at his best. Only one downer was Woodgate's injury (original rumour was he had to see a specialist (having been rushed to hospital), but according to the latest reports he is fine but will miss a game or two at the most) and Jenas has torn his calf muscle and will be out for 'months'. I know, that's two. But I did say 'only one'.
Still unbeaten against Top 4 opposition this season. Shame we lost to Sunderland, Stoke and Hull. Newcastle up next. In-form Newcastle. Another away day trip to a place where we historically get nothing.
Expect plenty of goals.