Carling Cup Obituary
Having slept on it and now looking back on last nights disappointment, there is no doubt we deserved to be knocked out. We lost because we appear to have an apologetic streak of worry and concern embedded into our players, as if daring to beat United is blasphemy. Simply put, there is a mental weakness that stops any form of guile or belief. For every incident that has played out against us (the Mendes goal, the penalty decisions, the comebacks) the players seem to have accepted defeat in their minds before the game has even kicked off.
Now I know that if you took the game, minute by minute, you could argue that we didn't actually play too badly. We had a decent amount of possession and created a few chances. But then when you consider the side they fielded and the fact that our lot were lacking any form of urgency, you can only question why there was a failure from the players to change gear. Dictate the tempo.
We bottled it when it was easier to give it a go and strike them down. It was a limp and useless day trip for all concerned. Perhaps 'bottled it' is too harsh a phrase. We couldn't be arsed to step up.
What's the solution to this problem? Grow some balls and show the opposition no respect. That would do for starters, and perhaps we could apply the same ethic to our north London neighbours.
We did that last season when we led Utd 2-0 at Old Trafford only to collapse mentally thanks to an undeserved penalty, such is our powder-puff backbone in these games. So the players do have it in them to swagger with intent. Other than the fact they remain susceptible to self-ruin at the slightest turn.
The counter-arguments to the Carling Cup defeat, however, is that the players selected - as a unit - did not have enough botheredness to really turn it on. Which might have had to do with Harry's pre-match comments about the Cup not being as important than the Prem and the fact that certain fringe players are fringe players for a reason (although what Harry tells the press and what he tells the players might be far apart in terms of requirements).
Or you could wipe away all the psychological analysis and conclude that we did pretty well, just didn't do enough with our chances in front of goal and conceded two sucker-punch goals, which our defence made comfortable for the accepting Gibson.
As ever, it's dependant on you and your perspective. Perhaps taking 2 or 3 first team players out of our line-up has a detrimental effect, proving that the depth in squad only looks good on paper.
What's guaranteed is a fully strength (as far as injuries will allow) line-up at Everton WILL give us 100% commitment come Sunday. It's a shame we can't show the same type of application in all games. Had last nights tie been played at home, in front of 33,000 Spurs fans, I'd bet the performance and application of players would have been far greater. Instead, 3,000 Spurs fans had a completely wasted evening.
Onwards and upwards.