Losing to Hull wasn’t a big surprise. Bear with me. We’ve traditionally made poor starts to league campaigns and had lost our last two away games in the Premier League.
Plus we’re notoriously bad against the newly promoted sides. We failed to beat Derby last season, lost at home to Sunderland and drew at Birmingham. I remember the season we handed Sunderland a win when they finished up with a truly atrocious points total, which was also the season we managed to fight our away back into a game that we had already thrown away at Watford – before letting in a late equaliser.
Plus, there are 37 games to go. The glass might not be full, but it’s hardly empty either. There were some positives to draw from that game – particularly the brand of football we played for half an hour. Easy on the eye, inventive and mighty effective too. The task is to play that way for the duration of a game, something Sanchez just couldn’t manage.
Whilst it was not unexpected, the defeat raises some disturbing questions. Why did our defence look like they’d just met on a boozy night out on Friday? Hangeland and Hughes had played together since last January but at times they leave alarming gaps both between each other and the midfield. Hull’s first goal was a classic example. Whilst it might not have been their fault that Geovanni travelled as far as he did with the ball, one of them should have come out and closed him. Hughes ducked out of the way of the ball instead of being brave – something which can’t have impressed Hodgson.
Konchesky is normally pretty unflappable so I’ll forgive him his moment of madness (as long as he doesn’t try dribbling his way out of trouble again). Pantsil divides opinion already – and Ray (in the comments below) makes a reasonable point about the carnage that might ensue when he comes up against the Premier League’s top wingers. Come to think of it – why wasn’t Stoor involved? Granted I’ve only seen him play for Sweden (and perhaps once for Hammarby) but he looks like the kind of dependable full-back we need.
Something also needs to be done about the midfield. Rich has already written about our lack of an enforcer. It’s not that we don’t have one, it’s just he doesn’t play. Andreasen is mean enough to do it, but he only came on when we were chasing the game (just one of a number of puzzling substitutions yesterday). I’d have thought we brought Andranik for situations such as yesterday – his ability to put his foot in would have been handy and his useful distribution might have solved the problems Roy identified in giving the ball to the midfield.
I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that for all that, for all they add to our attacking play, the only way we can accomodate both Bullard and Muprhy in the same starting line-up is to play five in mdifield. That would leave someone like Zamora or Johnson playing the lone striker role and Bobby looked thoroughly unsuited to that job yesterday. Someone also has to explain just how Gera had such a stinker, too, and quite how he managed to miss two chances so gift-wrapped they may now be known in my household as ‘Salakos’.
We’ll have to play a different game against Arsenal on Saturday. Coming out and playing open football will see us on the end of a mauling, but sitting back could leave us sitting ducks. It’ll call for aggression in the midfield, a task that rules out Murphy and maybe even Bullard, who offered precious little against Hull. We’ll need to take our chances – and even though he scored – I’m afraid that means we can’t start with Seol, a player so infuriating he might appear in the Oxford English Dictionary next to the word enigma. And the mere thought of Adebayor against Hangeland and Hughes is enough to send shudders down my spine.
This was supposed to be an uplifting piece for all of you still suffering on a horribly wet Sunday night (in London at least). Sorry about that.