Dancing on Thin Ice
If you were wondering what that damp squelching noise was as ‘Arry and his troops clambered aboard the team bus at five o’ clock on Saturday afternoon, it probably wont surprise you to learn that is was the sound of grown men hobbling in shoes filled with blood from repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot. Any more episodes like that and there wont be much foot left to shoot. Two points lost and the jets of Champions League aspirations- for now- cooled slightly.
A bizarre game in many respects. Not one that’ll be remembered for its abundance of quality but rather for its moments of absurdity. From both ends there were episodes which puzzled rather than infuriated; prompting bewildered silence rather than apoplectic raving. Until the ninety-first minute, that is. Even the stuff that went to plan- Crouch’s assist, for example- looked for all the world like it was bred from remarkable good fortune. Bar one or two stand-out performances and some neat exchanges in the final third, we were treated to ninety minutes of comedy finishing and wild speculative long balls- nothing you’d wish to submit to a scrap book. But, for all its ugliness, it looked like it might just be enough. Birmingham certainly didn’t look as if they were willing to punish our lackadaisical methods.
The double substitution- I think wrongly- has been ear marked as a turning point. It takes a brave man to introduce two players whose collective boo-brigade could invade Tibet. But while their contributions were flimsy- as is customary right now- it would be an oversight to suggest they single-handedly lost us the game. Form-wise, neither deserves a place in the team at present; simply there’re players who can offer more. That’s been established. Their numbers are all but up. What they should be able to bring to the table, however, is exactly what ‘Arry had in mind for their cameos on Saturday- a dose of much needed liveliness. A shot of energy for the remaining minutes; nothing to too strenuous, just run around a bit, look busy and make life difficult for the tired opposition. Maybe ‘Arry hoped for too much, but in my mind the substitution didn’t smack of tactical insanity. In fact it sort of made sense. Until Ridgewell bundled in an equaliser.
The point is, if we get to the stage where ‘Arry can’t even trust them with a bit part role, then the situation is well beyond recovery. Maybe it already is.
The real villain here was the nanosecond brain spasm from Vedran Corluka. The habitually assured performer was, on this occasion, caught out of position and out of sorts. King didn’t look too clever in the build up to the goal, either; losing his man easier than I lose my house keys. But that’s all we’re talking about here; microscopic blunders. Vapour thin margins of error which separates us from ugly win and infuriating draw. Eradicate these from our make-up and we’ll be in business. Thankfully, while we remain in the shake-up, it’s not too late to dispose of this bloody annoying habit.
On a positive note, we seem to be coaxing some half-decent form from the rogues gallery. Namely, two of its more long-standing members, messrs Bale and Bentley. Say what you want about DB, but the man has some character. If you were asked to do your day job to some degree of competency while someone was hurling faeces at you from every conceivable angle, I’d wager you’d find it pretty difficult, too. Yet he just about manages it. Alright, it’s nothing which you could garnish too much with unending superlatives, but he appears to be improving at least. And growing in confidence. Which is good news.
Bale, again, looks a genuine threat going forward- as highlighted in the build up to the goal. I just hope he isn’t flung back to the doldrums of obscurity once BAE graces us with his presence. At the very least Bale’s efforts should revitalize competition at left-back. At most, with the improvement demonstrated, he could make the position his own. Watch this space, I guess.
So, little time to dwell on Saturday’s result- the points are gone but can certainly be made up elsewhere, and, perhaps, in unlikelier places. By my calculations we host Villa at the weekend. Further estimates reveal that this is a big one. Possibly the biggest yet. What’s to say we can’t invite them in and bludgeon ourselves three handy points?
Bring the noise, I say.