The pain of the woeful Tuesday display still remains, but it’s become a little bit more of a dull ache than a stabbing feeling in my gut, such is the speed in which football is coming at us with the games we’ve got midweek and then at the weekend.
Almost inevitably, some of the players have been wheeled out to talk to the media and somewhat surprisingly, it’s the defenders who are doing the talking. I say surprisingly because that part of Tuesday’s game was where we were let down, so you’d think that they’d want to keep a low profile, but I suppose this has more to do with cameras and microphones thrust in front of them rather than attempting a bit of a Djourouian PR offensive.
Mertesacker has said we need to be more aggressive and improve our concentration, whilst Gabriel has spoken of the need for calm ahead of a big game against United. The two approaches perhaps underline the chaos that ensued in our back four on Tuesday, because that seems to be a little at odds to me, although we can let them both off because ultimately their underlying message was the same: we were sh*te, we need to be less sh*te and we could really really do without any sh*teness against United.
Eurgh. United. A team with which we have an appalling record and every time you think ‘law of averages dictates that we should at least win one league game given the similar technical abilities of the two teams over the years’, we end up with a result like last season at home; domination followed by a sucker punch and a post-match Rooney interview that talks about a ‘game plan’ which was clearly a sheet of A4 paper that read “Thank heavens for De Gea”.
Anyway, we can chew our fingernails over that during the weekend in the run up to the game. For now, let’s just try to get through this week without too much malaise. It’s hard after Champions League defeat I know, but just try, anyway. I force myself in to avoiding radio phone-ins (last night I listened to ‘Absoulte 80s’ when preparing dinner) and keeping my phone away from me for as long as humanly possible (to avoid Twitter and the such like) so I can remember that I can turn away from my football bubble if the need dictates.
The players are like that too, which I guess is a good thing, particularly when the big games keep coming. On the one hand we all roll our eyes when we see the standard “we must do better” interviews on the official site, wondering to ourselves why the players are using the same rhetoric and why they don’t just be quiet and go all ‘radio silence’ on us. But on the other hand we want to hear that the players can bounce back mentally from this. We want the reassurance. We might not think it at the time, but we do. We want the players to be able to compartmentalise each game and I think, to an extent, most top level footballers can do that. So my hope is that the players are already turning up to London Colney today having put their poor performance behind them and starting their preparation for Sunday already.
One player who will be full of beans regardless of the result, I suspect, will be Theo Walcott. He’s just been named the Player of the month for September and despite his lack of involvement in most games, given his goals and also an assist of Alexis on Tuesday, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t deserved it. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to United’s defence and whether he can continue his good run of form. His goals and this award so far this season, is a clear indication of what happens with some players when they are given an extended run in the team, because Theo has only ever historically played the odd game as a centre forward and up until now has never convinced. It’s the old ‘Catch 22’ with regards to rotation and form. If you rotate players more, they are less likely to get injured and more likely to build momentum in a position. But if you play the same players all of the time, whilst they will develop those famous Mertesacker ‘automatisms’, they are more susceptible to their bodies breaking down. It’s a delicate balance for a manager to get the blend right, but that’s why he’s a millionaire, so it’s why he should be under that type of pressure to get squad rotation and momentum right.
Anyway, you’ve heard enough of me prattling on for one day, so have a good’un.