Having missed the Porto game midweek, I didn’t feel in a position to comment on it, having only picked up the details from what I’d read. By the sounds of things, we were poor, with the goals coming from sloppy moments from some of our more experienced players, and a lack of penetration up front meant that once behind, the result was never really in doubt. 2-0 could’ve been worse.
So we finish second in the group, and will play one of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Panathinaikos, Roma and Juventus. Whether that is worse than Atletico Madrid, Inter, Lyon, Real Madrid, Sporting Lisbon and Villareal is debatable, so I’m not really fussed about the result, and fully agree with Wenger’s assertion that this lunchtime’s trip to Middlesbrough is more important. What is slightly concerning is that those that came in on Wednesday night showed once again that all the talk of our lack of depth is true.
While we have an excellent first team (when fit), and an equally excellent bunch of youngsters, we don’t have what is needed in between – squad players who the kids have to get past, and are themselves pushing the first teamers for their place. The first XI know who they are, and with the exception of the centre back positions they know their spots are safe, which doesn’t help performances. Meanwhile, the kids get into the first team too easily when there are one or two injuries, and while this is good for development, it means that have to fight less hard to make it. Again, this is not ideal, and is something to be rectified in January.
What is most frustrating is that aside from the players who are clearly not ready for the first team (Song and Bendtner are potentially good squad players but find themselves in the first team too often for my liking), it is actually some of most experienced players that are faltering. Gallas hasn’t exactly had a great few months, but the one who is really irritating me is Silvestre, who seems to be following his compatriot by opening his big mouth to criticise every week:
“It is difficult if you judge the team on Wednesday night, because you cannot expect to perform like that and win anything”
Correct he may be, but he should keep his opinion to himself until he starts raising his own game to the expected levels. He is in no position to criticise just because of his experience.
But on to today, and the fitness of the side is getting better. Nasri is still out after Valencia’s awful challenge on him last weekend, while Toure joins Rosicky and Eduardo on the sidelines, but other than that we are back to full strength. With Eduardo back soon (he plays a reserve game this week), we could go into the Christmas break with only the Czech out, and he is barely our player anymore anyway.
There is no bet of the day today, because I can’t find a good one, and in any case I’m 0/6 so far. Fingers crossed the boys will fare better than that this afternoon. Boro are a bit of a bogey side at the Riverside recently, but they are seriously injury hit at the moment and we should take advantage. If we don’t, the resting of players midweek will come under fire.
Enjoy the game.