I caught a bit of the Stoke-Fulham game last night, and while Fulham weren’t at their best, it isn’t many teams that rip them apart as the hosts did in the opening half. With a run of matches against Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool following the fourth round clash, Wenger will probably rotate as he did against West Ham, and that could be very dangerous.
Because, frankly, Stoke are a better side than West Ham at the moment, especially at home. Plus, with the greatest of respect, they aren’t what you would call a ‘footballing team’, as West Ham are, and that sets them up better to beat us, especially if we field more of the lightweight youngsters (I mean lightweight as in their stature only, not ability).
It is too late to cover the West Ham game in any detail – by now everyone has seen and analysed it, but I will mention a few things.
- Jack Wilshere did not have a great game, but his workrate cannot be called into question. His passing was astray and he certainly struggled, but he harried and hassled until the minute he was withdrawn. He strikes me as a young man who has the drive to be the great player he can be, which makes this article by Oliver Holt all the more outrageous. I know the press like to build up and knock down, but this takes the piss.
- Fran Merida is a good player, but he is older than Ramsey and Wilshere, and considerably more experienced than both. Ramsey is comfortably ahead of him in the pecking order, and Wilshere is probably level with him, despite being nearly two years his junior. Therefore, I would not blame the young Spaniard if he returned to Spain in the summer, as seems likely.
- Eduardo’s header was fantastic. Confidence may come and go, but class really is permanent.
- One of the most encouraging signs at present is that even when we’re a goal down and not playing well, you feel a goal is around the corner. That hasn’t always been the case.
For all the criticism of the performance (and there has been some), Wenger struck the perfect balance – he wanted to rotate but not so much that we lost. He achieved exactly that, which is more than can be said of Man United, who crashed out to Leeds. That’s one big team gone, leaving the competition that bit more open, which is always a great thing.
On to tonight, and there is some doubt whether the Bolton match is on or not. Let’s hope it is, so we can stop talking about the game in hand, and get the points.