First off, I know its been a while. Work and other things have been taking up most of my time and I just haven’t had the opportunity to put fingers to keyboard. Even my twitter posting is down 61% for April (@mrben09) .
Anyway yesterday was a beautiful day, and we welcomed Swansea to Corp HQ. The Swans are usually 3 points for us, but currently we are slipping down the table like a drunk octopus and although Swansea let go a winning position late on Wednesday night, generally Paul Clement seems to have turned the corner for them.
Slaven and the players were under pressure and it showed. With injuries to Reid in came Collins, and Ayew started up top as Carroll was on the bench, I assume about 80% after tweaking his groin on Wednesday against Arsenal. But the big news was Kouyate was in the centre of the midfield, Byram was at right back, and Antonio was on the right. In fact everyone played in their preferred positions. Maybe part of the clubs panic has introduced some sensible selections of personnel.
As I was saying, the pressure was showing for both teams, and if i’m honest although we were on top in the early exchanges neither team was really going for it. Both were more than happy to defend first and attack in ones and two’s. What was apparent however was that Kouyate was having a shocker. The first 3 attacks that went near him, his tackles were miles out and clumsy. Strangely enough, he didn’t pick up a card despite Kevin Friend’s habit of doling out cards for fun to WHU players (5 yesterday – including one for Kouyate later on).
As the first half progressed it became apparent that Swansea seemed even worse than us, with misplaced passes, and over committing to holding onto the ball and inevitably losing it straight away. We were starting to get into a groove, using the wings to good effect. Snodgrass went close with a header saved on the line by Fabianski. Then Antonio went off with a hamstring , bringing Calleri on (maybe Carroll was 60%!) which made us a little more compact.
Just as people were disappearing for half time beers Noble and Snodgrass got the ball forward for Kouyate to take a run at goal and find the bottom corner from just outside the box. The relief around the stadium seemed something you could touch.
Going in ahead at the break gave us the confidence to attack more in the second half, but not by much. Calleri is just not cutting it at this level, and squandered a couple of chances which Carroll or Ayew would have put away easily. Swansea were still not really threatening, but were getting more into the game. By the end we were sitting back maybe too much, but defending well against an increasingly pressurising Swansea attack.
These 3 points should keep us up this season. A win against Sunderland next week will guarantee survival. At this point, I would seriously look at bring the Reece’s and Martinez back from loan, and play Edmilson, the Reece’s, Martinez and Fletcher for the remainder of the season. We have a small squad, and we don’t seem to be in the market as much as our owners suggest we are, so lets see what these lads can do. They are all internationals at U21, U20 or U19, so give them a run, and then recruit accordingly based on the outcome at the end of the year.
Yesterday, was also Mark Noble’s 400th game for WHU. Well played Sir. Does he have many more left? That’s down to him I think. His fitness is starting to show, but covering every blade of grass once a week since 2005 has to take its toll.
The stadium ? Its getting better. People have moved around, and everyone seems happy with the standing sitting thing. The away section is filled every game without any problems, and atmosphere is starting to be more natural. Flags are popping up everywhere, and people are getting into pre match routines which means you start seeing all the same people as you would at UP. For example yesterday, as well as the Johns I go with, I saw several friends (and the CEO of the company I work for) just by wandering around. Now, the place will never be Upton Park, but season ticket renewal numbers suggest people are generally happy, and long may that continue.
So a good end to an average match, and Premier League football for 2017-2018. MOTM was easily Ginge who always seem to come into his own towards this end of the system. He was magnificent yesterday and he kept Fonte in line as well. Lanzini did his thing well, but was crowded out by a more defensive set up than he is used to.