There’s so much going on at the moment with regards to the new stadium, political spin left, right and centre. Even Pele’s talking about it. This afternoon Daniel Levy wrote an open letter on the official site which unless you’re blind confirms the boards first choice is moving to Stratford. Instead of writing something else related to the Olympic Stadium wouldn’t it be nice to concentrate on the football? Yes? Then here we go.
Tomorrow brings a tough trip up to Newcastle. I can’t bring myself to say Sportsdirect.com @ St James’ Park. I was planning on making the trip before the season started but looking at the date when the fixtures came out I assumed it would be snowing and called off so didn’t bother buying a ticket. Anyway, we don’t have the best of records up there, in fact we don’t have the best of records outside London but four league defeats on the bounce symbolises a pretty poor return.
The return game went by without too much incident. That’s if you ignore Kaboul being sent off, Tiote flying in all over the place and being lucky not to be sent off, Andy Carroll putting his weight about, Joey Barton being Joey Barton and two fantastic strikes by Lennon and Bale to win us the game. Tiote’s suspended tomorrow which is excellent news. Not only has he been one of their best players but I doubt some of our players have forgotten him over the last 4 weeks and could’ve been looking for a little retribution.
We’ve got a couple of injury concerns that will probably mean a first team start for Steven Pienaar. I have a feeling that sentence might be repeated for some time to come with Mr Versatile in the squad. Depending on who’s injured though will depend on where he plays and we could get a sneak preview of the future. I’m going to do something I rarely do and that’s play the “What team will Harry pick” game. I don’t normally play it because I don’t like losing and I always do.
For the purposes of this I’m going to assume both Ekotto and Palacios aren’t making the trip. We all know we lack cover at left back which means either Bassong or Bale will play there. I would presume it’ll be Bale as that’s what Redknapp has done a couple of times already this season. I think it’s fair to say that in the future, left back is a position Bale could play because of the extra space he’ll get to run into but for it to work he needs to improve his defending and more importantly we need to have the right players to cover him when he’s forward. At the moment we don’t have those players so it’s not something I can see being employed regularly right now. For tomorrow’s purposes though it can work as long as we choose the right player to replace Palacios.
That player isn’t Pienaar, who would naturally sit on the left wing as Bale’s replacement. I would choose Kaboul. I’m forgetting Jenas just because we’ve seen how well he does in that position away from home against a tough side recently. Kaboul would not only be naturally able to cover Bale when he pushed forward but also give us a little bit of bite centrally. He offers a decent presence going forward too, as he did against Newcastle for the Lennon goal. So here it is:
Hutton Dawson Gallas Bale
Lennon Kaboul Modric Pienaar
van der Vaart
Defoe (or me)
As I said, that team won’t get chosen and I’d expect someone like Jenas to play instead of Kaboul which would leave us very open and prone to counter attacks, especially if Lennon and Hutton start pushing forward too. Harry might pull a surprise and stick Bassong at left back, keep Bale in midfield and put Pienaar centrally but I’m assuming as young Seb can’t get a game in central defence he isn’t going to at left back.
Big game? Massive game? For once I don’t really feel it is. Of course I don’t want to lose and keeping the pressure on those above us is of paramount importance but we’re going to lose touch eventually anyway aren’t we? NO!!! I hear you cry. Maybe you’re right. Ok then, this is another massive game. A must win. Go for it, pick the team that’ll give you the best chance of winning (that’s the one above) and score one more than them. Keep Nolan and Barton quiet. If Lovenkrands, Best or Ameobi have a good game against us then it’s just bad luck. Let’s be honest, it’s not like that’s going to happen every week.
They say the new stadium is vital to our future success, and while it’s important, it’s what we do on the football pitch that has always taken this club forward, so get it right there, keep pushing the top 4 and get Champions League football again next season. No disrespect to Newcastle but if that’s what we want we’ve got to start winning these games.