With about 25 minutes left to play, I wanted to turn it off. Being reduced to nine men with that much time to go meant it was only going to get worse and it was only a matter of maintaining our dignity to see the game out. It was an astonishingly poor performance. The 4-0 scoreline was our worst defeat in over eight years and the combination of dejection, fury, and confusion I felt over how this could even happen was reminiscent of the darkest day in the brief pre-Dalglish span of last season. Credit to Spurs of course because they had a collective screamer, but we looked poised to lose to anybody today. That is about as low of an assessment I can give our squad.
On paper I remain convinced that our squad is perfectly capable of finishing in the top four and that the reverse fixture at Anfield is set up for us to deal Spurs the kind of lashing they just gave us. Dalglish will have a lot to think about between now and then though. Our tactics on the day were completely wrong and our starting eleven was puzzling. Kenny was so slow to make obvious changes once his plan didn’t take off and we could easily have been down by two before halftime.
Our midfield looked spineless, our defense looked outmatched, and our forwards looked pretty useless too. The most flagrant mistake was our right side, with Skrtel and Henderson a disastrous combination lined up against Gareth Bale. I rarely feel this much anger towards one of our own players, but I desperately wanted to run onto the pitch and haul Martin Skrtel off of it - the guy has no business to ever play fullback again. In the absence of Johnson and Kelly, our options were 1. Carragher, the obvious disadvantage being his dire lack of pace, and 2. Flanagan, whose form this season has been questionable and indicative of his inexperience. With either option we would have fared better, particularly if Kuyt had been placed at right mid to track back. This is all in hindsight though. If I had to pick our side differently today we would have probably still lost. Inconsistency from quality players is confusing. Everyone looked SO directionless and slow. The most glaring contrast was the difference between our big/little forward combination and theirs. Adebayor was terrifying from start to finish, popping up all over the pitch making streaking runs and creating chances, while Carroll looked just as pedestrian and heavy-footed as he has all season. I keep expecting Carroll to play off the shoulder and turn defenders when the ball gets delivered to him but like 10000% of the time he’s clinging to a defender, merely trying to jump higher than him. This is greater than a simple issue about match fitness or pace, but a question about positional awareness and football intelligence. So far the Suarez/Carroll partnership has been miles away from fulfilling its potential. In the back of my mind, however, I imagine the introduction of Gerrard back to the midfield will bring the best out of that partnership.
Plenty to complain about, sure, but that’s not why we lost. I have no idea what Kenny’s visit with the ref’s association accomplished but whatever he said had no effect on the way decisions went today. We received SIX yellow cards, with Adam and Skrtel receiving a pair each. Adam was sent off after 20 minutes for a bad but unintentionally bad challenge on Scott Parker. That was a turning point in the officiating and more quick cards were inevitable. Whatever. For unknown reasons, referees just don’t fucking get it sometimes.
Jose Enrique was the only player in red who looked the part. Seb Coates had a decent debut after getting thrown into a very hot fire but egregiously overhit some long passes. I attribute those mishaps to nerves though and I’m confident he’ll be fine. The timing and selection of our subs weren’t great at all, but I was happy to see players I would actually pick come off the bench. I would really appreciate seeing Gerrard and Johnson back in the starting eleven soon. None of our players really crumbled in the end and our traveling support was fantastic as usual.
There may be more but I’m running out of steam and watching Chelsea fail to convert their opportunities while United just fucking slams in every chance they get isn’t helping alleviate my frustration.