Thursday, 22 December 2011

Everton v Swansea City Goodison Park. Match report.

"Football is an excuse to make us happy." Jorge Valdano.

The wonderful Argentinian, ex Real Madrid coach, World Cup Winner was sometimes known as The Philosopher of Football and the above is an apt description of how we Swans have always viewed our football, and it contrasts markedly with one of his more colourful descriptions of the English game.

I was put in mind of this after watching last night's visit to Everton, a game that generally failed to thrill.

Seeing your side get a disappointing loss in a game Away from Home when they didn't really threaten the opposition is not a pleasant experience and it does well to point out that it must be like that for the Players, too.

We've perhaps become a little blase in expectation, and, as I've pointed out before, this is the Barclays Premier League and we were playing a side that is English football's second longest servant in the top division (behind only Arsenal) in Britain. It doesn't make us feel any better, but it does convey a little perspective, and to any of those of our fans who like to crow a la Private James Frazier " Doomed, doomed, we're doomed" I say this. Get a life.

Cast your mind back 24hrs and think about those "supporters" at Blackburn Rovers, snarling, spitting and cursing at their own team in a 2-1 defeat to Bolton, equally struggling, but whose fans at least sang and supported FOR their team. This is not a plea for blind loyalty- it is a request for rational analysis and a determination to do better.

This report will be one of the shorter efforts presented thus far, and that's for two reasons. Firstly, Christmas time constraints ; secondly, I don't really have a lot to say, but that won't stop me from saying it.

If you saw the game I feel you may well agree,- it was one of those that we've all seen over the years- we were in the game but never really at it- a gut feeling confirmed by Leon Osman's only goal being one that was half expected but no less hurtful.

As was our inability to put sufficient pressure on the Scousers to get close enough to get anything like parity, and the travelling JackArmy will do well to travel home in reasonable cheer, enjoy a Merry Xmas, and put things a little more right on Boxing Day, at the Liberty against QPR, Colin Wanker and all. The Mrs Doubtfire of the Prem will bring his bouffanted head and Barton-led boys to us - let's hope we can send them packing.

To the game, but in a general rather than m-b-m sense.

The one thing you can have predicted from this game was what the Bookies did - less than 2.5 goals total. They can't score a lot, anywhere, and we can't score Away, not often. So one goal was going to be crucial.

The other thing that tells you something is when Wigan 0-0 Liverpool is on MOTD before you, it's grim.

For all of our possession and fight in the first half, we were always just behind the black ball. In other words we were hanging on to keep things level, and, to be fair, we did.

Baines, throughout the half, and Coleman, before substitution went wide and dangerous for the Toffees. Drenthe too was influential, the more so when he switched to the right and we, coincidentally, lost Neil Taylor to foot-knack. But as at Newcastle, passionate and forceful defence from Vorm, Williams and Caulker meant the Swans went in at half-time level at 0-0.

The midfield had been won by the home side, with Fellaini solid, Osman busy, and Britton, Gower and Allen struggling to establish a foothold. Routledge had been perky without ever really threatening, Sinclair had one of his more forgettable games and thus Danny Graham was isolated.

I breathed another sigh of relief at the HT whistle, but I was less than optimistic. It just felt like that. It does, sometimes.
The second half brought not a great deal that was noticeably brighter. We continued to compete. They continued to press.

It's at times like this that we really miss the contribution of a player like Ferrie Bodde. Someone, despite no matter how ordinarily you are playing, who can get on the ball and bend a game to his will and ability, and, moreover, who can score that quite extraordinary goal from nowhere.

Their goal was an example of a quite different kind - in fact, one that came from no great passage of play, no sweeping move, just a question of inches really.

Drenthe, in the inside right channel, advanced and dribbled toward the Swans goal. Ash Williams backed off, covering and ushered him toward the outside. Drenthe, running out of room, attempted a cross shot from about six yards and from a probably high shot the ball clipped Williams (or did it?) on its way up and out and went for a corner.

From that well taken inswinging corner, Osman cleverly had started a run early and was first to the ball, a fraction ahead of Caulker, and his excellently executed header flashed across and in at the far corner of the goal.

Some will tell you that DG , who had headed clear previous corners, should have done so again, but the difference was the pace and placement of the cross, which made it not possible this time. Inches, as I said.

It would be wrong to argue that for the remainder of the game we tore at them in search of an equaliser. We didn't. But nor did they, in search of any more.

Everton sat back and satisfied themselves they could contain us, and apart from DG's header from a Routledge cross, which was our closest effort, they did.

The half played out to an end we had come to accept within the game. second best, this time.The substitutions, in this instance, had made very little difference.

There will be the usual explosion of spleen from the site trolls, who will predict nothing but failure for the remainder of the season as the outcome from this game, since that's what they do. Easy to slag off your own team, just ask the Blackburn fans. Ugly, and pointless too.

So let's have a realistic look at what we can do, rather than what we can't.

As Brendan Rodgers has intimated, the Club will be seeking to strengthen in the January window. Lee Dixon, on MOTD, no less, offered the opinion that both we and Everton "will be all right". I am comforted by that, since I place more value on his opinions than some I read (and listen to), cruelly illustrated by these Stoke City fans on the last "deadline" day.

Incidentally, here's a copy of a Tweet from Tim Cahill, and much the same was said by Phil Neville. They both have a degree more "Football Credibility" than some we know...........
Tim_Cahill @chris_kammy They are a great passing team that have a great footballing mindset. Their manager deserves a lot of credit.

However, all we Swans are also perfectly aware that our Away performances are likely to have to improve to give us some more comfort, since our Home games are going to be equally difficult post January. This is, as I've said, the Premier League - nobody said it was easy, no matter what some knockers suggest.

Defensively, we are sound, and I don't see that changing. But, but, we MUST seek a way to get more threat Away from the Lib.
Whether this means by adjusting personnel and systems eg Agustien for Gower/Allen, more squad rotation, different shape, faster tempo, more risk............whatever.

WE can, suggest - but we must, also, support. Criticism without analysis and suggestion is just vapid nonsense. We have a Manager, Staff, Board and Players we can trust with our allegiance. Do you think they're not concerned? Get real comrades, they will be working their butts off to try to make things better, and successful.

Let's have a little faith, please, and retain some dignity. This experience is meant to be enjoyed. Remember that quote from Valdano at the start?

Onward Swansea City.

# Please have a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. I'll get as much in as time will allow over the Holidays, since it's bloody great to be a Swansea City fan.

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