What a difference a week makes. Aren’t Monday’s so much more pleasant when the toon win, such is the fickle nature of the football fan.
I bounced out of bed and watched the game again on Sunday morning, trying to get a more objective view than the enjoyable and nerve wracking experience I’d watched on Saturday. It was just as enjoyable and so many positives to take.
Yesterday’s win was so much more than 3 points. It was the overcoming of a psychological barrier for a group of players who by and large over the last two years, have struggled to create chances, and for whom more often than not, losing the first goal has often resulted in a defeat or taken a monumental effort whilst in the deficit to get anything from a game. Obviously there are exceptions like Everton last season, but even that relied on a huge drop in concentration from The Toffees.
The limitations of the team over the last two seasons have been there for all to see, everything that’s lead to us taking points or victories since our return to the Premier League has been so clinical and been achieved through an “all hands to the pump” approach, with not much room for romance or unpredictability. Now while all 4 wins this season have had large elements of that clinical approach, and the hard work and team spirit that has has embodied these lads, I’m convinced this squad is starting to show us a reason to believe that we can take points and change games through individual talent, and attacking football (gasps for air).
While last week was a great win and fully deserved, West Ham were dreadful in the first half, their goalkeeper played like a fan who had won a competition and in the second half, we dropped deeper and deeper and nearly blew it.
Saturday was a different kind of win and game. It ebbed and flowed, and it was exciting! How often have we said that in recent times?
Bournemouth are a good side, they are very pleasing on the eye and played their part with some very good attacking play of their own. However, the way in which we responded to falling behind while Bournemouth were playing well was so wonderful to watch. We pushed back, got on the front front and looked dangerous and flexible in attack. While the visitors had most of the ball, 67% in fact, we registered 20 attempts on goal!
After looking so toothless and lifeless in the final third for most of the season, the amount of opportunities we’ve created in the past two games is a real cause for optimism going forward.
While people will look at the fact Almiron, Saint Maximin and Joelinton only have 1 goal in 12 games between them, it’s also worth noting that this is only the 5th game they’ve started together and they have looked better and better with each one. They are creating chances and surely it’s only a matter of time before they start converting them. Since Saint Maximin came back into the team, it’s no coincidence that Almiron is playing better. The Frenchman draws players to him, and teams are starting to double up on him. Crucially, both seem to be finding a way of getting in behind Joelinton, who has also been very good, although he badly needs a goal.
Lastly a mention for Jonjo Shelvey, who is a much better player with Saint Maximin and Almiron in the team. Having that pace and movement in behind defences for him to launch his guided missiles at is a big plus. His contribution off the ball has been excellent too, and Bruce deserves huge credit for bringing him back into the team and getting performances out of him.
I must say, I’ve been very critical of Steve Bruce. I was gutted when Rafa left, and was livid when Bruce was appointed, but if I’m going to criticize the bad, the the good must be praised, and I’m absolutely delighted to say that Bruce is proving me wrong and long may it continue.
It’s a shame we now have the monotony of an international break, but at least we’re going into it positively.
Up next, a very winnable looking trip to Aston Villa.