Things Went South at Southampton Before They Went North to Van Persie-ville
Well that was a ride. Sometimes (read: every single time) when my soccer team loses it can put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Watching Manchester United stink it up against Southampton for the majority of Sunday, I could feel the increasing frustration and disappointment creep up on me. The feeling was compounded by the fact that I had watched the second half of City v QPR and was somewhat delighted by the fact that although they were good going forward, QPR seemed to get at them with all too much ease. Well, imagine my disgust when we took the field and put in a pretty horrendous shift, all the while letting Southampton come at us again and again.
Well, maybe it wasn’t all that bad. Sure, Shinji Kagawa looked pretty average. Couldn’t seem find enough space to really pick the ball up, and didn’t really hold on to the ball when he got it. His passing was average as I can recall, but mostly didn’t seem to be in the game. Kind of a shame seeing as how good he’s looked in the first two games, as well as preseason before that. I’m sure he’ll come good, and honestly I’d like to see what he does when he plays with Chicharito. Seeing as how Chicarito combined well with Rooney in his first season, and Kagawa plays somewhat like Rooney in that he wants to be in the hole, I’d think they play well together. Defenses always have to keep an eye on Chicharito making those runs in behind, and Kagawa has both the vision and the sense of timing to spring him without letting him get caught offsides.
Lots of people seem to be criticizing Chicharito for being offsides a lot, which is fair I guess, but they have to remember that he’s only one half of the equation. The person passing the ball also has to be on their game, and if they’re not alert enough Chicharito is the one with egg on his face. Turning to his performance in the game, I think he did well. He seemed smart, eager as always, and got himself into some dangerous positions. He certainly seemed more impressive than Welbeck, because while I like him, Welbeck really didn’t do much of anything in that game. I think that’s partially the fault of the odd, unbalanced formation we were playing. Welbeck obviously isn’t supposed to play on the wing, and true to his nature he came central toward his more natural position. In theory, this creates space on the left for Evra to maraud forward into, but anyone who’s been watching Evra’s steady slide into mediocrity knows that he’s not the offensive player he once was. Even so, Evra was always more valuable for his general link up play, rather than posing a specific offensive threat. He doesn’t score much, and I don’t think he gets many assists either.
Chicharito wasn’t the only player to benefit from our switch to our more traditional 4-4-2. Nani came on for Kagawa to provide a more natural threat from the left and played well. Deservedly pulled off at Everton, Nani didn’t do anything spectacular, but did the simple things right. Playing van Persie in for the eventual winning of a penalty was a good play, and I’m somewhat surprised Nani didn’t try a more audacious shot himself. He also had some horrendous corners, and just while I was wondering how someone can practice so many corners and still get it so horribly wrong, he sends in the perfect corner for the game-winning assist. Van Persie still had a lot to do, but Nani placed the corner well, in behind the first couple defenders.
It will be interesting to see what Ferguson does in a couple weeks’ time at Old Trafford against Wigan. Does he stick with the 4-3-3 we’ve used for the past couple games? I find it hard to believe Welbeck will get the start again, and I wonder if we might see Cleverly benched for Scholes (maybe even Anderson). I don’t know Wigan’s team that well, but I don’t think their midfield is strong to the point where we need to worry about Scholes getting muscled out of the match. Since we’re at home, I think we’ll see a return to the 4-4-2 with Nani coming in for Welbeck on the left, and Chicarito taking Kagawa’s place up next to Van Persie. The midfield will likely be Cleverly and Carrick again. Though neither really covered themselves in glory at Southampton, Wigan usually collapse like a soggy house of cards when they come to the Theater of Dreams, so our two Cs should be able to boss the midfield without too many problems. I think we should count ourselves lucky we have Wigan to kind of catch our breath before we have to go to Anfield, but I wouldn’t have guessed Southampton would give us problems. In any case, my prediction is an easy victory.
Now for a short turn to the USMNT. International break with World Cup qualifiers are up, so it’s good to see the US back in competitive action again. I’m a little ticked off that Bradley decided to get injured now of all times, because this has to be the first time in possibly forever that I’ve actually been excited about seeing him play. I think we’ll probably go with Beckerman and Jones in the center again, though maybe Klinsmann will actually decide to play Jose Torres in the position he’s cut out for (no, not attacking midfielder, nor left back, but deep-lying playmaker). With a destroyer like Jones beside him, he should have more time to spray the ball around like we all know he can. We’ll need wingers for that, so I expect to see Brek Shea get the nod after what he did the Azteca. Kingston is no Mexico City, but it’s still a tough road game, but one thing you can say about Brek Shea is he doesn’t seem to lack for chutzpah. For the first time in a long, long time, striker is one of our more settled positions. Hope to see Altidore come in after doing the business with AZ. Finally starting to realize some of that potential, and still only 23 (checks Wikipedia bio) I mean 22. I hope to see him alongside Terrence Boyd, who I thought did great, with an assist, but really could have had a goal for himself had Gomez picked his head up. Come to think of it though, Gomez will probably start alongside Altidore, which will be interesting because he’s had to put in a real shift playing as lone striker. With the muscular Altidore beside him, he should have a little more breathing room to find space and knock some goals in. It was worrying not to see Chandler or Lichaj on the 25-man roster, because although Chandler might still have some reservations about playing for the US, Lichaj is getting game time, and can play in either full back position. Not really sure why Klinsmann hasn’t called him up, but hopefully he gets his turn next time. I think I have just enough time to touch on Josh Gatt pulling out due to injury. Unfortunate, but it’s good to know Klinsi has him on the radar. We could also use a bit of dynamism in the US side, so hope he gets fit again in time for our next internationals.
That’s it for this week, he says in the first post in several months, but as always, rave on.