It would be wrong to write that we laboured to the welcome 3 points, as this was a fairly comprehensive victory. Yet I would feel equally false if I were to surmise that this outing showed real potential, riddles solved and the side picking up palpable cohesion and momentum.
Nope. We were somewhere in between labouring and cohesive. Still felt like the system was not working in any noticeable way, in fact the main issue of fragility when hit with pace and numbers flying forward remained throughout the 90 minutes as did the lack of players looking comfortable in the middle of the park.
Still, we scored a few goals, started the new year in a positive fashion and suffered no new injuries.
Brief flash flood ratings
Looked shaky when kicking and rooted to the spot often. 6
Solid throughout and made one class interception in the box. 7
Steady, though not at his best. 6
Continues to maintain his finest form in our colours. Perhaps the only natural fit in this system. 7
Rather sullen yet generally reliable and offered the assist late on. 6
Not enough skill on the ball. Energetic and tried to make his presence felt. 6
A livewire at times, unfortunate to lose the goal, chipped in with an assist. 7
Middling. Seems to have lost a yard of pace but no errors, supported satisfactorily. 6.5
His energy has revived. Much happier in movement, more involved and deserved his well taken goal late on. 7
A shame to see him moved to the left in the second half, where he faded as is very much more a LWB on that flank. Brilliant enthusiasm, hustle, high level burst of pace to sniff and take the goal. 7
Top drawer finishing as we have come to expect, as well as serving one up for the young Italian. 7
We don’t play a style which fits his swift turn and move the ball routine. Clearly he has solid technique and a quick brain, but the movement of players running forward is simply not there to match his main assets. 5.5
Almost muscled his way into a decent opening on several occasions other than which looked out of sync with his team mates. 5.5
Not a footballer. 4
Still the impression lingers that nowhere near enough of the players are comfortable with the system asked of them. It looks and feels too often as if they are being asked to move out of position too often in between offensive and defensive phases of the game…which may suit Danilo, but few others, and is probably responsible for the defensive disarray we have suffered all season. We are not yet near the sum of our parts in regular output.
My conclusion is that against weak teams we have stronger attacking players and often they alone are enough to win these matches. The reality of this victory is that Udinese were very unlucky to not have scored 3 goals. The VAR handball was appalling and even against the rules as Rodrigo had his own arm/chest pushed up against De Paul, so how the devil could that be judged anything but accidental???
Also, they hit the bar twice…and we did not create a plethora of chances. Most of our shooting opportunities were easily blocked.
The scoreline suggests a more handsome performance than I watched. And yet, I am happy to ponder the idea that it may have brought more confidence to the ranks at the club than to my living room! Especially with a stern test in a few days time against current league leaders AC Milan, with other important ties to come soon after.
Further post-match discussion>>>