The second home league game of the season. We are playing against a team who are one of the favourites for relegation, and who are already in the bottom three at this early stage of the season. We have already been eliminated from the Europa League by a very average Romanian team. And what do we do? We concede four goals at home with one of our worst defensive performances you can imagine in the top flight. Yes, the defence imploded (that’s a word frequently used for anything that collapses inwardly in a violent fashion, that breaks down or falls apart from within, or undergoes a catastrophic failure). Who can we blame? Let’s study social media and see what everyone is saying.
Now as you read this you think I’m writing about our performance against Watford. But I’m not. I’m referring to last season. The game I’m alluding to is the Bournemouth one in August 2015. You’d think that yesterday was February 2nd. In North America this is a national holiday, the day when the groundhog is said to come out of his hole at the end of his hibernation period. If he sees his shadow that means the sun is shining, and tradition suggests that six more weeks of winter weather is expected. This is also translated into a modern definition where Groundhog Day is a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way. E.g. the second home league game of the season!
I can go back further if you want me to. Let’s look back at the season before the Bournemouth game. In our second home league game of 2014-15 we played Southampton. We had already lost the opening game (1-0 to Tottenham), but in this game if I remember correctly we took an early lead through Mark Noble (a long range deflected shot?) and then the defence imploded in the second half and we lost the game 3-1.
Want further evidence of the modern Groundhog Day second game of the season theory? Ok, let’s look at the season before the one I’ve just referred to. In 2013-14 on the last day of August we played our second home league game of that particular season at home to Stoke. As I recall it was a fairly tedious game (Groundhog Day theory again, games against Stoke are frequently tedious events occurring regularly). The game was 0-0 and almost over when Stoke were awarded a free kick just outside our box. Up stepped Jermaine Pennant, if I recall correctly, and beat Jaaskelainen from the free kick, and we lost the game 1-0. And this was the first of yet another Groundhog Day phenomenon, a series of unwelcome or tedious events started to recur in exactly the same way, this time it was our Finnish keeper letting in goals scored directly from a free kick. In the next home game he did it twice with both goals coming from Baines as Everton beat us 3-2. It was the beginning of his downfall.
We are all looking for reasons, so why did we lose 4-2 at home to Watford yesterday. Ignoring the Groundhog Day theory, I can think of a few.
- We were playing some great stuff in the first 40 minutes or so, and with a two goal lead we thought we had the game won. So we indulged ourselves a little with a series of tricks, which offended Watford somewhat (as confirmed after the game by Troy Deeney) and helped to spur them on with a “we’ll show them” attitude.
- Our back four and goalkeeper all had a poor game at the same time. I think I can excuse Masuaku from this, but Byram and Reid in particular were guilty of backing off much too far when they should have been closer to their players, you all saw what Ginge did, and Adrian had one of those games where I reckon he will be disappointed that he didn’t save a couple of the goals that we conceded.
- We played without a defensive midfielder. Nordtveit or preferably Obiang (in my opinion) would have made a big difference. Noble and Kouyate are both neither defensive or attacking midfielders. They are midfield midfielders if you get my drift. And both had very average games.
- Our attacking foursome of Antonio, Payet, Lanzini, and Zaza will cause opposing defences a lot of problems this season. With the exception of Antonio, the others were clearly not match fit and faded somewhat in the second half.
- We underestimated Watford who were much better (certainly in an attacking sense) than we thought.
But I am wrong though. Because according to social media I read the key reasons for our defeat were, in no particular order; the stadium, moving to a new stadium, not playing the game at “fortress” Upton Park where Watford would have been intimidated (just as Bournemouth were eh?), the size of the pitch, the standing issue, poor stewarding, the board, Karren Brady daring to stand up, in-stadium violence, and David Gold’s 80th birthday.