Oh Dear – A Very Messi Masterclass/Spurs

There’s not a lot to say about last night’s defeat in the Nou Camp that hasn’t already been said. The one point I think is worth making comes in the form of a list:
1) William Gallas
2) Alex Song
3) Robin van Persie
4) Johan Djourou
5) Aaron Ramsey
6) Kieran Gibbs
7) Andrey Arshavin
8) Cesc Fàbregas
Any team in the world would be weakened by their unavailability due to injury (Cesc would have missed the game anyway of course due to suspension). That said and talking into account the class of Barcelona (who merit their status as current Spanish, European and World Champions), we’re still some way deficient at this level.
Yes, we’ve had FAR more than our share of injuries. This itself merits a detailed enquiry involving the necessary experts at the end of the season. Is there anything we can do better to prevent injuries in the first place? Can we treat injuries better? What about decision-making on when a player is fit to play? I don’t suggest that we’ve got problems in any of these areas. I do think it would be remiss not to ask the questions though. There’s always something new to be learnt. I think that we’ve just suffered from unusually bad lack with injuries in the past three seasons, allied to an atmosphere of “get stuck in” which surrounds the British game and British officiating which means more horrific injuries such as those to Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey than in other European leagues.
BUT, BUT, we still played like startled rabbits in the headlights in the first leg at the Grove last week. Thanks to poor finishing and good goalkeeping we went in at half-time scoreless, then shot ourselves in the foot defensively YET again. Just as we did last night. Full credit to Barcelona in general and Lionel Messi in particular, they and he are special. Yet they’re not invincible. We could and should have done better than we did. That judgement might seem harsh but I believe we lack tactical discipline at the moment. Our ability to stand up to being clogged is improving but still not where it ought to be. Our tactical discipline is lacking, quite badly at times.
Still the post-mortem should wait until the end of the season. We have a vital League visit to White Hart Lane to prepare for now next Wednesday. Thanks to the FA Cup semi-finals at the weekend (which it still peeves me we chucked away the chance to be in so cheaply at Stoke in the fourth round) we’ve got a week rather than a few days to prepare for this game. A League win is highly unlikely but we’ve got to keep on picking up points. To have the remotest chance of winning the title we’ve got to win our remaining five games. It’s as simple as that.
There have been too many knee-jerk reactions to last night’s defeat saying we need to wave the chequebook. I believe we need to strengthen in certain areas too, but spending money we haven’t got like a drunken sailor isn’t going to help. We need to plan to use our available cash sensibly and to maximum effect. There are plenty of clubs who’ve spent big money and not got a big return for it. True Liverpool won the Champions League against Milan on that unforgettable night in Istanbul, but look at the state they’re in now, on and off the pitch, despite having spent bundles in the transfer market and on extravagant salaries for ordinary players.
What we need now is steady heads until the end of the season to get the best League finish we can, then a measured, quick review of what’s needed in terms of squad retention and new faces. Let’s not panic on the back of one deeply disappointing night.

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