Written by Neil Dawson
It was football Jim….but not as we know it. The sequence of bizarre games at The Vitality continued this afternoon with Bournemouth playing 90 minutes without having a shot of any description…a first for a home game. 20% possession in a game played entirely as an attack v defence training exercise. It’s not even worth writing a report on so forgive me for being shorter than normal.
First, credit where credits due, as a display of defensive concentration goes it was excellent. Two centre-halves with 5 PL appearances between them combining with Ake to excellently track runs of world-class opponents and a disciplined midfield shape will have delighted Eddie after the collapse v Arsenal.
Eddie produced a surprise line up, Gosling making way for Brooks in midfield and Ibe and Mousset stepping down for Simpson to come into a back five and Daniels return with Smith moving forwards. It signalled a defensive outlook but even the most pessimistic of fans would have struggled to picture the tactics being so defensive with our reluctance to put anyone in City’s half. We made Tony Pulis’s West Brom look like the Ajax team of the 70s.
City had three good chances but Silva, Ottamendi and Aguero fired high or wide. Boruc handled well but kicked like a man with a 50p piece for a boot. The main focus of a dull half was the most astonishingly biased refereeing performances I have seen. It didn’t affect the result but it had to be witnessed to be believed.
Ht Bournemouth 0 City 0
The second half continued like the first…all of it. Bournemouth set up shuffling side to side like a rugby league team defending a last-minute lead. City playing infinite triangles and moving constantly and almost bewitchingly. Boruc marred an otherwise excellent saving display by missing a soft near post effort by MAHREZ after Silvas pass.
The goal didn’t interrupt the relentlessness. Boruc then moved into brilliant Boruc territory making superb reflex saves to deny Sterling, Aguero onto the bar and Kompany as well as many, many routine saves as City racked up 23 efforts. Eddie threw on the Mouss and Ibe to no avail as City’s ability to win back the ball in hunting packs was, if you weren’t a Bournemouth fan, a joy to behold. I’d love to know how many times we touched the ball in the penalty area…
And that’s it…
Bournemouth 0 City 1
Boruc 7 Brilliant but lapse of concentration crucial.
Clyne 5. Poor I thought positionally and in possession
Mepham 8. Some excellent positional play and reading of the game.
Simpson 7. As always looks composed and solid in top company.
Ake 7. Watchful, athletic and solid.
Daniels 6. Decent enough defensively against Silvas quick feet.
Smith 7. The most energetic going forwards and good covering.
Surman 5. The game passed him by, understandably with the opponents.
Brooks 6. Some intelligent moments but starved of possession.
Fraser 5. Very poor on the ball today.
King 5. Hard work but poor in possession.
Mom. Would have been Boruc but not with that goal. The three centre-halves were good and for me, Mepham was the best.
Today was everything about why I don’t fear relegation like some on here. In no other league in England do you get games like this? I know some people seemed to enjoy this display but it’s not for me. Yes, it was great to see us concentrate in defence and Simpson and Mepham will take a lot from this game but for Willo to suggest we have sorted our defence out without realising we gave up attacking to do it was just mad. On top of watching your side refuse to attack you also have the irritation of the refs treatment of the top teams. Give me an end to end v Brentford and a bumbling fair ref any day of the week.
Still, we know why Eddie did it. We couldn’t take another tonking into the easier run in. He was right too…we couldn’t and we haven’t. Job was done in that respect. Thankfully that’s it apart from Spurs and we can get back to football.
So…good positives for individuals and embarrassment avoided. We have very few wins since October though and this side needs to now show us, particularly away from home, the effort and energy it started the season with. Anything less will be very poor.