Heh, I got that one well wrong, didn’t I?
Which is no surprise, as I think there’s only been a couple of games where I’ve called the score correctly this season.
In fairness, I wasn’t alone in thinking we’d lose that and if Dean Smith hadn’t changed Barkley and Luis out, I definitely think we would have.
Many fans had been calling for change for a few weeks, with us looking low on energy in midfield for at least four and probably five games. Fair play to the manager for sticking to his guns, but it had become blindingly obvious to anyone that the team was being hampered.
You have to wonder how many more points we might have got if Smith had changed things up sooner.
Still, I’m not going to harp on about it, because we’re past it.
The point is that without doubt it worked.
The best way to tackle Leeds is to stick it to them, exactly the same as Leeds do to other teams.
And I have to take my hat off to the players, who set about the opposition from the off and kept at it all through the game.
A couple of players didn’t have their best game, I thought, but even so there’s no denying that the workrate was outstanding.
Let’s go through them;
Martinez: This is easy. I don’t remember us looking so safe at the back because of the goalie for a very long time. Maybe Brad Friedel was up there, but I think Martinez is just better. The only negative I have about him is the fact that if he keeps these performances up, some very big clubs are going to be after him. What a fantastic signing and a very big reason for why we have such an excellent defensive record.
He was hardly tested, from memory, which is a testament to how well we kept Leeds at bay.
I hope his tight groin proves to be okay.
Elmohamady: I’ve seen some criticism of him, but I can’t say I noticed anything massively wrong. Bielsa bought Olioski on to offer more threat down their left, but he never made any headway.
Targett: He was great and I’m massively pleased that he’s come on in leaps and bounds since last season, where I wasn’t at all keen on him. He seems a lot stronger and goes into tackles heavily. He’s also developed a bit of a mean streak, which means he’s started putting it about a bit. I’ve seen he’s been accused of trying to get players sent off, but I didn’t think it was anything particularly nasty.
The biggest bit of cheating I saw was Llorente rolling around like he’d been shot and then totally forgetting that he was supposed to be injured when Ollie dragged him up off the ground. Blatant cheating, that, but I’ve not seen much mention of it anywhere.
Konsa: I rate this bloke really highly. He plays as though he’s not there, in that he just doesn’t do anything drastic. He reads the game well and never seems panicked. I genuinely think I see signs of God in him and he never gave Leeds a sniff.
Mings: Another who’s improved. He’s stopped the messing about, which I was always complaining about and if he’s not sure now, it just gets booted heavily. Much, much better. So much so that I’m seriously starting to see what everyone else has been raving about. He won’t have done his England chances any harm and I reckon Southgate would have been happy with his form, as am I.
Nakamba: He was immense and I hardly remember him putting a foot wrong. I think it shows great character that he can get the odd game, get dropped having done nothing wrong and then do the same a few weeks later. I think he needs a bit of a run now, until he has a poor game and/or Luis has had a decent rest.
McGinn: He’s still not right in my opinion. He works hard, but there’s something missing. His passing isn’t as sharp and accurate as it was, but he’s certainly not the liability Barkley has been recently.
I’ve seen some call for him to be rested, but I’m not convinced. Who could offer more? is the question and the answer is possibly Sanson, who’s breathing down his neck. He’d better not leave it too long if he’s going to improve.
Traore: It seems very harsh for me to say I thought he was poor today, when that was probably the hardest he’s ever worked for us. He put a really good shift in, but unfortunately he couldn’t get anything right.
He blows hot and cold and I’d probably have subbed him, but in a game where energy was the main requirement to stop Leeds playing, Smith was happy to leave him on and the result proved him to be correct.
Ramsey: I’ve watched him every time he’s come on and he has shown flashes, but not much else. In this game though, he stood out. Not because he was necessarily our best player, but because he seems so intelligent. His positioning was generally excellent and he knew where to be. I also noticed him pointing to one of the opposition, to make sure someone was watching him. A very mature performance and he didn’t look out of place at all. That’s impressive, given the type of game it was, I think.
El Ghazi: Blimey, he was on fire wasn’t he? Scored the goal and looked like he was looking for a hat-trick, shooting everytime he had an oportunity. Another who’s made himself difficult to drop, but Smith has done it before, so we’ll see.
Watkins: It was the same old for him. He battled against superior odds, worked his guts out, as per usual and managed to put in the shot come cross that led to the goal. I said at the beginning of the season that he could be classed as a success if he’d got a combination of fifteen goals and/or assists. He achieved that in this game and he’s been a pleasure to watch.
All in all then, a very good performance and a very pleasing result.
While it may seem as though I’m overly critical at times, even though this is our best season in a very long while, it’s only for the right reasons.
We cannot accept mediocrity or just average if we’re to be successful. We have to strive to constantly get better.
The good news is that that’s exactly what’s happening and long may it continue.