First of all, I owe you an apology.
In fact, I owe you a couple.
In writing last week’s column on the beautiful football of our previous two results, it was perhaps inevitable that Sunday’s efforts – an away fixture in the north of the country, after an away trip in the Champions League – would be turgid, uninspired and soporific.
So yes, I’m sorry.
But at least we got the three points, and in such flukey fashion. If many a rival were to achieve victory in such circumstances, it would be heralded as the mark of champions – winning when not playing well, the age old “grinding out” of a result. In some ways, it was entirely fitting that such an ugly match was settled in such an ugly manner.
But yes, I’m sorry.
And I’ve also written more than a few column inches over the last few weeks and months in favour of one much-maligned Theo Walcott (to be fair, I’ve been doing that most of my adult life and certainly throughout my five year career here at Cannon Towers!) so some element of jinx was unavoidable. But this week I also made a fatal mistake: I replaced the injured de Bruyne with Theo in my fantasy team. The consequences were predictable, as he turned in an energetic but ultimately relatively unfruitful performance.
So again, I’m sorry.
I’ll tell you what I’m not sorry for though.
I’m not sorry for abandoning my in-laws at dinner to “enjoy” such a footballing feast of pure unadulterated misery followed by unbridled joy.
I’m not sorry for waking up my hotel neighbours here on holiday with a late night exclamation of happiness following Koscielny, Oxlade-Chamberlain or the invisible elephant’s final touch on our 94th minute winner.
And I’m certainly not sorry for enjoying my other half’s very obvious irritation at, not just the result, but also the manner of it.
Direct quotes include: “Blatant offside!” “Cheating handball!” and “God, you’re so jammy!”
Mate, you got a penalty last year when it hit Raheem Sterling on the back, so don’t talk to me about jammy.
But it has made the outcome all the funnier – and yes, satisfying – for how much it has irritated others. It’s about time we had our share of lady luck’s affections.
If we all had a pound sterling for every time we have to listen to some pundit saying “it evens itself out over the season” after we’ve suffered a terrible decision at the hands of referee (usually someone like Mike Dean), we would all be very rich (albeit slightly less so following the Brexit vote!). But it’s absolute poppycock. We’ve been well overdue some of the good stuff. First more penalties than you can shake a stick at in the opening few fixtures, and now a borderline decision going our way – it‘s like Christmas come early.
We often joke about how it doesn’t matter if it goes in after three ricochets off someone’s backside, as long as we get the maximum points, and while that might not be true in the long term (just ask Mr Mourinho and Mr Abramovich), it’ll certainly do after two great results achieved playing fantastic football.
I am sorry it’s now an international break, just as we’re starting to hit the straps, Man City are having a mini blip and Spurs are finally picking up some long overdue injuries. The game between those latter two was certainly intriguing, as both sides engaged a high risk, high reward, pressing strategy similar to that which has earned Liverpool such acclaim. All three aforementioned sides are increasing the frequency with which they win the ball high up the pitch, but they are also leaving themselves very vulnerable on occasion when the kamikaze style of that high press is broken by a smart move or a single person being out of sync.
That pressing style is also something we’ve employed on occasion this season, but in much more selective fashion. We’ve certainly shown less inclination to continue with that style at 2-0 or 3-0 up for example.
Meanwhile, it left Spurs vulnerable and my other half having kittens, throughout the second half last weekend as they failed to shut the game down. City continued to have chances, but failed to capitalise on those to force the kind of high pressure finish that we saw and ultimately repelled after Yaya Toure’s goal at the Emirates last season.
It was the very opposite of our approach during the Chelsea and Basel games, where we selectively employed the high press as led by Alexis and ably supported by the pacy running of Walcott and Iwobi, but which we backed out of once we’d established the lead.
We might not obliterate teams as a result, although in both fixtures we had opportunities on the counter to increase our lead, but it does means that we conserve energy and fitness while preventing our opponents from seeing a real chance to get back into the game.
This might not be as glamorous, but you only have to look at Spurs’ epic collapse last season or Liverpool’s consistency to realise that you cannot sustain that high intensity pressing week in week out. Not in the Premier League. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes Pep Guardiola to realise that.
Anyway, not that you’ve had some proper football analysis to go with that healthy serving of gloating I dished up at the start of this effort, I’m back off to enjoy great food, fantastic weather, and the luxurious comforts of sauna, steam room and spa. Add in copious amounts of ice cream, and you’ve got a recipe for a top holiday over the international break.