Building from the back - 23/04/2003

Building from the back
Last year's game

One goal conceded in the last six games – that’s some achievement, and we were very unlucky not to get a point from the one game when we did conceded – against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The partnership between Laville and Bergsson has been outstanding, if we’d had them playing together earlier in the season we’d have been flying. However we’ve still got work to be done, West Ham’s home win against Middlesbrough has closed the gap to four points and the chances are that the battle will go to the wire.

Next up is Arsenal, a formidable task but I’m not writing off our chances. We do seem to do better against the teams from the top half of the league – we’ve taken points off all the top six apart from the Gunners. They’ll be focused but also feeling the pressure, so I honestly feel we’ve got a chance. The West Ham game was massive, and after achieving what we set out to do, it was important to get something from the Blackburn game. I thought we were good value for a point at Ewood. I know Andy Cole missed a sitter but over the 90 minutes we carried forward our good form and don’t forget that Blackburn are one of the better Premiership sides – all told; great point, poor game.

In giving credit to the defence you’ve also got to give Pedersen praise. Playing up front by yourself can be a thankless task. Opposition defences can but a playing in front and behind you and there’s a lot of physical effort without much reward. Henrik doesn’t get the best of press but he doesn’t let it affect him. You’re not going to impress Sam if you say we should be playing two upfront, but I’d love to see it sometime. There’s two ways at looking at the system we play and the alternative of playing two strikers. Although it means less bodies behind the ball – and therefore less defensive, it also gives the team an option to push the ball up front with a better chance it’ll stay ther and no get returned immediately. A player such as Shearer can hold the ball and create time to bring others into play. But Shearer has the luxury of playing with Bellamy who takes some looking after. He’s not the only option and this again can make defending more difficult.

As for me, I’m pulling on the boots again, I’ve got the game at the Reebok on the 4th of May, and I’m also playing in a testicular cancer benefit game for a Shrewsbury physio. I still keep in contact with a few people at Shrewsbury, I enjoyed my time there and keep a look out for their results. Anyhow, must get back to training – where’s my shoes, I’m off to the paper shop.

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