|You'll only need stitches, not crutches.|
Continuing a long-standing tradition, we again met a keeper who had a MOTM kind of day. Begovic is among the best in the league, in my opinion, but he was making save after save after save. With almost any other keeper, we'd've been up 2-0 or 3-0 by halftime. Some of our finishing could have been more clinical--a few too many shots to the middle third of the goal instead of the outer thirds, but he was impenetrable nonetheless. When Podolski finally did slip the spot-kick in, deflecting it off a Stoke defender in the 78th minute, my first reaction was, "well, that was a crap goal." Then I reminded myself of how often we've been on the other end of that, and, to borrow a phrase from basketball, they're all swishes on the scoreboard. All that was left was to hold the ball and soak up what little pressure Stoke could muster (consisting largely of Shawcross lumping the ball in the general direction of Crouch. Well-played.
|Blurry, but why is Walcott drifting forward?|
Before we're done, though, a last word on Walcott. He had a decent day, but the fact that he was even close to off-side on Podolski's kick is ridiculous--it continues a string of him being caught offside for no good reason. Look: if you're the last man wide on the weak side, with all of the action and defenders between you and your teammate with the ball at his feet, there is simply no excuse for being offside. Sure, if there's a weak-side defender wide of you who can decide to hold you onside or catch you off, that's understandable. If Walcott is serious about taking the next step in his development, in his mission of fulfilling his destiny (?), this is one area (among others) that he must address. Contrast his movement against, say, Giroud, who seems to have a much stronger sense of movement and timing, sliding laterally and only moving vertically after a ball is played forwards. They have similar statistics (Walcott has been called offsides 13 times in 1,400 minutes; Giroud, 14 in 1,516), but Giroud plays exclusively through the center and is more vulnerable to offside-traps and mistiming runs, while Walcott frequently plays in from the wing and (at least theoretically) should be able to keep the defensive line in front of him--he's also receiving a hefty number of his touches as direct passes from Sagna to his feet or into open space to chase down, while Giroud is receiving lofted passes into the heart of the defense. At any rate, back to the issue at hand, why on earth would Walcott drift offside? I admire his desire to scoop up a potential rebound, but he's gotta be smarter than that. Is he trying to protect his status as top goal-scorer? Does he resent Podolski for getting to take the shot? I like Walcott; I genuinely do, but thank the referee for making the right call to preserve the goal. I hope someone has a chat with Theo, if only on this one instance if not on the concept in general.
Right, then. We travel to Sunderland, whom we tied at home in week one. This is another winnable game. Spurs host Newcastle while Everton travel to Old Trafford. We should, at a minimum, keep pace if not pull even with Everton...