NUFC Performance – New Year’s Postmortem

What would be the better option for next season? I personally believe we should stick with Sam Allardyce. I understand why others don't. But quite frankly it won't make a jot of difference to the outcome of this season. We need to be realistic in this sense.

But I'm still optomistic about next season if we let things settle down for a while and really focus on what is positive and think about what it is that we can build upon for next season.

When we're losing, we have very few players who are prepared to try and make things happen. We missed Alan Smith so much in the 2nd half once we were a goal down. It's clear to me why he's the captain and despite some fair criticism of BSA, Smith is a good choice. Milner is the only other player who gives 110% but I'm frightened he's burning himself out for nothing – given that all his hard work is giving us zero extra points.

Nothing much to look forward to in 2008. Whether we stick with or get rid of Big Sam Allardyce we will have to accept Mid-table mediocracy. The most important points which were obvious from tonights performance for me were:

Martins isn't good enough
This has been obvious to me for a while now but tonights performance re-inforced it. There are many reasons why we aren't in a better position than we are now – but Oba Martins inability to pass, make the right runs and generally make a simple decision has cost us a fair few results now. The fact that Owen's first touch nearly resulted in a goal said it all. An intelligent run put him 1-on-1 after 10 seconds of being on the pitch.

Viduka is lazy
Yes, this has been obvious for a while too. He'd get away with it in a better team. But it's not good enough now. We can't afford to carry players like him.

Nicky Butt
Just isn't as good as everyone thinks he is. I've said for ages that he can't pass forwards. With the exception of a couple of nice long balls out to the wing his passing was awful. He's slow too. Yes he gets about and tries hard but I'm afraid he's lost it. And if there was ever a player that was being paid by the opposition to give away stupid fouls when we have them under pressure – it's him.

The defence was generally good. I prefer Faye to Taylor in the centre back position. Taylor waits so long before passing the ball. The pass he's about to make is obvious about 5 seconds before he plays it and as a result we lose all momentum going forward and often lose it altogether.

He looks strong in defence and is good in the air but when he's on the ball he just looks clumsy to me. He doesn't even look like a footballer. Another one I don't rate as highly as most people.

I don't know whether Cacapa was at fault for either of the goals but when you watch him on the ball he looks terrific. He reacts extremely well to danger most of the time but like I say I may have missed something for one of the goals. I like Beye too.

The performance of Duff was a huge plus point. I'll be honest I'd completely written him off due to awful performances last time he was fit but he could do a lot of good for us down the left on the evidence of tonights performance.

He looked really sharp which was a huge suprise for me. I thought that Milner would've been taken off instead in order to move N'zogbia up. Perhaps it was a fitness issue with Duff because of the two players, Duff looked the bigger threat despite all of Milner's hard work.

City were very good going forward. We should've converted at least two of our own chances. But from a defensive point of view, for the first goal certainly, we were undone by football that we're unlikely to see by even teams as strong as Liverpool.

They were extremely clever through the middle and they were great down the right. It's not like we were being undone by simple long balls. Credit must go to them for breaking us down. And it's worth saying that we did, on a few occasions, manage to defend well against excellent attacking play from their midfield/attackers.

We simply failed to aleviate the pressure on the defence by getting a goal ourselves.

To summarise
The Defence – Getting there despite the fact that we're leaking goals. There are signs of improvement and if we were scoring the first goal and maybe the second, it would be the heads of the opposition players who'd go down and clean sheets would follow. We no longer look like we're going to concede from every free kick/corner that comes into the box. But still the improvement at the back is only slight and there's a long way to go. I'd like to see Cacapa and Faye given a run.

The Midfield – It would seem that Duff/ Milner and N'zogbia give us terrific options down the wings. We desperately need a creative central midfielder to link it all up. We were beating men and getting the crosses in today and looked to have balance. But sadly the likes of Oba and Viduka weren't clever enough/ fit enough to get on the end of them. I much prefer Geremi to Butt for the holding roll but I know I'm in a minority in this respect.

The Attack – We MUST play Smith and Owen. Viduka is simply incapible of doing enough running. Oba is awful. With Martins upfront I can't see where our next result is coming from because he literally cannot pass. Which is crucial when things aren't going your way. We need to get the simple things right first and Owen and Smith would give us a real threat. But of course there's a huge question over whether or not Owen will stay fit.

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