Has the ritiro helped create unity and more importantly belief and hunger? Early signs against Zenith were very positive, for with a bit more luck, better finishing, we could and should have won 6-2.
Too much of the hype of this game is about Dusan. Which all seems to me like smoke without any fire, given he has a contract until 2023, and we have no money, so all this talk of a January move I consider redundant. No. We have to win this game, whatever mr Dusan seeks for his future.
At very best, a handsome win could lift us to the heady heights of 7th, even 6th. Which very much confirms our current plight. For whilst our CL form has been imperious, our domestic enterprise has been appalling if looking solely at results. However when looking at performances, I come to ponder we have been a bit unlucky, as we have not played awfully. Take away those individual mistakes of Tek, and freak own goal of Kean, and we would be sitting presently, possibly in 4th. Still, the table does not lie, and we are 10th. Which makes this game and all games to come in the league from here on in, incredibly important.
I expected us to challenge and hope to achieve 4th spot, alongside escaping our CL group to the knockout stages. We remain on course for this. Yet must start finding some form domestically.
The return of Dybala helps, as the Argentine is in blistering form, and sooner or later, he is going to find his mark, and win a game of few on his goals alone. Of equal importance is the revival of Chiesa who looked jaded after the last international break, has then picked up the pace and is once more electric. Also have to add in the by now clear importance of Bernardeschi!
The long maligned failure has proven the one player capable of balancing this system Max is deploying, which I understand, as we have plenty who are strong in a RM/RWF role, and we need to stretch teams to make space. Add into this the strong defensive form of Danilo, who does very little going forward, and offensive thrust on both flanks is required. Freddy has been close to superb. Dovetailing with Chiesa, interchanging, working deep and high up the field. He seems very much the player we had hoped he would be then assumed he could never be, these last few years since he signed.
Glad also to see De Ligt back in the starting lineup. Mega money, and truncated progress and return on the investment, but we need him. The old guard of Chiellini and Big Leo are strong, but also prone to swift counters. De Ligt has more pace and reads the game so well. Very much hope he can feature more often, not so he stays, but because we desperately need him.
I am a little bit perplexed, not fully, by Max’s words on Rabiot. I agree he can do much better, but not as a LM. And my reverse psychology routine with McKennie is working a treat, as he has returned strong, vital, is close to scoring every game and is seemingly learning to get back positionally. I have been harsh on him. Mainly because I saw in his two month purple patch early last season, so much of what we have been missing, with his energy, hustling and most importantly his natural knack for getting on the end of things arriving in the 18 yard box. Maybe he got a but muddled with personal affairs early doors this season. I commend his recovery and hope he now goes from strength to strength, for away from the publicity, away from the media glare, I suspect he has the capacity to become a decent player.
Match report to follow…