We started really well. Were deservedly 2-0 up inside 20 mins. First Laca scored from the spot after a clear handball on the line resulting in a Real red card. Auba made it 2 after a sublime flick from Laca and a neat if somewhat fortunate finish in the end.
We won the ball well in midfield, particularly Willock who’s touch sometimes portrayed his youth but his work rate more than made up for it. I remember thinking I wonder if I’m going to report a comfortable win against admittedly not a very good team, or how we managed to blow it. Unfortunately it was the latter as Sokratis got himself sent off with two quick and somewhat ridiculous challenges.
Even if you agree (and I do) that the first yellow was a little harsh, knowing you’re on a yellow should stop you committing a body check on Modric that leaves the ref with no option. Very stupid.
The rest of the half was fairly uneventful and we went in ahead 2-0, 10 against 10. I want to do player ratings for halftime and add that nothing in the time the players rated did in the second half changed their score except Jenko who was probably our best player over the 90 mins, Martinez who was a little unlucky and to be fair, did enough to maintain his overall rating and Xhaka who (apart from one fabulous ball to Eddie that should have won us the game), generally got worse.
Player ratings for the First Half
Martinez 8. Made a couple of smart saves and actually commanded his box on one set piece with a strong punch. Should have done better with the first goal but wasn’t helped by some weak defending.
Jenko 8.5. had a fantastic game overall. I will comment on him a little more at the end. Great effort.
Kola 6.5. Started well especially going forward and was a lot of the reason we dominated early. Faded in the 2nd half but a satisfactory pre season performance.
Chambers 7. Played well, especially in the first half. or at least I don’t remember thinking he was a weak link in any way. I would not be scared to play him in central defence during the season on that performance.
Sokratis 4. Disappointing, especially as my pick for captain. Very unintelligent and we’ve seen a lot of stuff like that over the years, I want to see different.
Xhaka 3.5. I really tried to be objective but I thought he was awful. If this is our captain, God help us. Sorry but that’s how I feel. No Xhaka Mk 2 unfortunately just more of the same. Also more to say about him at the end.
Willock 7. A bright spot for sure. How you could even compare him to his central defensive midfield partner beggars belief. But he got taken off, Puzzling. But he may be ready for the PL.
Ozil 6. I just didn’t think he was very good. Not just by Willock or Jenkinson standards but by $350k/week. Again sorry if I offend but this is all too familiar.
Miki 5.5. See Ozil except for less money. Still overpaid and underproducing.
Auba 7. Laca 8. I’ll put these two together. What we would hope for and expect from a pre season game from out better players. Both were solid, enthusiastic and worked hard. Also did what they get paid to do.
My son (Liam) has written the 2nd half review so I could make sure this is as objective as possible.
For as good as we were at times in the first half we were equally as poor for much of the second half.
Monreal came on for an unlucky Joe Willock to replace the void left by Sokratis. Unfortunatley, the void left in the center of midfield was glaring and forced Mkhitaryn to move more centrally and pushed Özil out on the wing. We also decided that with a two-goal lead, it would be best to sit deep, soak up pressure and counter. The combination of these two things allowed Marcelo to wreak havoc by attacking Özil and ultimately led to some combinations between he, Isco, and Asencio before Bale tapped in for their first (56th min).
The pressure continued to mount down our right side and it only took three more minutes for Marcelo to again work a ball inside, this time for Asencio to tap home the equalizer (59th min). Shortly after that, Asensio went down injured and their attacking threat dwindled a little as he went off and both teams made late second half changes. Nketiah, Saka, Burton and Nelson all came on in the 75th minute.
Nketiah had a couple of chances to score late but missed both a 1v1 with the keeper after a heavy touch let him down and glanced a fairly open header wide. The aforementioned combined well during their limited time on the pitch and really looked like our only attacking threats. Ultimately, the score ended 2-2 and we went to penalties.
Penalties Summary: Nelson led off and placed a solid strike in the bottom right corner. Bale missed his, before Xhaka passed a tame effort straight to Courtois. Isco converted his and we were tied after two. Saka converted his spot kick next and Real responded to make it two all after three each. We were then 3-2 down after Monreal hit the post and Varane confidently put his away. Robbie Burton then put his effort high and we were handed our first loss this preseason.
Nacho 7 – see Chambers
Gang of Four youngsters – 7 all looked good especially Saka. Eddie should have scored at least once but still looks good.
Caution to those that think these guys are ready for week in week out premier league. They have a little growing to do.
Just a couple of takes from this (the Old Man !!) To qualify, I still see this as a pre season friendly and don’t want to make too much of it.
However, I feel compelled to say that I would take Carl Jenkinson any minute of any day over Granit Xhaka based on their respective attitudes, leaving aside their performances. Quite what Unai was thinking both tactically and pulling Willock instead of the Pillock is just mystifying to me. That bothers me. The result doesn’t, but the resigned manner of the eventual loss, the inevitability of the lack of execution and the overall lack of committment by some of these players is troubling. But it’s pre season so I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope things change for the better.
Mike (and Liam) M